Tag Archives: virgin

VirginBlue Rebrand

New Virgin Australia LogoAs part of bringing VirginBlue back into line with global branding for Virgin they have officially rebranded VirginBlue as Virgin Australia.  The relaunch is not a massive secret as Ausbt leaked part of a internal slide deck back in March that said the timing on phase 2 was on track and the unveiling of the new brand would happen prior to 30th June 2011.  The VirginBlue re-branding was done by Sydney design agency Hulsbosch and was led by their creative director Hans Hulsbosch.  The rebrand was part of VirginBlue's move that takes them beyond the cheap and cheerful leisure market into a carrier that aims to appeal to both corporate and leisure market.Virgin relaunch was extensiveThe relaunch was supported by a complete overhaul of the Virgin brand in Australia with new uniforms designed by Australian designer Juli Grbac that compliments the new Virgin Australia look. Also relaunching is the new on-board retail menu crafted by Luke Mangan that refocuses the menu options on Australian made and owned produce while show casing a new range of Luke Mangan branded products. There are other changes such as a brand new business class service and a redesign of the cabin interiors to move them ahead of Qantas in the quest to be the number 1 airline in Australia pushed along by Richard Branson.
Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Backlash in the wings?It seems that initially it's been quite a successful relaunch for Virgin it will be interested to see how consumers take to the new name or if there might be some backlash from what is a very loyal fanbase. Sometimes consumers win out so what will be the cost if Virgin Australia is pushed back to rename the company in a few months, if the product fails heads will roll. As much as I do like the new branding and planes has the Australian element of "true blue" service been killed off with the rebrand?
Introducing Virgin Australia Planes

Introducing Virgin Australia Planes

What's left for VirginBlue online?Obviously VirginBlue has a large number of websites that have to be re-branded Virgin Australia mainly around their affiliate partnerships
  • VirginblueAirpass.com
  • VirginBlue Tours & Activities (Godo)
  • VirginBlue Car Hire
  • VirginBlue Cruises
  • VirginBlue Weather (WeatherZone.com.au)
  • VirginBlue Travellers Cheques (AMEX)
  • VirginBlue DreamWorld Tickets
  • VirginBlue Event Tickets (BlueTix)
  • VirginBlue Car Hire
  • VirginBlue Hostels (HostelWorld.com)
  • Airport Transfers (CXBookings)
What about travel agents?
It will not initially be a massive issue for most travel agents and agencies as many consumers will still be referring to VirginBlue and it will take sometime for all the internal marketing materials and POS items to be re-branded so it will just be a minor annoyance.  The only slight issue might be that consumers might get confused between VAustralia and Virgin Australia when trying to get quotes and compare fares since I hear people still ask about flights on Ansett.
What about online partners?
The big curve ball will be the hundreds of online travel booking websites that have spent time and money on getting ranked high in Google for "VirginBlue" related search queries in what is now a defunct brand.  While the Google algorithm may show some intelligence in understanding "VirginBlue" and "Virgin Australia" are the same search query currently the SERPs are dominated by Virgin related brands and news websites reporting on the re-branding. They have at least made the smart move to buy AdWords traffic that supports the relaunch message with links to information about the introduction of Virgin Australia and a link to see their new TV commercial.
virgin australia serps

virgin australia serps

Another bigger issue is that V Australia also dominates many of the search results for "Virgin Australia" type terms so even before it even gets off the ground VirginBlue is already 2 steps behind, so to win does that mean that V Australia has to suffer? The other issue you can see is that Google is not showing the correct meta titles for VirginBlue as even they are getting mixed up and showing V Australia this is likely to get slowly resolved but it's going to cause more than a few headaches for the branding agency as Google SERPs may not reflect on site changes.
Backlink Analysis of Virgin Websites
I have also looked at the backlinks currently pointed at VirginBlue websites as these are one of the strong ranking factors that Google uses to rank websites and i've got some concerns on how smoothly the online brand transition might go. Using Open Site Explorer I was able to quickly look at the anchor text distribution of the backlinks to both of the now competing Virgin airlines and it's going to be a massive amount of work ahead for Virgin's SEO agency to get things back on track if they want the new branding to work.  According to OSE of the 92,908 backlinks to VirginBlue only a handful use "Virgin Blue Australia" the rest are focused around VirginBlue keywords, but of the 57,609 backlinks to VAustralia more than a few use "Virgin Australia" making it more likely to rank above the Virgin Australia in Google.
There is a lot of back-breaking work ahead for the online marketing team and web developers over at Virgin but so far they look like they are getting the basics of the relaunch right.
Watch the official new Virgin Australia TV Ad

