Taking off with the European Flight Academy — Learn how we used digital communication to help our client sell a once-in-a-lifetime product and what that meant for follower growth and engagement rates.
The dream of flight is as old as mankind itself, as they say — you might have read about the high demands for pilots and the growth of the aviation sector. It’s a dream job for many, but the training is arduous and expensive.
European Flight Academy
Since 2017, European Flight Academy has united the Lufthansa Group’ academies under one roof. It is responsible for training pilots for all airlines of the group. Since the beginning of 2018, we have worked together with European Flight Academy to convey the passion for this training course with young people across Europe.
But how do you promote something less a product in the conventional sense and more of a life decision?
One part of the digital communication covers the concept-oriented, technical and editorial management of the company’s Facebook and Instagram channels.
Both started rather small in term of fans/followers and showed an irregular, inconsistent posting pattern, meaning our editorial concept sought to unify the message in text and visuals, optimizing them for publication on social media. Over the course of the year, both channels have seen rapid steady organic growth. Its Instagram channel has surpassed the 10,000 follower mark. Engagement rates on Instagram are at approx. 13 percent — the average rates typical for the sector hover around 1 percent.
Apart from the editorial efforts on European Flight Academy’s channels, the second cornerstone of our efforts was an international paid media campaign. The first step was to take the company’s message beyond its traditional borders and see how youths around Europe react to a German pilot school. Our focus was initially on seven countries: the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia.
We were not advertising a product in the classical sense, so we faced the difficulty of presenting a highly complex topic in very simple terms: European Flight Academy offers two training courses which each have a differing set of requirements, different courses of study and a different cost structure. The courses can be carried out as part of a dual studies program and take place at multiple locations in several countries. Finally, it was our goal to combat common misconceptions about a pilot career (such as “I can’t become a pilot if I wear glasses”).
We created the contents of the ads to share the magic of flight and based them on the appeal of the pilot career.
One challenge was the overall size of the target group and how to reach them effectively, also in terms of the multitude of local languages. We thus initially chose to target users with English system settings, based on the argument that both training courses require a high level of English. The campaign was based on Click2Web ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Instagram Stories. It included a set of Youtube Video Ads and a Spotify audio ad specially created for this purpose. In addition, a Google Search Ad campaign was initiated. Several ad sets were put into place targeting a wide range of users aged 18 to 34.
Unexpectedly, the campaign had a strong effect on our other activities on Facebook and Instagram. While this was in no way the focus of the campaign, it led to strong growth in fans from these countries, which for instance led us to place a stronger focus on English-language posts on Facebook.
As the campaign progressed, we added a retargeting aspect and opened up the target groups to include a broader spectrum. As of October, we have published the best performing ads from previous rounds to users with system settings in their native languages. These retargeting ads places a greater thematic focus on questions we often received as part of our community management, such as to financing options and the application requirements — what languages do I need to speak?, do pilots need to be star athletes?, how old do I need to be to apply?, what payments options do I have?, etc.
Our Facebook activities to a large extent also shifted to Click-2-Messenger Ads, in which users were channelled into a conversation on Facebook Messenger rather than to European Flight Academy’s website. The thinking here was to create a second communication touchpoint. Creating Messenger ads allowed us to provide those interacting with the ad more detailed information as well as involving them in a dialog. The hope is that should those with whom we have interacted with on Messenger have further questions, they already have a method by which they can quickly get in touch.
For every such ad, we created customised, automatic replies, which provided users with further information on the respective topic. Through pre-set questions also customised to each ad, we additionally provide them with inspiration as to what they can ask. Again, these were built based on our experience in managing the community over several months. A further advantage of this type of ad was the ability to cover a range of topics in the ad and the ensuing conversation. The challenge lay in creating succinct questions and answers to provide a clear overview of the complex topic at hand.
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This method allows us to provide users with a service in summarising information they would otherwise need to glean from the website. As we most often link to the website along with the offer of finding further information there, these ads offered an increased value over simple Click2Web. We were also able to raise awareness of the academy’s offline info events and online live chat in this way.
Ensuring that European Flight Academy is present in the places where its target group spends its digital time, we aim to reduce the barriers to communicating with them, posing questions or asking for advice. Establishing European Flight Academy as a contact partner in the digital world allows them to not just sell a product, but become a career adviser and partner in a momentous decision. What has been created is a sales funnel, in which we are able to point to further services, such as the aforementioned info events or the personal assistance by the Student Support team.
The feedback for the campaign has been positive throughout: the number of applications has exceeded our expectations, also from the countries at the focus of our campaign. The experience presenting European Flight Academy to young adults across Europe — as both a product and a life-choice — has taught us to walk the fine line between information and inspiration. Putting all marketing goals aside, our focus has always been to enable bystanders to get a taste of what the pilot life feels like; or, as our campaign hashtag proclaims, help you take off into #YourFlyingFuture.