Istanbul has always occupied a strategic economic position acting as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Presently, the city is home to THY or Turkish Airlines, a flagship air carrier that has come close to dominating the global market. Company’s history of the past several decades is a history of tremendous success. From humble beginning did the company start its commercial journey becoming what it is these days through the wise use of strategies by company management. THY signed deals with movie and sport celebrities to connect with their audience, conducted commercial campaigns, and sponsored football clubs having them wear company logo, which has popularized the airline and won plenty of customers thus far. Turkish Airlines has also made great use of social media platforms in attempts to spread the word of the brand and respond to customer complaints and queries. Economic position, private capital, governmental support, and liquidity have benefitted the company financially. Even so, there is room for improvement through expansion, destination and aerial transport diversification, and staff changes, yet some categories of employees and market competitors can offer resistance. Overall, Turkish Airlines is a highly successful Istanbul-based flagship airline that has achieved great success through wise managerial strategies, the use of social media, movie and sport icons popularizing the brand and increasing awareness, yet there are plenty of opportunities left to use to improve the company even further.
Overall Company Strategies Produced by Managerial Visionaries
Turkish Airlines has been pursuing a number of important strategies that have already contributed to it going global and becoming successful or that have yet to yield positive results. According to Finar Kurumsal (22), the company is implementing efficient marketing and network strategies to enhance profitability apart from growth and eventually meet the goals of capacity increase. Already the second largest by global destination number, the airline is working on including new destinations in the context of its expansion strategy. In the summer of 2012, the company came fifth on the list of airline companies by destination number. In the winter of 2013, the addition of an unprecedented for the company four destinations closer to the end of 2012 allowed it to knock it competitors off the fifth slot on the list of companies with the largest flight network (Finar Kurumsal 22).
Obviously, the more extensive the coverage of services is, the more successful a company will be by securing consumer market segments worldwide. So thinks Turkish Airlines making its presence felt across the globe. According to Whitby (n.pag.), THY Interactive Marketing Manager Neşet Dereli claims carrier air fleet to fly to the majority of countries. Finar Kurumsal (24) claims that THY has the strategic ambition of becoming the largest transfer hub in the world. Finar Kurumsal (22) notes that, as a transfer point on Europe-Far East and Asia, Europe-Middle East, America-Middle East, and Europe-Africa lines, Istanbul brings flexibility to employ a range of fleet of diverse capacity and decrease flight time. Istanbul acts as a bridge between West and East making it possible the application of a narrow body fleet, which proves exceedingly cost-effective giving the company what is a competitive edge. The increase of connection between Africa and the remainder of the world currently in the planning is at the core of THY growth strategy in Africa. The company has prioritized customer satisfaction as its core strategy leaving passengers impressed by innovativeness, reliability, and technical advancement (Finar Kurumsal 23).
According to Aaaker (n.pag.), Turkish Airlines took to serving trademark Turkish tea and coffee at 35.000 feet as well as having established chefs cook aboard so that there will be plenty of positive memories left and the company will be “Delightfully Different,” as it positions itself on the market. Finar Kurumsal (25) goes on to suggest that it has always been a strategic objective to ensure superior service quality. Turkish Airlines also aims to pursue such essential strategy as subsidiary multiplication. By 2012, the number of subsidiary has increased twelvefold, as compared with 2003 when there was only one subsidiary (Finar Kurumsal 24). The remaining strategies include brand awareness and low operational cost. The former implies the use of social media, sponsorship deals, and the swift dissemination of corporate news through popular communication channels while the latter does fuel saving measurements and keeping employees young and efficient. To increase the share of sales, Turkish Airlines increases procedural and personnel efficacy as well as investing in state-of-the-art technologies (Finar Kurumsal 26).
The management of the company knows better than to ignore marketable Western social and ecological trends like reforestation and professional gender equality, the abidance by which allows connecting with more categories of customers. Finar Kurumsal (90-91) even reports its annual account printed on recycled paper with the application of environmentally safe technologies. Finar Kurumsal (90) states that the percentage of female employees fluctuated between 48% and 52% between 2007 and 2012, as did that of men over the comparable period. Beyond that, the company is trying to hire the highest qualified and experienced employees possible. In terms of education, Turkish Airlines employed 0.12% of post-graduates and 53.7% of university graduates, of whom 3.74% held Master’s Degree as of 2012. As of 2012, an estimated 9% of workforce had 20 years plus experience, 15% of employees had between 15 and 19 years of experience, 10% had worked in the industry for 10 to 14 years, while 25% and 41% of the employed had between 5 and 9 and up to 4 years respectively (Finar Kurumsal 91). Wisely, the company places focus on such marketable values as higher education and experience that ensure the provision of top services. Beyond that, management cultivates values like trust, family concept, agility, team cooperation, and hospitality (Finar Kurumsal 92).
