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Annabelle Cordelli, Vice President Global Brand and Marketing at Virgin Atlantic and Alice McGinn, Senior Planner at Lucky Generals on striking the balance between purpose and joy in marketing.
At this unique moment in our collective and individual history, there is a genuine opportunity to challenge the status quo of what we have always done. The post lockdown world offers a chance to resist the routine of what has come before and move forward with open minds to improve not just the effectiveness of the work we produce, but its broader impact on the world.
This opportunity to see the world differently is particularly powerful when it comes to travel marketing in the wake of the pandemic. With this seismic shift in mind Virgin Atlantic has worked with Lucky Generals to create its new 'See the world differently' campaign, which signifies a brand shift into a new era of post pandemic travel. An era in which travel remains essential but consumers are growing more conscious of their choices.
In the latest BITE Talks, Nicola Kemp, Editorial Director at Creativebrief spoke with Annabelle Cordelli, Vice President Global Brand and Marketing at Virgin Atlantic and Alice McGinn, Senior Planner at Lucky Generals, who leads the strategy for Virgin Atlantic, about striking the balance between purpose and joy to create a meaningful and effective campaign.
Travel brands faced huge challenges during the pandemic. As Cordelli explains: “It was well over a year ago, we were in a state of flux and zoom calls but we knew there was going to be a future and an end to the pandemic.” Despite the uncertainty, the belief remained that travel was always going to return as it plays such an important part in people's lives, enabling them to connect with family, with business contacts and travel for pure enjoyment.
Post-pandemic consumers' outlook on the importance and role of travel have shifted. “Everyone was reassessing life and it gave us a great opportunity to represent Virgin Atlantic,” explains Cordelli. When thinking about how the brand could service the modern consumer, the team believed it was essential to put people at the heart of the campaign; “We explored lots of ideas but kept coming back to the fact that a shining example of Virgin Atlantic's difference is its people, our own people, but also our customers. There’s still a kind of hierarchy in travel but at Virgin Atlantic this disappears, no matter where you’re sitting in the plane you have an exceptional experience.”
Be yourself, be yourself every day. When you can be yourself you bring your best self to work, embrace the diversity in others and lead to an inclusive environment where everyone feels like their unique perspective and contribution is valued.Annabelle Cordelli, Vice President Global Brand and Marketing at Virgin Atlantic
To resonate with Virgin Atlantic’s customer base the brand placed a heavy focus on aligning consumer needs with brand values. By finding out what the shared philosophies are and highlighting those, the people's first approach could be present in communications and deeper within the brand's DNA.
While Virgin Atlantic is a mainstay of the travel sector, the campaign came at a culturally pivotal moment both for people and for the travel industry which challenged the brand to think differently. Where people were kept indoors, many have found a new appreciation for the possibilities offered by the travel industry, whilst at the same time having grown more conscious about their habits.
“When you take something away from people they want it more.” explains McGinn, “We all considered what was genuinely important to us and what we found from research is that travel is an essential, be it for visiting family or for mental health.”
While the travel industry's bounce back was predicted, uptake has been unprecedented. Yet, the biggest shift the team had to work around was the desire to make travel count as consumers put more emotion into fewer more memorable journeys.
People still want special experiences but want that to have a positive impact on the world as well.Annabelle Cordelli, Vice President Global Brand and Marketing at Virgin Atlantic
“There’s a realisation from people we probably won’t go back to travelling to the same degree as we did before the pandemic, so its really shifted consumer attitudes that if I’m going to do this I’m going to make it count” added McGinn, “People are valuing experiences, touches that make trips special and the brands that go beyond airspace and airports.”
Post-pandemic, Cordelli notes that consumers have become more choiceful and want to support brands that they have an alignment with. She believes this presents a huge opportunity for Virgin Atlantic, to keep reimaging for the future as needs change. This means, she adds, that the brand needs to: “keep things special, meaningful and different.”
When you take something away from people they want it more.Annabelle Cordelli, Vice President Global Brand and Marketing at Virgin Atlantic
Often when a campaign is centred around diversity and inclusion brands take on a more solemn tone. Yet, the lense of inclusivity can also deliver joy. The 'See the world differently' campaign exemplifies how the two go hand in hand. For consumers, “It’s not one or the other,” explains Cordelli. “People still want special experiences but want that to have a positive impact on the world as well,” she adds,
The joy within the campaign is present in both external communications and echoed internally within the business. Cordelli shares the brand's focus on ‘being yourself every single day’. As she explains: “When you can be yourself you bring your best self to work, embrace the diversity in others and lead to an inclusive environment, where everyone feels like their unique perspective and contribution is valued.”
Simply holding up a mirror to different communities isn't enough, that's just tokenistic.Alice McGinn, Senior Planner at Lucky Generals
Beyond communications, this notion of bringing your whole self to work extends into Virgin Atlantic’s policies. The brand has a demonstrated history in championing the LBGTQ+ community and making commitments to champion positive change. The company has also undergone policy changes such as its tattoo policy which enables crew to show their tattoos. Listening to people and amending internally shows how communications and action go hand in hand.
In the advertising industry, inclusivity goes beyond inclusive casting. The lens of diversity and inclusion is impacting every area of the industry and transforming the way in which it operates. “Simply holding up a mirror to different communities isn't enough, that's just tokenistic” says McGinn, “what we were trying to do with this campaign is all about individuality, we worked hard to think what's the character of each of the people in this campaign”
To create authentic representations the team worked with organisations that put them in contact with people from each community. They set out to craft genuine characters through choice of wardrobe and by thinking how people might feel to get nuanced understanding.
“My favourite example that opened my eyes was working with an older Black gentleman who is in our upper class. He opened my eyes to the difference between West African style and suiting versus West Indian suiting and styling, a beautiful little anecdote that means hopefully that character is a little bit more authentic for going to that level of detail.” added McGinn.
The climate crisis is a mounting concern for consumers and travel brands have an important role to play in helping to combat the crisis. “We absolutely have a responsibility” explains Cordelli, who adds: “because of the magnitude of the challenge we need cross industry collaboration.”
People are looking for brands to help them in making more positive choices, for brands to be leading the way.Alice McGinn, Senior Planner at Lucky Generals
She shares Virgin Atlantic's commitments to net zero by 2050, but she is no stranger to the magnitude of the task. She explains that it has taken “multi billion investment over a decade to get the average aircraft age down to under 7 years. The fuel efficiency that goes with that means 20% reduction in carbon emissions.”
The climate crisis can feel like an overwhelming issue to solve but needs collaboration and brands not to shy away. “People are looking for brands to help them in making more positive choices, for brands to be leading the way.” adds McGinn.
The role of brands is dual, both changing their own behaviour to address the climate crisis, but also in educating and supporting consumers so they can make more climate conscious choices all the way through the customer journey. McGinn explains: “It’s not just about offsetting but if people are travelling less and being more conscious making that experience special and worthwhile.” She continues; “It’s exciting and enables us to see the world differently. How do we make positive changes and positive changes that lead to more joyful travel experiences.”
Where travel is always going to be a mainstay in people's lives, be it to connect with international colleagues, to see family, or to make memories, delivering value is essential in this new era. For Virgin Atlantic, joy and purpose go hand in hand. By putting the needs of its people at its heart and celebrating inclusivity and individuality, the brand can have a positive impact both on the industry it operates in and the individuals it serves.
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