A lack of influence / by Mark Izatt

On Wednesday British Airways attempted to change their recently woeful narrative into something a little more positive.  I'm not entirely sure they succeeded. 

Facing ever increasing pressure from competitors on their business class (Club) proposition, territory they once led, Wednesday was all about a "some jam today, lots of jam tomorrow" laundry list of "enhancements" (BA love this word) from better canapés to new sleeping linens and most of all a new Club Seat in a few years time.

It would be churlish not to acknowledge some of the announcement - lounge upgrades, the new dedicated "Wing" at London Heathrow Terminal 5 offers First and Gold / Emerald a dedicated check in, security and walkway directly into the Concorde Room and First lounges and the roll out of fast broadband (much as I hate the thought of connectivity in the last place of digital sanctuary) but I want to focus on the method of announcement.

The hook upon which everything was hung.

Alex Cruz, BAs CEO who bleeds low cost carrier from ever vein, hosted a blogger dominated flight from London Gatwick, up the spine of the UK and then landing at London Heathrow - a smart way of showcasing new lounges, metal investment (on a new 787 Dreamliner) and all those superficial onboard enhancements.   I admire Alex Cruz for anchoring the event and leading from the front - he needs to do this more often, explaining reducing legroom by jamming more seats into short-haul for example.

So thats the good part. 

But let's go back to these bloggers or, as I like to call them "fanboys", for this group was as far removed from either an objective travel journalist or a fare paying passenger as you could get.  If you want to see how breathy the feedback from this group went a quick twitter search on #BAinvesting4u will tell you all you need to know.

If this group was selected because of their digital influence all they seemed to do was stir up a hornets nest online from BA's regular travellers.

The whole exercise lacked credibility and I think signals a broader issue - that we've reached "peak blogger".   This was a group who just seemed happy with a free flight, a day out and a goody bag.  And I'm not entirely sure BA got anything like the return on investment in terms of coverage or rigour.

Simply put an influencer strategy only works when the influencers are transparent and don't flit from freebie to freebie to freebie.  

What should they have done ?  BA should have filled the plane with real customers, a cross-section of people who actually pay for their tickets.   What BA might have lost in terms of reach (although some of those bloggers seem to have very low followings) they would have more than made up for in authenticity. 

The opinions of real passengers would have resonated much more effectively and packaged up by BA would have created a safe but powerful narrative of the changes. 

It would also have reversed some of the mendacity of language which BA have indulged in.  Tautalogical gymnastics where cuts are dressed as improvements undermining their credibility and reduced brand equity.

Real customers endorsing real improvements - that should be at the heart of #BAinvesting4u