To 'B', or not to 'B' - are many 'aero' businesses missing a golden opportunity?

March 17, 2015

When I’m talking with a CEO of an ‘aero’ business, at some point in the conversation I ask: “So what’s your company’s value proposition?”

Often after much head scratching, a surprisingly high percentage of CEOs are unable to articulate a clear reason why their target customers should choose their company’s products or services over their competitors.

The CEO concedes that they offer much the same as their competitors and that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate. More often than not, they simply state that they are a better company to do business with, because they have great people and they have built greater customer loyalty than their competitors.   

No one would question that having a great team is a huge asset to any business, but I would wager that if I had the same discussion with the CEOs of their competitors, the vast majority of them would say exactly the same. 

Enter ‘brand’

The common challenge that many of these CEOs face is that as ‘aero’ markets are maturing and consolidating, finding a competitive advantage based around traditional goals such as ‘better, faster, cheaper’ is often extremely tough and practically impossible.

Everyone is looking for an edge that will create a competitive advantage, but in increasingly homogenous global markets, this is becoming a major challenge. It, however, never ceases to amaze me how many CEO’s seam to have given up trying to establish differentiation, and appear to have simply ‘thrown in the towel’ on what should be a fundamental business objective.

The fact is that without a meaningful differentiator, a company will invariably get drawn into competing on price… the very thing that most CEO’s are working hard to resist. They then desperately seek to reduce costs in order to preserve margins, but ultimately get sucked into a downward spiral of price and cost reduction that is then very hard to exit.  

In this situation, the magical world of premium pricing appears a distant dream… but I would argue that all ‘aero’ businesses are able to develop strategies that will build differentiation.  The key word that in my opinion isn’t used nearly enough in ‘aero’ industry boardrooms is BRAND.  We’re not talking about logos or corporate identity here… we’re talking about what your company stands for: your reputation, why you do what you do, and how you do it.

It’s no accident that the world’s stand-out businesses all have great brands which reflect directly on their balance sheets. In ‘aero’ markets, think for example NetJets, Rolls-Royce, Southwest, Gulfstream, GE and Virgin Atlantic. They all operate in highly competitive markets where differentiation is tough, yet they all invest significant time and resources developing, nurturing and protecting their brands.

This focus on brand has over time helped make them the stand-out and successful businesses they now are, creating major value as a result. They all recognise that brand strategy plays a key role in defining and expressing their company’s DNA and that, when executed well, it will bring many financial rewards, not to mention the obvious enhancement in market recognition and reputation.  

If your leadership team is not regularly discussing the ‘B’ word, then you have a golden opportunity to make brand and brand strategy a central part of your business agenda… and to take your business to a whole new level.


David McRobert - Director And Co-founder Posted by: David McRobert - Director And Co-founder