Boeing’s multi-pronged marketing strategies

Boeing’s first Indian ad campaign stresses that the company is doing a lot more in India than just selling airplanes.
Think Boeing, and the humongous jetliners the world flies in come to mind, the 737, 747 and 777 being the most familiar. But Boeing’s not just about commercial jetliners. It is also one of the largest makers of military aircraft and a leader in the aerospace business. Not everyone knows it has capabilities in defense systems, missiles, satellites, launch vehicles, communication systems and so on.
In the past few years, the Chicago-based company has been more active in India than ever. The skies have opened and business is on the rise. Boeing is no longer just selling airplanes to various airlines, but also buying products and services from Indian companies, doing research and development work, partnering with universities and institutes, and investing in education. The company in India is now a microcosm of what it is in the US. Everything Boeing is doing there is being replicated here and that is the big message that most people don’t know.
So Boeing has rolled out its first ever India-centered advertisement campaign — a series of five print ads, with a common tagline “One Partnership, Endless Possibilities” to convey the message. The idea for this campaign is to let people in India and the key stakeholders know that Boeing is more than just a company that sells airplanes. In recent times, we have been involved in five distinct areas in India. Each of the five ads conveys our involvement and partnership in these areas.
To start with, the first ad in the series, created by DraftFCB Ulka Advertising, focuses on the commercial aviation business. The creative shows children playing at the India Gate lawns in Delhi with a 787 civil jetliner flying above in the blue sky. It’s a joyous imagery and Delhi’s been used as the backdrop as it’s both a tourist and commercial centre.
Boeing’s partnership with airlines in India runs deep. The company has been selling commercial planes here for over 60 years. The big breakthrough was when JRD Tata bought the first 707 for Air-India in the 1950s, followed by the order of the Boeing Jumbo in 1971. Since then, Air-India has continued to enlarge its fleet with the 747, 777 and 737. The entry of private airlines in 1991 opened the market with Boeing selling planes to key players like Jet Airways and SpiceJet. In the last five years, Boeing has done about $25 billion of business in India in the commercial airplane arena. The first ad is clearly about their commitment to airlines in this space.
The second ad shows children playing cricket in a border area, somewhere in Jammu & Kashmir, with a Boeing Chinook helicopter guarding the territory. Boeing says the ad conveys that while your children are playing, its planes are there to protect them, highlighting partnerships in the defense arena. With the improvement in Indo-US relationship, Boeing has had a door opened in the defense business. Last year, the largest Indo-US defense order went to Boeing with the sale of eight P-81 maritime reconnaissance strike airplane worth about $2.1 billion. And last month, the Indian government sent a request to the US government to buy ten C-17 large cargo military transport airplanes. Boeing is also in competition for fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force where its F-18 multi-role combat aircraft contests with five others, including Lockheed Martin’s F-16. Boeing has also submitted bids for its Apache attack helicopters and Chinook transport helicopters. Boeing considered products which can potentially be worth about $31 billion for India in the next 10 years.

Boeing sells some of the finest military aircraft here in India. The ad brings forth our defense capabilities and talks about a trusted partnership in this sector.
The partnership in the next ad is about suppliers. During the Kerala boat races, the team that has the best chance of winning is one which rows in unison. It shows the synergy effect. If Boeing works with its suppliers, it will reach levels it has not seen before. Boeing’s suppliers in India are marquee companies like state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics and Bharat Electricals on the defense side. The company is also working with Tata Consultancy Services and other Tata companies, besides HCL, Infosys and Wipro.
One of the key reasons for Boeing getting a lot of work done in India is because the Indian government is buying products from it — both on the civil and defense sides. The government requires that any contract awarded to a foreign defense company have a 30 per cent offset clause. Our current obligation is to buy goods and services from India worth $2.3 billion. That’s a lot of money which can help build the aerospace industry in the country. Of course, India has the aspiration to build its own 50-seater, and someday 100-seater, airplanes. Boeing is helping it achieve that.
The fourth ad is about research and technology, particularly goals that are not easy to attain. This is a Mumbai theme. During Gokul Ashtami, young men stand on top of each other to reach the dahi handi. The point the company is emphasizing is the effort that goes into it, but once you get there, you get a big reward. Similarly, Boeing is taking hard steps in research whose reward, once it materializes, will be worth it. Boeing has a research and technology centre in Bangalore where it collaborates with the Indian Institutes of Technology and the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in areas like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and materials technology. The 787 which will come out next year will have all composite material. The biggest challenge in aviation is to find a material that is strong yet light. NAL and others work with the company to turn out alloys such as composite material that are stronger and lighter. The research centre in Bangalore is only the third outside the US after Australia and Madrid.
The final ad is an educational ad. Again it is about teamwork, helping someone fly a kite. Broadly, the full concept is of helping one another, growing together, having fun. Boeing works with all the Indian Institutes of Technology and has a strategic partnership with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The company provides scholarships and conducts design competitions. The aim is to get students interested in aerospace at an early stage when they are in college. For instance, students from IIT Kanpur demonstrated a robot that can be sent to an earthquake ravaged site that humans cannot access. The robot, equipped with a camera and a GSM card, can take pictures through a remote control.
The brief to the creative agency was to ensure that there is a clear Indian flavor and relevance to the ads. There was not much divergence. It is not like a typical shoe ad where the agency came up with 20 different ideas and picked one. The ads will run in most mainstream English dailies and news magazines as well as financial dailies for the next few months.–