Effective Strategies for Print & Online Aviation Marketing

Writing for BDN, Jill Fontaine recently interviewed Carol Dodds, Vice President of Advertising and Partnership at Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPAC. Dodds),  to discuss a variety of issues that impact aviation industry marketers. Carol provides key aviation and aerospace brands a selection of print and digital advertising opportunities and for over 9 years has successfully connected advertisers and marketing professionals with their target audience of general aviation pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts.

Jill: AOPA represents many influential brands in the industry. Can you give a few examples of brands that are creating innovative print campaigns?

Carol: Bose, Garmin and Icon are among those that I always suggest people reference for great ad content. We are also seeing smaller companies create very engaging content in their ads. Genesys Aerosystems always impresses me with their smart print ads that they couple with blogging and online content on topics that people are genuinely interested in learning about. They do a really good job educating their potential customers about a product that, at times, can be difficult to understand.

Other companies, like Blackhawk Modifications, are getting very creative with their print ads, while saving money and maintaining high visibility. They are getting dominance across a 2-page spread without buying the 2-page spread. It’s actually pretty clever! On the right-hand side, they’re buying a full-page ad and doing a great bold image with a short headline. On the left-hand side of the spread, they’re buying a 1/3-page vertical ad and tying them together with color and branding, this is a perfectly functional “2-page” ad. And honestly, that leaves us with only editorial that can be placed on the page with their 1/3 ad. So really, they’re getting ad placement right in the middle of an article. You couldn’t ask for better visibility.

Jill: What a trick! Is this something you’re sure you want to be sharing?

Carol: Of course. I think it’s really clever marketing. I always want our advertisers to get the best “bang for their buck” and this is a great way to do it. I also think it shows just how versatile print advertising can be. You have to make it work for you and the budget you have. You don’t have to buy a 2-page spread to get good visibility. I work hard for my advertisers, and my main goal is to get their message out there, no matter their budget.

Jill: What marketing trends are you seeing in aviation print advertising right now?

Carol: I’m seeing that the most successful and eye-grabbing ads are those with bold images, incredible beauty shots, or very tight detailed shots of a product. A lot of advertisers are coupling these bold images with dramatic one-word or one-phrase headlines to keep it simple and clean while still getting the reader’s attention. This style is very effective, but is hard for some, more traditionally rooted, companies to accept.

I’ve also been very intrigued with the advertorial direction that some ads are going. With this style, we see brands using smaller images and focusing on telling their reader a story.

Native advertising or “editorial-like” ads often feature a customer’s testimonial or content that educates the customer about the brand. You have to have amazing copy in order to pull this off though. You want the copy to feel like part of the magazine’s content, not an overt promotion. That’s the trick. Give the reader the opportunity to learn something of value instead of being sold something.

Jill: Do you think one ad style is more effective than the other one?

Carol: No. It’s trial and error, really. Advertisers have to see what works for their brand and their customers. Some of the best ads I’ve seen have been combinations of both styles. They’ve successfully incorporated a beautifully branded image with the right amount of editorial content. The combination of the two often provides marketers more comfort because they don’t have to go buck wild in one direction or another.

Jill: Has the 24/7 accessibility to a brands message via the Internet and social media affected the way that AOPA readers and advertisers view print advertising?

Carol: Yes, I think it has. People can access information about your brand any time they want to, so picking up a magazine is now only one of many ways they can learn about your product. This is one of the challenges that aviation marketers today have to overcome. We’re an industry that is very comfortable in print advertising and sometimes it’s hard to educate brands on the true need for online, social and video marketing. Good marketers use a hybrid of print and digital to engage on more levels with their customers. Advertisers should be using print for serious branding and story telling, then driving the customer to an online page where they can take action on the information they just received from your print ad.

Jill: Is online advertising effective on its own?

Carol: I’m a firm believer that online advertising is most effective when it’s backed up by a branded print advertisement that tells the story of a product. I don’t know any successful brands that have focused their marketing strategy solely on print or solely on digital marketing. Both serve different purposes and different parts of the sale cycle. Advertisers should be using print to drive traffic to their website. This is why print is still relevant. If a customer is reading a magazine, they’re most likely relaxed and have some time on their hands. If that same customer is online, there is a much shorter attention span and a much smaller window to deliver your message. It’s important to understand that people are distracted online and now have an expectation about online advertising. Advertisers can use their print campaigns to deliver a bold idea and drive them to do further product research or take an action on your website or landing page.

