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Marketing Communication Mix: Virgin Atlantic and British Airways Essay

Company Background

Virgin Airlines was established in 1984 in the United Kingdom with its president being Sir Richard Branson. Over the years it has been in operation, the airline has managed to attain an optimal market position (Plunkett Research Limited, 2004, p.87). For example, the airline has increasingly become popular amongst travelers around the world. Currently, the airline is one of the leading firms within the United Kingdom airline industry.

By venturing into the industry, the objective of Virgin Atlantic was offer high quality travel services to its customers at a minimal cost. On the other hand, British Airways was established in 1935 in the UK. The airline operates on a global scale serving more than 300 destinations (Belliotti, 2008, p.66).

Marketing communication strategies

Considering the fact that the firms intends to influence the consumers decision making process through their marketing communication, both Virgin Airlines and British Airways have integrated pull marketing communication strategies.

According to McCabe (2009, p.195), the pull strategy is mainly focused at the consumers. As a result, the message adopted during the communication is intended at informing, persuading, and reminding the customers regarding the existence of the product in the market (Rao, n.d, p.45). In order for the pull strategy to be effective, the two firms have incorporated diverse marketing communication techniques.

Marketing communication objectives

In their operation, both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are aimed at attaining a number of objectives as outlined below.

  1. To increase the firm’s level of awareness regarding the firm and its products.
  2. To create a preference amongst the customers to purchase the firms products over other competing products.
  3. To increase the customer base by encouraging potential customers who have never travelled using the airline to try it out.
  4. To reinforce desirable purchasing behavior amongst the customers.
  5. To create a strong customer relationship.

Positioning strategy

According to Longenecker (2010, p.34), positioning strategy contribute to a firm attaining an optimal market position and to also enhance its image in the customers’ minds. In its operation, Virgin Atlantic has adopted the gap positioning strategy. This enables the firm to communicate to its target customers the firm’s brand concept.

Some of the issues communicated using this positioning strategy include the firms innovativeness, the unique characteristics of its products, and high quality of its products.

On the other hand, British Airways has positioned itself in the market through differentiation. The airline intends to portray itself as an airline that is caring, conscious of the consumers comfort and class

Virgin Atlantic -Integrated marketing communication mix

In executing its marketing activities, Virgin Airlines has appreciated the importance of ensuring efficient marketing communication. To achieve this, the airline has formulated and implemented the concept of integrated marketing communication.

Integrated Marketing Communication refers to the process of adding value to a firm’s effort to create market awareness (Jain, 2008, p.3). The firm is able to achieve this through integration of both traditional and emerging marketing communication techniques.


In its advertising strategy, the firm utilizes different mediums which include both conventional and emerging methods. The conventional methods utilized by the firm include use of television, radio, newspaper and outdoor methods of advertising through use of billboards and outdoor posters and taxis side (Mouncey & Wimmer, 2007).

In all its adverts, the airline ensures that its distinctive logo is clearly visible. Additionally, the airline also uses catchy slogans in its adverts so as to attract both individual and organizational customers. The airline uses advertising in an effort to create awareness regarding its routes and also its new products in the market.

Currently, the airline has become very competitive as a result of the high rate of globalization (Ferreri, 2003, p. 82). In an effort to cope with changes in the business environment, the airline has also integrated the concept of internet marketing. The firm has achieved this by designing a website (www.virginatlantic. com) that can be easily accessible by its customers (Virgin Atlantic, 2011, para. 23).

As a result, customers can be able to communicate with the customers. Additionally, the airline has also made it possible for consumers to book and pay for their flights online. It is also possible for consumers to acquire regarding the airlines destination and other benefits associated with flying via the airline (Russel & Taylor, 2004).

Loyalty program

The airline has also developed a loyalty program known as the frequent flyer program. The programme is aimed at developing customer loyalty. Through the airline’s website, it is possible for members of the Frequent Flier Club to check their rewards and mileage balance. Additionally, new customers can also subscribe to the Club online.

The firm has also integrated a unique method of communicating to members of the Frequent Club. For example, during occasion such as Valentines Day, the airline sends Valentines Day card and a red rose to members of the club. The card is sent through the internet. Customers can log on to a website www.fellingthorny.com to read the message.

The card usually contains a romantic message which contributes towards creation of customer loyalty. An example of such a message is, ‘You have been kissed ……..Virgin Atlantic’. By integrating such messages, the firm is able to influence the consumers purchasing process by affecting their emotions. According to Verma (2008, p.200), emotions play a vital role in marketing services.

Direct marketing

In its operation, Virgin Atlantic has integrated direct marketing in communicating to its customers. One of the ways through which the airline has achieved this is by developing a customer database.

According to Yeshin (1998, p.230), the database enables the firm to have a comprehensive source of information regarding the customers’ needs. By developing a customer database, Virgin Atlantic has been able to interact effectively with its customers.

In an effort to improve communication with its customers, the airline’s management team has come to a consensus to expand its internet services to its aircrafts. The airline intends to achieve this by entering into a contract with Tenzing Communications which ensures that its customers are connected to the internet during their flight.

According to Smith and Zook (2011, p.380), use of direct mails such as e-mail is one way that an organization can integrate in communicating directly to its customers. In its operation, Virgin Atlantic mainly utilizes direct mails when communicating to institutional customers.

Press releases

The airline also issues press releases and conferences. To be effective in its press releases, the airline has developed a press office whose main role is to deal with direct communication. The press office enables the firm to provide its journalists with information on its developments, for example on new routes. As a result, the airline is able to provide information to television and radio broadcasting stations.

Public relations and sponsorships

In its public relation, the airline has integrated sponsorship programs. An example of a sponsorship program by the airline is the Notting Hill Carnival through which the airline used to launch its route to the Caribbean region. In launching its flight to South Africa, the airline sponsored the Lion’s Rugby tour (Virgin Atlantic, 2011, para. 22).

