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Tapping into the San Francisco groove Part 1/2

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In my job I am responsible for all advertising-related communication. In connection with the introduction of the new Zurich – San Francisco service, we needed to keep in mind that we’re actually launching two new destinations at once: San Francisco for our customers in Switzerland and the rest of Europe, and Zurich for people living in San Francisco and the Bay Area. This means we have two different regions to promote to two completely different target groups.

Our airline is a familiar entity to Swiss people and American expats working for companies that have their European base in Switzerland, such as Google. But we are relatively unknown to the people of San Francisco, even though they might have some idea about Switzerland. From a communications point of view, we needed to approach this market audience much differently than we do our Swiss target audience.

For the domestic market, we decided to build our communication around the famous song “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie. Our European customers are familiar with San Francisco’s image from the hippie era. With that as our source of inspiration, one of the Airbus A340s that will be in service on the route will appear in a “flower power” livery. This aspect of the project is my own personal highlight as the medium involved happens to be the biggest airplane in our fleet. The adhesive foil used to decorate the fuselage covers an area of more than 300 square metres. The printing time for the foil alone will take several days. Then it will be transported by truck from near Toulouse to Zurich Airport, where a team of eight people will spend three days applying it to the fuselage. The film is certified to last 48 months. Our A340 will fly around in “hippie colours” for one full year.

Special aspects to the San Francisco project

The genesis of the San Francisco promotion goes back to last year, when we were thinking about what exciting news we would have for 2010. When San Francisco was announced as the new long-haul destination for this year, we decided to exploit it as an “emotional story”, which is not something we do for every new destination. The most recent major story was for Shanghai in 2008. San Francisco ranks as something of a dream destination for many people. It is a city that triggers strong emotional associations. Every Swiss has certain notions about San Francisco: individual freedom, the hippie scene, a large gay population, an “anything goes” mentality, etc. San Francisco is a very interesting city, with a reputation as being at the forefront of all kinds of things. For these reasons, we decided to create a somewhat larger campaign. It included such elements as a readers’ poll in the free newspaper 20 Minuten to give people the opportunity to respond to the eye-catching aircraft livery, along with contests over the radio and internet with flights to San Francisco as the prize.

Part 2 of this article