What can you learn from Porter Airlines? – The Bad

Last week we talked about the good branding decisions Porter Airlines make. However, we ended by saying that nobody’s perfect. Porter is not an exception. Here is why…

Decades ago Trout and Ries wrote that a brand’s greatest enemy is the Wall Street (Bay Street in Canada) Finance guys want you to grow and they don’t care much about where the growth comes from. They live by quarters. We all experienced the economic crises, which was caused by that mentality. However, it seems like the world has a short memory span because we are  going back to business as usual. And Bay Street wants Porter to grow; any way possible.

I am one of the early adopters (actually earliest adopters) of Porter brand. I know how easy it used to be to hop on an airplane and fly Porter. Short line-ups, few options, no delays, nice ferry ride and no prioritization of passengers. It was extremely convenient flying Porter. But it was chique too. Leather seats, free wi-fi, free drinks. So their essence was “chique convenience”, convenience being the key driver. People flew Porter not because of leather seats, but because it was hustle-free. Then it started flying to New York and things got out of control. Passengers started experiencing 6-hour delays. Long line-ups. Porter lost it convenience card.

Then the company built a new terminal, which is good. But it makes Porter look like an any other airline. Even worse, Porter started to be perceived as a corporation. And when you are perceived as a corporation, you usually don’t get a “get out-of-jail free” card from your customers. Porter also introduced “connecting flights”, which is another “inconvenience.” Now they fly to 13 locations. Some flights don’t even depart or land to Toronto Island Airport. Then, you start wondering… What makes Porter different than other airlines? Chiqeness? That is not and should not be Porter’s brand essence. Because it is not unique.

It might sound financially non-viable but to be true to its brand, Porter should have found another convenient airport, close to a large city (where business people value convenience above all) and used it as its second base of operations. When you see the seaplanes and all those business people using it in Vancouver, you start wondering wouldn’t be nice had there were a Porter brand there. Convenience for business people. What do you think?

Actionable tip of the day: Make sure you get your key brand driver right. It is easy to get blinded with success. When conducting market research, ask your customers to trade one benefit with the other, so that they cannot pick more than one. Only then you can learn what drives your brand.

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