British Airways -Marketing Mix

Integrated Marketing communication

Currently, British Airways marketing communication is specifically targeted to 3 customer categories that include the premium, business and leisure travelers.

For example, in its promotion campaign towards leisure travelers, the airline intends at giving the consumers insight on the existing difference between full-service airlines and no-frill airlines. In this campaign, the airline intends to show the customers the hidden cost associated with low-cost cost carriers. This shows that the airline’s promotion strategy is aimed at attacking the customers.


In communicating to its target customers through advertisements, the Airline uses different mediums which include outdoor medium, the print, and the press. In order to influence the customers in their purchasing pattern, the airline ensures that it integrates a catchy slogan such as ‘Value Flying’.

Emerging technologies-the website

The airline has also integrated emerging technologies in its marketing communication. This has been achieved by designing a website in which it has incorporated a ‘Value Calculator’. The calculator enables customers to determine hidden cost of its competitors such as Easy Jet, Ryan Air and compare with the value being offered by British Airlines.

Face to face communication

In communicating to business travelers, the airline uses face to face communication campaign. This enables the airline to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumer’s decision making process. The resultant effect is that the firm can easily influence the consumer’s decision making process.

Public relations

The airline also has a program that offers approximately 1000 small business entrepreneurs from the UK and US to travel free across the North Atlantic. If an individual intends to be included in the offer, they are required to compete by developing a business plan which is presented to the airline.


From the above analysis, it is evident that British Airways does not have an effective integrated marketing communication. This arises from the fact that it has not integrated other marketing communication strategies such as use of sponsorship, organizing events, sales promotion and public relations.

Comparison of Virgin Atlantic and British Airways brand identity using Kapferer prism

Brand identity refers to the message that a firm communicates to its customers via its marketing communication, name, symbols, logs and other vision signs (Bartels & Nelissen, 2002, p.239). Over the years they have been in operation, the two airlines have managed to develop their corporate identity.

The two firms have attained this through branding. According to Kapferer, a firm can develop its brand identity from a number of sources. Kapferer outlined six sources of brand identity which include the good, name, personage, logos and visual symbols, its content and form and brand developer.

Brand style Virgin Atlantic British Airways
Physical Offering quality flights across the globe. Offering quality flights across the world.
Self image Offering high quality service to all its customers Offering quality services to business and leisure travellers.
Relationship Security, comfortable and reliable Reliability, security, comfortable.
Culture The airline is primarily based in the UK The airline is primarily based in the UK
Personality Youthful, sexy, vibrant Glamour, confident, convenient
Reflection Offering services to all who needs its services Focused to premium customers.

Conclusion and recommendations for New IMC campaign

From the analysis, it is evident that the two firms have integrated different marketing communication strategies.

In order to succeed in the competitive business environment, it is paramount for the two firms to consider integrating emerging information communication technology. Some of the marketing communication mediums which the two firms should consider integrating include social communication tools (Kimmel, 2005, p.56).

For example, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways should expand their internet marketing communication by incorporating tools such as Wikis, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and MySpace. Currently, British Airways has not been efficient in its integrated marketing communication since it has not incorporated internet marketing.

By incorporating these tools, there is a high probability of the airline attaining an optimal market position by attracting a large number of potential customers. This arises from the fact that a large number of customers access the internet on a daily basis (Varey, 2002, p. 45).

This is mainly so amongst the younger generation which is increasingly integrating the internet in its consumption pattern (Weinstein, 2004, p.35). As a result, the firms will be able to market their products to a new market segment (Gitman & McDaniel, 2009, p.35).

Reference List

Bartels, G. & Nelissen, W., 2002. Marketing for sustainability; towards a transactional policy making. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

Belliotti, R., 2008. Common use facilities and equipment at airports. Washington: Transport Research Board.

Ferrel, O.C. & Hartline, M., 2008. Marketing strategy. Mason, OH: Thomson.

Ferreri, D., 2008. Marketing and management in the high technology sector; strategies and tactics in the commercial airplane industry. New York: Greenwood Publishing. Gitman, L. & McDaniel, C., 2009. The future of business; the essentials. Mason, OH.

South Western Cengage. Jain, S., 2008. Integrated marketing communication; trends and innovations. New Delhi: Global India Publications.

Kimmel, A., 2005. Marketing communication: new approaches, technologies and styles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Longenecker, J. (2010). Small business management: launching and growing entrepreneurial ventures. Australia: South-Western Cengage Learning.

McCabe, S., 2009. Marketing communications in tourism and hospitality; concepts, strategies and cases. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.

McCalley, R., 1996. Marketing channel management; people, products, programs and markets. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Mouncey, P. & Wimmer, F., 2007. Best practice in market research. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Plunkett Research Limited. 2004. Plunkett’s transport, supply chain and logistics industry Almanac. Houston, Tex: Plunkett Research.

Smith, R. & Zook, Z., 2011. Marketing communication; integrating offline and online with social media. Philadelphia: Kogan Page.

Rao, R., n.d. Services marketing. New Delhi: Pearson Education India.

Russel, P. & Taylor, J., 2004. Marketing communication; an integrated approach. London: Kogan Page.

Varey, R., 2002. Marketing communication; principles and practices. New York: Routledge.

Verma, H., 2008. Services marketing; text and cases. India: Dorling Kindersley.

Virgin Atlantic. 2011. Student information pack. Web.

Weinstein, A., 2004. Handbook of market segmentation; strategic targeting for business and technology firms. New York: Routledge.

Yeshin, T., 1998. Integrated marketing communications; the holistic approach. Oxford: Butterworth.

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