Air France has new travellers who are looking for a more modern interpretation of France. The good thing is that there is so much innovation in France that it allows us to interpret it for our customers. When the Paris marathon was taking place we had staff in specially designed Air France sportswear videoing and pre-running it so that they could give tips to runners coming after them. This was about achieving top performance but also about displaying elegance, it’s a sponsorship which also reflects a lifestyle. At the Group we say that KLM is your friend, and Air France is an enchantress.
What are the thoughts behind rebranding HOP! To Air France HOP?
FDS: HOP! was created to compete in the domestic French market. It was difficult for Air France to compete with trains, so the HOP! brand was created as a more approachable brand with more of a low-cost feel. But when you end up with five brands in one market, Air France, KLM, Transavia, HOP! and JOON, it’s hard to give each of them the resources they need to grow.
Taking that into consideration and knowing that Air France had evolved as a brand as well, coming closer to people’s lives, the question was: do we still need the HOP! brand or could we simplify the portfolio in France? We chose simplification and focusing on strengthening the Air France brand. When people are flying into France and using the HOP! operation to continue on their journey, for them it’s logical that they stay with Air France for the next part of the journey.
What tips can you share about brand management?
FDS: Working at SkyTeam was like working at a mini United Nations with 20 member airlines from every corner of the world. It was a challenge getting things done, without any hierarchical power, like the SkyPriority branding program that we deployed in over 1,000 airports. From early on in my career I knew I didn’t want to be seen as the ‘brand police’ and that I wanted a role where I could inspire people. If you spend more time bringing your stakeholders together you’re getting the opportunity to inspire them.
It’s really amazed me over the years that there is so much consensus in a group of where a brand should go. As they live the brand day by day, they seem to know and feel where a brand is heading. By having everyone involved from the start of the process, they become part of and committed to the solution. I have found that this has been the key to success on all the projects I have worked on. As soon as I started at the Group, I introduced a Brand Circle where all brand managers meet on a regular basis. It’s called a Circle on purpose, and it’s proven a great platform to guide our strategies, exchange best practices, and build relationships.
HW: Have you learned different challenges, managing the whole portfolio compared to a previous role of yours where you just managed the KLM brand?
FDS: You need to get people to work together and move in a certain direction by getting them to buy into a vision. We bring people together, sometimes from different companies, departments, and with different needs, and make them part of the process. This makes them excited to be involved.