Angry Birds take flight with Finnair

In a globalized world, airlines, especially legacy carriers, can differentiate themselves as a national brand ambassador. Think SWISS Air Lines’ ‘Taste of Switzerland’ food service, Alitalia teaming up with Italian luxury brands to improve the onboard amenities, KLM’s Dutch Design and British Airways renewed emphasis of its British heritage.

The latest addition to these ‘experiental marketing’ initiatives are onboard events. For example, Lufthansa currently operates so-called Oktoberfest flights, which sees cabin crew dressed up in traditional Bavarian costumes and serving hot pretzels. Estonian Air, meanwhile, has just operated its first ‘gourmet flight’, featuring a local restaurant chef personally introducing the menu of the month onboard. And today, Finnair operated an Angry Bird-themed flight between Helsinki and Singapore in partnership with fellow Finnish company Rovio, the creator of the popular Angry Bird game.

Angry Birds
In the Angry Birds game, players fling birds at structures to try to destroy pigs. It started on smartphones like the iPhone and on tablets like the iPad and then expanded to a large number of other platforms like web browsers and TV boxes that are powered by operating systems like Android. Since its launch two years ago, Angry Birds has turned into a worldwide phenomenon and has been downloaded over 350 million times. Thanks to the success of the game, it is also a sign of Finland’s prowess in technology (Nokia), entertainment (Sulake’s Habbo Hotel) and design (Helsinki is named world design capital 2012), something Finland’s flag-carrier Finnair intended to capitalize on with the launch of an Angry Birds themed flight, an idea which Rovio approached Finnair with last June.

Service and entertainment onboard the flight were in ‘Angry Birds style’, with cabin crew wearing angry birds approns and serving items from an Angry Birds’ menu to passengers. A real live Angry Bird was also present and passengers were offered passengers Angry Birds plush toys. Eight people were specially selected to be part of the trip and given free tickets in advance, including two Singaporeans, winners of an Angry Bird ‘Face-off Challenge’ at Singapore Changi Airport, who were flown to Helsinki the previous weekend.

Four hours before the flight landed in Singapore, passengers on board could take part in the first Angry Birds Asian Challenge in the air by playing Angry Birds on 50 specially programmed game consoles, provided by Samsung. The winner of the Angry Birds competition was Jani Uljas, a regular passenger on the flight, who was crowned Angry Birds Asian Challenge champion upon arrival at Changi International Airport, where participants were also treated on Angry Birds cupcakes.

Experiental marketing
According to Jarkko Konttinen, Finnair’s vice president of global brand and marketing communcations, the Angry Birds partnership is a way to connect to Asian consumers. “We are both coming from Finland . . . and we are both heading to Asia.” […] Since they [Rovio] have their eye on Asia, and we, although a small airline, see Asia as a growth market, it was very natural that we joined with them in this competition. As a small airline without a huge marketing budget, Finnair needs to market carefully and creatively. We feel that in today’s world where there’s a lot of storytelling, relevant and interesting content is far more fascinating than very straightforward communications,” he said.

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