Most airlines in the world define their business as the business of flying. Lufthansa: “There is no better way to fly”. Jet Airways: “The joy of flying”, British Airways: “The world is waiting”. Many others connote flying, travel or hospitality. Kingfisher Airlines, on the other hand, stood for the King of good times. This brand essence allows the brand to stretch across multiple categories. For categories across hospitality, lifestyle, fashion and beyond, the brand is potent in its promise of the good life.
From a personal invitation extended by Mallya himself, to the full service offering with TV screens and food, to the hospitality aboard the airline (my husband has a story of how his jacket came back with a button sewn back on it!), the airline spoilt us and became the benchmark for the best airline experience for a domestic airline not just in India, but in the world. (Vistara has learned this the hard way – after promising to be a full service airline, most of its customers felt cheated when they did not see a personal TV screen and falling far short in experience from a benchmark set by Kingfisher).
Beer, cricket, Formula 1, calendars and many other lifestyle signifiers belonged to this larger-than-life-brand. The brand transcended a direct association with its now beleaguered promoter as its consumers did not live the life king size vicariously by following Mallya’s exploits, but experienced it themselves as consumers. Therein lies the equity of the brand. The promise of good times allows the brand to stretch and can even sell newer categories such as real estate and fashion.
Many brands such as Titan, VIP or Maruti are struggling to become premium and aspirational again. Perhaps they should consider acquiring the Kingfisher brand.
As published in Hindu Business Line on March 24, 2016.