Jetset challenges Flight Centre

Jetset LogoStella Travel services has once again made headlines following on from August 2009 when it announced a preferred retail agreement with Qantas Holidays has now evolved into a merger with Jetset Travel group.  Last years preferred retail agreement made this merger much more attractive to Jetset and you would think much harder for the competition watchdog to examine the true impact.  The ACCC after doing an apparently extensive review of the merger has approved the merger to create an expanded Jetset retail travel network. Stella Travel services operates Harvey World & Travelscene American Express and will be joined by Jetset owned Qantas Holidays & Qantas Business Travel.The merger has to be a warning shot at the Queensland based Flight Centre who has continued to expand its operation to around 2000 shops/locations in 11 countries around the world but reaches 40 countries with its FCm Travel Solutions corporate network.  Flight Centre has actually been fairly quite on the press release front since it called off Singapore Airline contract negotiations back in July 2009, so its likely they have something big planned following the announcement last week that they were cashed up with a net cash level of $144.3 million.Qantas influenced deal?It is interesting according to Smart Company back in May 2010 that Qantas (58%) the major shareholder in Jetset advised that they would support the deal, its unclear how other travel agents will react having their supplier growing its own retail & wholesale travel network. Qantas has much more interest in this deal working if they want to continue to hold their market share in the leisure travel market against VirginBlue & Tiger Airways.Virgin feeling blue?Virgin Blue will likely have expand their retail travel network quickly and will also look at purchasing some independent operations as Jetset Travelworld is one of the few smaller travel companies based on market capitalisation and have a strong focus towards their main shareholder Qantas.  The domestic market has been slowing and the strength of the Australian dollar has boosted international travel but VirginBlue faces a double blow with their withdrawal of V Australia flights to South Africa and Phuket, Thailand this week.  The only upside is that Virgin has announced a partnership with Etihad to launch non-stop flights to Abu Dhabi, it will be interesting to see how much the new Jetset Travel group promotes the VirginBlue flights to the middle east.Share market responseThe news was very positive for JetSet TravelWorld's share price which made up the losses it had sustained since the beginning of the 2010/11 financial year and it increased the groups market capitalisation by around $36 million which will help fund costs typically associated with the merger.  The sharemarket will likely be closely watching the share price to see if this was a one-off event or will Jetset return to at least its January 2010 levels.Jetset Stock PriceFlight Centre shares also rose slightly in today's trading but unlike JetSet's constant downward trend, since the beginning of the 2010/11 financial year the Flight Centre stock price has already risen 25.69%.  The size of the Flight Center by market capitalisation being 11 times the value of the JetSet Travel Group is also a strong reasoning behind the approval by the ACCC that the market would not substantially lessen competition in the travel market.  This obviously excludes a view towards any independent travel operators who are being squeezed out of the industry and so begins the steps of building a new duopoly in the Australian travel market and welcome the new travel super group JTG Stella.Flight Centre Stock PriceWhat is the website impact?The ACCC advised their decision was in part based on how consumers are now searching for the best deals online forcing travel agents to compete harder on price and service but also more suppliers have new ways of reaching customers direct. Looking at the combined website traffic of the new Jetset Stella group its clear that even with market capitalisation of 11 times its competitor FlightCentre only has about 50% more unique visitors to its primary website.

Compete Travel Traffic

What is interesting is that the Jetset Stella Group is the only travel website I checked that is actually starting to show decent positive growth consistently over the past few months but the sample size for the Compete analytics is not significant enough to make any predictions on how long it will take before they pass Flight Centre but it looks good for 2011.

Compete Flight Centre TrafficI have to clarify that Flight Centre like a number of other travel sites operates several subdomains which split up its overall traffic estimates and make it harder to do a detailed analysis quickly.  Also much of the Qantas Holidays and Qantas Business travel packages are promoted directly from Qantas.com.au which also mask the true website traffic the new Jetset Stella group will be attracting but all things equal I think they already have a strong presence online, but could dramatically improve it.

What impact on suppliers?Tourism Technology LogoSuppliers like Tourism Technology who sell Calypso a travel management system will likely have the most too lose from the Jetset purchase as Stella Travel uses their Calypso platform.  From the Jetset group only Qantas Holidays currently use Calypso so it maybe put out to tender once the merger completes.  It will be a tough decision to move Qantas Holidays away as they have been using Calypso for 16 years, but as they say change is as good as a cheap holiday. It is always a risk for suppliers when their customers merge as to decisions on which platform to centralise are often made with less planning and more personal preferences of management or even influenced by financial incentives.   There is a clear benefit for staff training and streamlining the sales process by having one travel platform and since Flight Centre also use Calypso there maybe some tough discussions ahead.What impact on consumers?It will be interesting to see how websites like Expedia who continue to fight to dominate both paid and organic rankings will step up their efforts to ensure they dominate the online field.  Groups like Expedia & Kayak may even increase their Travel Agent affiliate product which seeks to replace platforms like Calypso and give independent operators the scale in purchasing power to compete with Flight Centre and Jetset Stella Group.  So its likely it will be an improved level of service and increasing competitive offers but like most good things they will come to an end through bankruptcy of one of the groups or a truce is called and consumers get duopoly pricing again!