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Making Ourselves More Relevant In India
In an exclusive interview, Alexander Schlaubitz, Vice-President, Marketing, Lufthansa Group tells Ruhail Amin about the significance of the Indian market and the strategy that the group has adopted to leverage opportunities in this market
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From embracing local cultural to operating its most high-end fleet in India, Lufthansa has been making heavy investments in the Indian marketplace to woo local travellers. In just four years, it has positioned itself among top foreign aviation players in the country. In an exclusive interview, Alexander Schlaubitz, Vice-President, Marketing, Lufthansa Group tells Ruhail Amin about the significance of the Indian market and the strategy that the group has adopted to leverage opportunities in this market.
What is your strategy for the Indian market?
Since we have been here for such a long time, we feel we have already established ourselves. Now, we are working on making ourselves all the more relevant. We are trying to immerse ourselves deeply into understanding the specific needs of the Indian customers and the cultural nuances that we can touch upon. This is not just as a marketing proposition but an overall proposition that we have embraced. This includes the product, the staff and making sure that everybody who comes from this market knows that ‘we are more Indian than you think’. This is something that has worked fantastically well in our favour and has been aided by the TV campaigns that we have been doing.
Many brands are using artificial intelligence and big data to target customers in today’s digitally driven world. How is Lufthansa leveraging these tools to target customers more effectively?
If I look back over the last four years, the excitement over what is possible in the near term in digital has been up and down a little bit. I don’t see anybody capturing the big promise of data yet. We have shifted a little bit from being more individualised to becoming more contextual. We have a good understanding of where people are at what time and what their contextual needs might be. We have been putting a lot of effort in making sure that we can address some of this. We are trying to be very focused to find out the right moment for the right interaction, so that over time, we can reduce the interactions and be more specific to the needs that customers have.
What are the biggest highlights from your journey in India so far?
From a marketing perspective, we are fortunate that we have a very long standing and incredibly successful marketing franchise called Runway to Success. We have kept expanding on that and it has helped us deepen our relationship locally. We make sure that people know how invested we truly are in the Indian marketplace. This programme has been fantastically successful for us and we are very proud of the engagement that we have been able to create through it.
Moreover, we are also going to introduce to the marketplace a campaign platform called #LifeChangingPlaces. It is a platform that has proven incredibly successful in other markets already. We are excited to build something for the Indian marketplace on the particular platform. These are some of the big highlights of our journey in India so far and we are looking to do more.
How have your marketing initiatives impacted the perception of Lufthansa in India?
We are lucky that we started out from a very high place in terms of brand perception in India. Lufthansa has always been an incredibly successful and a well-liked brand in India. We have been able to even surpass that, and I would like to say that the impact is not only reflecting in the perception but also in the sales figures.
What kind of cultural nuances should be kept in mind while building brands in foreign locations, which also happen to be culturally diverse. Could you share the Lufthansa experience?
What you run into a dilemma as a marketer is, the trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness. As a marketer, the most efficient way to serve the globe would be to have one campaign, roll it up all over, and be done with it. However, it suffers a lot on the effectiveness side as you leave out the local nuances. This is exactly the internal conversation we had about India four years ago. We decided to have a dedicated campaign for India because we felt that it was a totally different market. We also had a very specific problem that we did not have in the same way in other marketplaces. While we were being attributed to the positives of Germany such as punctuality, reliability and technical perfection, we were not seen as warm enough. We were perhaps not seen as emphatic enough and we were not seen, from a culinary perspective, respectful enough of the rich tradition and the meaning that food has in the Indian culture. So we started this 360 degree approach that focused on how we could redefine the experience for the Indian traveller.
How are you differentiating yourself from other global brands to stay ahead of the competition?
I believe it is about having a product that is well designed for the needs of customer and we are constantly working on it. With the evolution of travellers in India, we have to keep pace with that and find good, relevant ways to touch the hearts and the minds at the same time. So it is not a different challenge from what it would be like in any other marketplace. We were just lucky to have an operation here that is strong and established. Also, all other things being equal, we are more creative than the other guys. And most importantly, we have the best equipment here, and are operating our most modern fleet in this market.
For today’s marketer, does the choice of plenty become a challenge at times?
It’s definitely a massive challenge, but it is also the best time to be a marketer. I don’t think there has ever been a time where we were as informed as quickly about what is working and what is not. This makes you capable of making sure that you develop better hypothesis. I don’t think marketing is an exercise in search of the answer, I think it is an exercise about coming up with the next best hypothesis. We now have so much information; we have more touchpoints across which we can gather that information. The information in turn has become contextual than ever before. So we just get to play with a much bigger canvas than ever before. I would say that marketing has never been so valuable as it is today.