How Aladdin's "A Whole New World" Can Improve Airline Marketing

Disney's Aladdin, the changing nature of trust and, the essence of travel.

Matt Walker
May 23, 2017

A Whole New World

It has been 25 years since Disney released Aladdin to worldwide acclaim. Breaking records, it grossed $217 million in the US alone. And, while Bill Gates earns that in a afternoon, Aladdin, was a another stake in what people have dubbed Disney’s renaissance. I defy anyone reared on Disney’s recent hits to resist bursting into “A Whole New World” at the mention of Aladdin; it’s akin to mentioning Frozen to a 9 year old girl. ”Let it go, let it go…”

It’s been staring us in the face this whole time.

If the airline industry had grasped the essence of travel as portrayed in Disney’s Aladdin, and more specifically in the pivotal scene where Aladdin and Princess Jasmine take a magic carpet ride, they would have saved billions in advertising; they wouldn’t be dragging people off planes or treating their staff like subhumans; furthermore, airlines wouldn’t be increasingly subservient to powerful third parties like Google, Facebook and Amazon (coming to an airline near you) for the majority of their custom.

Latent in the 2½ minute scene of “A Whole New World” is a profound commentary of the travel industry with a specific focus on airlines–because planes are similar to magic carpets in that they both enable flight. 

Ironically, inherent in the disconnect of airline marketing is the belief that planes are exactly like magic carpets and should be considered with the same 1920s awe: the wonder of flight!

The Changing Nature of Trust

It's important to note that the point at which trust is forged between brand and customer changes. These changes coincide with the values of the customer.

Aladdin: You don’t wanna go for a ride, do you? We could get out of the palace, see the world.
Princess Jasmine: Is it safe?
Al: Sure, do you trust me?

Safety is a determining factor of trust for Princess Jasmine because the technology (Magic Carpet) is unfamiliar. However, this is overcome because she trusts the brand (Aladdin). Today, we are familiar with the technology of flight but unsure of the brand–we all know the horror stories.  

There is a consensus with regards to plane safety: nobody wants to die in a plane crash or even survive a plane crash; nobody wants to partake in any breach of airline safety protocol of any kind.

As participants in the information age, we all know you’re more likely to win the lottery, get struck by lightning and fall down a manhole all in the same afternoon than be in a plane crash.

Most of us are post-trust in the Aladdin sense of the word. The value of plane safety, punctuality, the safety of our luggage - these are a universal expectation; they are no longer a factor in building brand trust or in brand differentiation unless they are violated.

You cannot increase trust between brand and customer by emphasising stability in the areas that have universal buyin; you can only decrease brand trust by violating what the customers now take for granted.

Building trust in any era requires speaking directly to the values of that generation, and these change.

Inflight WiFi reliability is a more potent lever in our purchasing process than life-and-death stuff like landing gear and cabin pressure, because it speaks to what we consider essential to our quality of life.

Each generation espouse a new breed of values (or rediscover values long forgotten) that inform a channel of communication between brand and customer where building trust is possible. These values are entirely a reaction to the world that generation have inherited, therefore there are always clues embedded in the landscape. When you consider the proximity of Millennials or GenZ to technological disruption you begin to understand which are the values that build trust.

The shift in consumption from materialism to the experiential has precipitated a shift in how airlines need to communicate with travellers.

Airlines have embraced the experience economy but have misdiagnosed the experience that is being consumed.

In the 1940s, someone taking a plane ride might have moved the needle in neighbourhood gossip, but now, we are so exposed to flying as the dominant form of international travel that the force of the take off and receding view of the ground below can’t even distract a four year old from the headrest screen showing spongebob.

The Essence of Travel

In 2015, a survey asked travellers what they were willing to pay a premium for. The top answer was direct flights. While it’s important for airlines to constantly find ways to improve the experience onboard the aircraft, most travellers would pay more to shorten the duration of that experience in order to arrive quicker at the experience they are ultimately consuming.

Aladdin understood this.

Aladdin has a magic carpet that enables flight, but he sings to Princess Jasmine "I can show you the world.." The magic carpet–whilst impressive–only transports Aladdin to that which truly transforms: seeing a whole new world. With flight, he gets to experience things other do not, and show others things they have never seen.

Most airlines cannot see past the brilliance of their own fleet of magic carpets to the greater purpose. We take the magic carpet ride to see the world.

If airline brands understood how they are the veritable gateway to discovering the world, and how that discovery is the product in the experience economy, it would change their entire marketing strategy and possibly the culture of their organisations.

“A whole new World” should be the soundtrack of the airline industry.

. . .
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