The Heavy Use of Social Media Platforms as a Globalization Strategy
If there is the best strategy for a company to succeed, it is to connect with its target consumer group via social media platforms massively used by people of all demographic groups, which particularly holds true for young and middle-aged adults. Their employment as well as working schedules necessitates and allows air travel to business or recreation destinations worldwide. Aware of the trend, THY or Turkish Airlines is doing well to use the platforms. Analyzing Sprinklr’s 2014 social media list, Travolution (n.pag.) states that the company has made the top 5 at number 4. The social score of THY rose by 731.5 points while that of American Airlines dropped by 1.079.4 points. It follows from its efforts that the company has made great strides in engaging clients via social media on a global scale. Whitby (n.pag.) cites THY Interactive Marketing Manager Neşet Dereli who believes company social media presence to be enormous.
The flagship carrier is reported active on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest, to name only six of the most known media platforms. In executive’s estimation, besides covering the prevalent number of destinations, THY is the most active social media carrier. The task of company using media is to work with clients during the inspiration and planning stages followed by the cultivation of engagement in the post-trip period. The application of social networks and websites allows updating fans on destinations, global events, trends, and developments (Whitby n.pag.). A Turkey-based interactive marketing group and US-based specialists make up company social media team. There is not a single months that goes by that the team does not plan its social media content building it around news, cultural occasions, up-and-coming events, and travelling tips. The team is also tasked with designing local pages to adjust content to local languages and follow local trends (Shankman n.pag.).
The multicultural company is said to have been maintaining in excess of 20 local Twitter and Facebook accounts since adopting the social media strategy. Its campaigns aimed at getting consumers to follow and engage with the carrier often rely on gamification. While conducting the London 2012 QR campaign, Turkish Airlines produced QR codes in the image of national flags. The idea was for the initiative to render visible the brand along with destinations and take advantage of the upswing of visitors to London. The campaign mobile website received an effort-worthy 20.000 visits. When the Hard-to-Say-Easy-to-Fly campaign was under way, the company announced the contest of pronouncing challenging destination names like Ljubljana, Guangzhou, and Dnepropetrovsk, with a trip to one of the three at stake. Participating were 1.5 million Facebook followers and 280.000 Twitter users, which led to 4266 generated clicks while contest viewership rate reached 22.000 views (Whitby n.pag.).
A 4-night trip to New York was the prize awarded to the participants of the Zero-to-Hero Facebook competition. The company replies to hundreds of social media complaints and queries on a monthly basis showing it is not only about informing and keeping social media users entertained. Media platforms also enable the company to receive feedback and learn from consumers so as to improve services in the future. Through social media, the company can come to award an extremely engaged fan with a gift. Experimenting by means of media platforms allows Turkish airlines to identify what approaches work and what fail (Whitby n.pag.). Dunlap (n.pag.) reports THY campaigns to have already resulted in enormous dividends like increased brand awareness across top consumer markets.
The Use of Celebrities and Their Positive Aura as a Wise Marketing Strategy
For Turkish Airlines to have already used a number of celebrities is a smart move to make translating into an increased revenue. Celebrities’ appeal and charisma are manipulative since fans will reproduce whatever practice the living objects of their worship do, which may be buying a certain product or using certain airlines. Companies would not spend billions on celebrity ads if doing so were futile commercially. What celebrities do is invest their appeal and a positive aura into the brand or company image. What better way for the company to go global in terms of services than to enlist the help of globally worshipped sport, which is football?
Dunlap (n.pag.) suggests that Turkish Airlines is one of those unique companies that execute the strategy of engaging intended audience and remaining loyal to the principal brand message. Looking to become the biggest global player, the air carrier has been systematically making efforts to reach endorsement agreements with huge names in the sport industry in attempts to connect with the army of industry loyal fans. Using social platforms, the company has spread the viral commercial featuring Lionell Messi and Kobo Bryant, an NBA star, which garnered over 101 million views. Jameson (n.pag.) adds that the ad generated 900.000 shares and 100.000 likes in its first week. According to Dunlap (n.pag.), earlier in 2012, the company conducted a campaign called “Fans United” in cooperation with FC Manchester United attempting to engage club’s global base running into 333 million loyalists. The idea behind a Facebook and trivia competition was uniting 19 lucky club fans from across the globe and sending them on a trip to club’s stadium Old Trafford for the opening match of the 2012-2013 season against Fulham.
THY engagement over the four-month period resulted in club sharing the competition with 29 million fans. In the meantime, the air carrier succeeded in producing another 191K followers on its Facebook page, which allowed the company to make the number 4 spot on the list of the most followed Facebook airlines (Dunlap n.pag.). Shankman (n.pag.) notes that the company landed on the top of the list of Facebook’s most followed air carriers in 2014. Topping the list, Turkish Airlines runs 5 out of 10 most visited and popular Facebook airline pages, the number of likes standing at 17.6 million (Shankman n.pag.). Failing the involvement of social media and sport stars, Turkish Airlines would have never enjoyed a 39% increase in year-over-year income in the third quarter of 2012, much less won the prestigious Skytrax Award for Europe’s Best Airline (Dunlap n.pag.).
