It was recently announced, in the venerable Wall Street Journal, no less, that the new low-fare arm of Singapore Airlines is set to begin operations in mid-2012.
The new entity, called Scoot, is touted as an attempt to “defend margins that have been chipped away by other low cost carriers like Jetstar and Air Asia”, a claim that’s, for now, merely a flight of fancy.
For one, Chief Executive Campbell Wilson has said, on the record, that Scoot’s aim is to “bring incremental business to the SIA Group”.
“Our aim is to bring incremental business to the SIA Group.”
— Campbell Wilson
Really? Going on a money-and-margins route against the inspiring, it’s-all-about-the-consumer “Now Everyone Can Fly” mantra of Air Asia?
No espousing the romance of travel like its parent company, whose iconic Singapore Girl campaign has endured since the launch of the brand, making it possibly the longest – and one of the most recognisable – brand campaigns in history?
No breakthrough business models to capitalise on the booming regional travel sector or refreshing new concepts to entice and engage the contemporary traveler?
Having a quirky name is all well and good; in Mr. Wilson’s words “Rather than tried and tired airlines this, airways that or air yawn, (Scoot is) short, sharp and snappy. It stands out. It’s geographically independent and can be a verb or a noun.”
But Scoot’s brand owners would do well to remember that a short, sharp and snappy moniker does not an airline make. Cut through ideas, fantastic service, memorable experiences; these are the hallmarks of not just a successful airlines, but any competent brand.
A catchy name that can be a verb or a noun is fine, but not if paired with tried, tired, yawn-inducing limitations, frustrations and regulations that stifle a customer’s travel experience.
And being geographically independent is great, but being relevant definitely makes more sense, no matter how you look at it.
After all, Scoot comes from an impressive lineage, with a parent company that’s prized for its marketing and branding savvy. There’s much to be done for Scoot to live up to the pedigree of Singapore Airlines, both as a brand and a real alternative to other similar carriers; will it bring sexy back to air travel and soar, all while ensuring that it does not dilute the hard-earned and excellent reputation of its storied heritage?
Or will its name be the only thing that’s remotely innovative?
How’s this for a little bit of perspective; success stories of budget airlines spawned from major carriers are few and far between. Tiger Airways isn’t exactly a roaring success, while SilkAir’s journey has been anything but smooth. More and more it seems as if successful low-cost carriers are the product of humble, independent origins; think of legendary brands like SouthWest and Virgin, as well as young upstarts like Air Asia.
It could be that not having a powerful backer with resources to splurge forces small players to become more inventive, more creative and more right-brained in the way they do business and engage with consumers.
So which way will Scoot, scoot? For now, it’s up in the air.