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Alaska Airlines moves expectations needle North

Written by editor

Alaska Airlines wants to get props, but not the kind that spin.

Alaska Airlines wants to get props, but not the kind that spin. The Seattle-based carrier has launched a campaign focused on its core markets and the West Coast to trumpet its award-winning customer service.

The campaign, with the new tagline “North of Expected,” includes two 30-second television spots breaking this week in Alaska, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore. and Seattle. Via Seattle and Los Angeles-based Wongdoody, they also feature Alaska Airlines employees.

Intended to demonstrate how technology can make a difference between a good and bad experience, one ad has a guy in an airport bathroom trying to get the sink spigot sensor to function. When he passes his hands under the sensor, the spigot two sinks over turns on; when he does it again, a toilet flushes. Then soap shoots out of the soap dispenser. He winds up wiping soap on his hands, and wiping his hands on his trousers because the paper-towel dispenser sensor isn’t functioning either.

Luckily, when he gets to the Alaska Airlines gate all is remedied by good, friendly service and functioning tech. In the other ad, a guy is dismayed to find that an insensitive businessman with a big voice and a cell phone will be his seat mate. A friendly Alaska Airlines customer service agent steps in to offer him a different seat.

The effort also includes television, radio, newspaper, outdoor and transit ads, plus a microsite and interactive media.

Greg Latimer, managing director of marketing at Alaska Airlines, says that while the company has spent the last couple of years beefing up operations and customer service, advertising had been more about products, not about establishing the brand identity around service and ease of travel. Indeed, Alaska Airlines tied for first place with Continental in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2008 North American Airline Satisfaction Study.

“Last year, we decided strategically to go out there and regain that mantle,” he tells Marketing Daily. “What is a departure for us is, we are going out there and telling our brand story. That means getting out there and talking not just mileage plans and first-class, but telling our people story.”

He says principal competitors are carriers like Southwest, United, and Virgin America, with which the airline cannot compete on price alone. “Price is a huge part of the value equation, but price is just table stakes to get in the game; we are relying on strengths we have. Phenomenal schedule and mileage plans, great customer service and technology are what drive loyalty.”

Latimer says the company is focusing on its core market in the Pacific Northwest, where the carrier can gain market share, and then the entire West Coast to build brand recognition.

The radio spots feature real employee testimonials about the company, as well as customer testimonials. Digital elements include a new Web site,, with a customer “Instant Win” game with daily prizes and extended Web-only cuts of the new television spots.