Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-headquartered airline, embarked on a transition programme to turn around the entire business after posting a loss in 2016 – and the move is paying off according to a top executive.

The company is now “back in black, as AC/DC used to say,” according to Edward Bell, general manager of brand, insights and marketing communications, who spoke at the Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore.

Making strides in transformation is essential, but “what makes us different is our brand,” he said. Cathay’s aim is to be one of the world’s greatest service brands, not just in the airline category – and a great part of this strategy is to be brand-led.

“We’ve been the world’s greatest airline many times, and I think we are still in the top five greatest airlines, depending on who you ask,” he observed. “(But) we want to acknowledge the relationship between business and customer, and becoming the world’s greatest service brand.”

“That is meaningful, because it is about not just competing with the airlines,” he explained. (For more, read WARC’s report: Cathay Pacific’s reinvention takes it back to humble beginnings.)

“Today, we are competing with Netflix, Google and Apple – not for products, but to deliver a great service experience.”

Being a brand “founded in truth” means the company has revisited its roots, its provenance in Hong Kong and its modern identity today. “When we think about our brand, we all have to go back to the fundamentals,” Bell stated.

Co-founder Roy Farrell named the airline after his lifelong dream of crossing the Pacific Ocean – It took him thirty years to do it, but he named the company such because that was the end goal he hoped to achieve.

“We are very much inspired by that,” said Bell. “That is the story of Cathay, and we want that to be the story for Cathay going forward.”

Rebooting the Cathay brand in line with the brand role it hopes to play, the airline has emerged with a new set of values: to be thoughtful, to be progressive, and finally, have a ‘can do’ attitude.

Sourced from WARC