Jill: How can marketers successfully integrate a digital marketing strategy into their existing print strategy? Will it require additional budget?

Carol: It’s not expensive or difficult to carry over a branded look and feel online. It’s about providing customers with brand consistency. They see your brand in print, they should also see it online. Think of the print ad as brand education and the online ad as your call to action. Online ads encourage your customer to pick up the phone, click on the contact info, find a sales rep, or even make a purchase. There’s a sense of urgency in online advertising, and that’s the key. Most of the print advertising opportunities these days comes with an option for online advertising as well. At AOPA we always encourage our advertisers to do both, and we also offer them a large range of different platforms and different price points to choose from. It comes down to distributing your budget across online and print. For a campaign to be successful, you shouldn’t have your entire advertising budget in one area.

Jill: We’re talking about creating a funnel of sales leads here, starting with print and ending with an online call-to-action. How important is a company’s website in this process?

Carol: If there is one place where a marketing strategy loses its steam, it’s the website! As marketers, we spend so much money on print ads and online visibility, but when a customer finally shows up at the website ready to buy, they often fall into an abyss of unorganized or unrelated information. We essentially throw them into a dark room and cross our fingers that they can figure out how to buy our product. Ineffective websites don't happen by permission though, they happen by omission. Make sure to lead your customers to exactly where you want them to land on your site and keep it up to date and engaging. Print and online ads won’t convert to sales unless your website is ready to handle the traffic that is being directed to it.

Jill: Where does email marketing fall in to all of this? Seems like it should be as important as the website in converting leads to sales.

Carol: Definitely. Email marketing is not a thing of the past; it is still a critical part of any effective marketing strategy. At AOPA, we find it effective to add marketing content to emails that our members are already expecting from us. It may be a renewal notice or an account reminder, but we include some effective marketing content that reminds our member to take advantage of another benefit we offer. People get so many emails. The more you can combine your messages into one email, the more likely you are to reach your customer.

Jill: Let’s talk a little bit about the sales team’s involvement in this process. Is it important for marketers to get buy-in from their sales team to develop these ads for print and online?

Carol: Yes. It is so important for marketing professionals to educate their sales counterparts on the importance of innovative marketing. Here at AOPA, we do our own media marketing and it's very much a team effort with our sales force. We involve the sales team in the front end of the process when we’re developing the message, the images and the execution. When you involve the sales team early on, you ensure that the customer transition between marketing and sales is efficient. We want everything to be easy and seamless for the customer. You don't want it to feel like a cold call when the sales team talks to the customer. The lead generation work that marketing efforts produce is very important, and the sales team wants to be involved and informed. They need quality information so they can successfully close the sale. We ask our sales team for copywriting input to ensure our ads have the right “voice”. Sales people understand the language that our customers speak. That comes in very handy for writing effective marketing material.

Jill: I’m glad you brought up understanding the customer. In addition to insight from your sales team, do you see value in engaging with customers in online forums and social media platforms?

Carol: Yes, I see value in online engagement. But I think it’s a very particular type of conversation. We use it to put ideas out there and to get a better understanding of our customers wants and needs as AOPA members. Online forums and social media sites aren’t the places for us to be “selling” our members a specific product. Forums are meant to be a place for open opinions, not blatant promotion. So yes, I think it’s an important way to gather customer insights, but it’s not a place for a sales pitch. We see social media as more of a customer service function rather than a direct marketing function.

Jill: Do you have any other advice for our readers who are looking to improve their print and online marketing strategy?

Carol: Be thoughtful and precise about your message. Be clear in how you write and what you say. Remember that people won’t give you more than a few seconds of their time for you to sell them something. They will, however, enjoy and appreciate a message that offers them new information or something of value. The offer and message you select and how you select them determine the success of your marketing campaign.

To improve your advertising even more, make sure you have a compelling value proposition.  Here's a useful guide with examples, a checklist, and more.