Why do private jet companies promote candles, celebrities, and colors?
Of the many reasons I get from subscribers why they don’t want to consider certain private jet providers, one area stands out. Marketing.
It’s certainly not the most common, but it does come up more often than you would think.
Of course, it’s sometimes in response to what I’ve written or what subscribers read in mainstream media, including top-tier publications.
“I don’t care about golfers and tennis players,” one subscriber told me.
“All of their marketing with these celebrities. That’s not what I want to be associated with,” he continued.
While that could have described multiple companies, he was talking about Wheels Up in this case.
That said, I’ve gotten similar criticisms about other providers.
In some cases, there is a belief that endorsers and partners are getting discounts and preferential treatment in exchange for promoting their partner private jet companies.
I heard this quite a bit when the industry struggled with delays and cancellations from late 2021 through last summer.
I also heard it when VistaJet partner and celebrity chef Nobu created an exclusive salmon dish.
In that case, there was a connection in that it was about food that would be served inflight to passengers.
Still, readers wondered if anyone chooses a private jet provider based on what’s on the menu.
For VistaJet, it made sense from the standpoint that with long-haul flights, it has always emphasized catering.
Yet, many other more important elements go into deciding on a purchase that runs around $500,000 or more per year and requires a three-year commitment.
The press initiative drew coverage by some of the biggest travel and business media websites.
I sometimes voice to executives of the various private aviation providers I would like to see a bit more balance with more communications about their actual programs and flight products.
Recently, Wheels Up rolled out a series of partnerships, from apparel to candles to Pantone, for its own UP color.
With its current financial situation, the efforts would seem ill-timed.
My guess is that these deals had probably been in the pipeline for at least six months or more.
Whether or not they should have been shelved is a different story, but with partnerships, you always have two companies’ needs and objectives to consider.
That said, it’s worth discussing why private jet providers do what they do from a marketing perspective and why it’s unlikely to go away.
First of all, I tell subscribers it’s smart marketing. Here’s why I believe so.
As anyone who has seen the marketing funnel knows, awareness is at the top of the funnel before interest and conversion.
The companies want to be in the consideration set. You need to generate awareness before you can get to the sale.
Wheels Up, using a carousel of celebrities, high-profile events, and partnerships, within a couple of years, was able to pull even with the world’s largest private jet operator, NetJets, according to Google Trends (see chart above).
At the time, it didn’t even fly its own airplanes and outsourced flights to a third-party operator.
At that, its fleet was limited to several dozen King Air turboprops.
Still, in Google search, within a couple of years, they were dead even with the market leader, hardly in fleet size, but in Google searches.
You don’t buy what you don’t know.
And as much as you may dislike some of what you see, it’s all about gaining awareness.
In terms of partnerships, most of these involve each partner marketing to their lists. This means getting brand exposure to new consumers for little to no cost.
For the media, these partnerships with high-profile celebrities draw page views, the most used metric for the web advertising they sell.
You can call it clickbait.
However, web advertising is typically bought using a metric called CPM, which stands for cost per thousand.
In other words, there is an emphasis on quantity.
Google search brings new viewers to these websites. Most importantly, it brings page views, which brings ad dollars.
There are infinitely more searches for John Rahm (particularly today) or Nobu than the term jet cards or private jet charter, let alone daily minimum or primary service area.
In other words, a press release about a collaboration with a chef or golfer – it breaks my heart – blows away one on expanding primary service area or reducing peak days when it comes to search engines.
Lastly, when a highly ranked publisher’s website links back to the private jet company, those backlinks are noted by search engines. That helps the ranking of the private jet company and, again, helps them draw more prospects.
There are many valid reasons not to consider specific providers. Perhaps marketing is one of them.
At the end of the day, I’ll stick with the rules and policies.
Either way, it’s important to understand private aviation provider marketing is not as superfluous as it sometimes seems.