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By Alexander Vaz

Companies nowadays tend to take a somewhat unrealistic approach when it comes to the marketing and branding of their products. They try so desperately to have their advertising stick out of the noise of the media advertising landscape and often try to create impressions or images that usually have nothing to do with the actual product itself. Just because a company has a marketing plan with what seems a highly logical and potentially great set of ideas does not mean that they will be successful. This was the case with the now defunct Song Airlines. Not too many people have heard of Song Airlines, probably because it only flew for three short years, but nevertheless, it is a prime example of how a company can totally miss the mark when it comes to marketing in the byways of advertising and creating impressions or images of the actual product.

Song Airlines was launched in 2003 as a subsidiary of Delta Airlines, and was meant to serve as a low-cost airline, and to compete with JetBlue Airways. This endeavour was a big risk for Delta as Song operations began at the worst possible time for the airline industry, which was post 9/11. Regardless of when its operations began, Song was still determined to showcase its marketing ideas and branding concepts.

Song’s long-term branding strategy was not the prototypical strategy that any other airline would’ve had as it included various details which did not directly apply to the airline itself. First, they identified their target market as stylish, hip professional women, who were essentially the “gatekeepers of travel decisions.” They felt that what made their airline so attractive to women would essentially bring other travellers. Their main goal was to meet not only their consumers’ travel needs but their social needs as well.

They positioned their business as a luxury travel experience.  Flight attendants wore Kate Spade-designed uniforms and flyers enjoyed at-seat digital TVs and internet access, as well as healthy organic meals which were sold at a value price. Kate’s husband, Andy Spade, was also hired by Song and was put in charge of the commercials which, just like the overall marketing and branding scheme of Song, showcased the airline as a culture rather than as just another regular airline. He was given almost a third of the twelve million dollar overall budget to work with. This is what he came up with, Song Airlines’ first commercial.

What Song basically intended to do with their whole marketing strategy was to invent a new culture around flying in order to get the attention they so desperately wanted. This was portrayed in most of their slogans, such as “we are not an airline, we are a culture” and “founded by optimists, built by believers.” These marketing ideas were based on the idea of a spirit and an emotion that could not be copied and they incorporated this philosophy into not only their employees but their customers as well by attempting to brand them to “be song.” Song’s marketing plan was intended to create a “lifestyle brand” through several different outlets, such as an exercise program and “Song Stores.” Both of these, as well as most of Song’s other marketing ideas failed because they neglected to mention the product’s purpose and thus many shoppers were confused as to what exactly it was that they were selling.

The first priority of any company is to sell their products and make money, and at the end of day, Song Airlines did not do that. Although their marketing plan was unique and stylish, it was too focused on who they were rather than what they were selling, and on what the product meant rather than what it actually did. They created and crafted a brand ethos as well as prescribed feelings about their product rather than directly talking about their product itself and this is why, in the end, they were a weak business and ultimately failed.

In conclusion, Song Airlines’ marketing and branding ideas were unsuccessful and ultimately led to their demise in 2006 when they merged into Delta’s mainline fleet. In just over three years, Song didn’t make any profit whatsoever.  They delivered a quality product, which was actually one of the best in the industry, but they simply couldn’t get their marketing messages to deliver sales. Song Airlines wanted their advertising to stick out of the noise of the media advertising landscape and they did this by creating impressions and images that had nothing to do with their actual product itself. This is why Song Airlines is now just a distant memory to a very few and a meaningless, unknown entity to most people around the world today.

(Photo credits: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Song-Airlines/382085)