According to Jameson (n.pag.), the joyous sport-star commercials are what have helped the flag-carrier to ensure global reach. It may have made viewers and potential and current customer think being able to afford such top-grossing stars means the airline invests a lot in top-quality equipment and its services. The company went further than just shooting one commercial starring sport stars. Anadolu Agency (n.pag.) notes that the company has produced a new commercial starring Lionel Messi and FC Chelsea’s veteran player Didier Drogba in a move that is supposed to attract spectators through EpicFoodMap.com. The company announces a new competition, by which passengers’ uploading the images of their most preferred world food will make them eligible for a prize, which is a trip to the locations the ad puts on display (Anadolu Agency n.pag.).
According to Dunlap (n.pag.), the air carrier has officially sponsored Manchester United since 2010. Baber (n.pag.) reports that the sponsorship of THY with football club Sarajevo has broken records. On February 26, 2015, the club from Bosnia joined the already impressing list of Turkish Airlines sponsored teams composed of Manchester United, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Feyenoord (Dunlap n.pag.). What the company strategy means is that football fans across the world will be seeing their icons wear t-shirts with the logo of THY, and, when once they need an airline to travel to where the favorite team plays, they will most likely book a flight at Turkish Airlines. Logos are another opportunity of the exposure of brand to potential customers.
Beyond that, Turkish Airlines, Inc. (n.pag.) describes the deal with Kevin Costner as being great success. The commercial campaign saw Hollywood megastar Kevin Costner acting in a THY commercial. Bringing the internationally acknowledged star to Turkey is a sign that the company has become an important global market player. The commercial was televised in 70 countries (Turkish Airlines, Inc. n.pag.). Costner was to communicate the idea that travelling aboard a THY air carrier was a prestigious move, as befits Hollywood star-caliber individuals. Everyone could “feel like a star” by booking a ticket and having him or herself carried to whatever destination he or she pleases. It is pure psychology since people are always willing to be the best and company service provides such opportunity at a reasonable price although not doing more than just creating an illusion. Overall, the above-quoted deals with stakeholders like sport clubs, stellar footballers, and movie legends perform at least three strategic functions, such as brand awareness creation and enhancement, loyalty cultivation, and consumer pirating or gaining over such an important category of stakeholder as customers of other industry competitors achieved through surprise gifts and active brand exposure.
The Economic Aspects of Company Success and Global Proliferation
Moody’s Investors Service (1) notes that historical above-peer-average profitability metrics and low-cost structure underpin the fiscal profile of the company. The tourism and economic growth in Turkey has encouraged a comfortably diversified passenger receipts. At the same time, the unique location of the Ataturk International Airport enables it to be at the very hub of the global transfer traffic. The government has not given open support to the airline, with ownership held by means of the Turkish Privatization Administration. As one of stakeholders, the government of the republic is expected to hold the Class C golden share preserving the status of the biggest shareholder (Moody’s Investors Service 1). Under this scenario, the government holding slightly more than half the assets turns out able to obstruct the acquisition of shares other than ordinary by co-holders and the takeover by other commercial ventures. Finar Kurumsal (7) states that the republic held a slightly smaller share of 49.12%, as against 50.88% of publicly held shares around 2012.
Morley (n.pag.) suggests that the government realized the counter-productivity of poorly functioning management, its notoriety, delays in flight, complaints, and the history of accidents in the second half of the 20th century and came putting efforts and money into airline revival. THY succeeded in preservation and expansion for all challenges economic crises presented (Morley n.pag.). A partial ownership is sure to have helped the air carrier survive in the time of crisis when governmental support usually runs low, yet the financial role of the government should not be understated. According to Moody’s Investors Service (1), under Moody’s time horizon between 12 and 18 months, the healthy generation of cash flow has ensured THY has a good rate of liquidity supporting its future fiscal obligations. In 2014 alone, the cash flow from operations hit a high of 1.1 billion dollars, with equivalent balances coming out at 635 million (Moody’s Investors Service 1). Obviously knowing money is recoverable due to liquidity, investors are more willing to put money into company joining the cohort of financial stakeholders. Liquid assets or cash allows spending funds on expansion efforts that helps cover more destinations and stimulate the flow of passenger and subsequent budgetary arrivals.
Problems to Solve and Possible Opposition
Hired as a part of company expansion strategy, 13 THY pilots not of Turkish descent have warned against using the services of Turkish Airlines citing the incompetence of pilots and the ignorance of safety procedures, which allegedly exposes passengers to danger (Sennels n.pag.). If that is the case, Turkey-born pilots should undergo strict retesting and competence checkup conducted by foreign industry specialists. However, doing so may stir dissatisfaction and ethnicity-based discrimination allegations within the staff affecting talent retention. The airline may arguably be best served by diluting the presence of Turkish pilots and hiring the ones from countries with the established industry to take over vacant positions, yet doing so may affect its domestic image of a national job generator.
CAPA (n.pag.) recommends Africa route expansion that would include destinations in African regions apart from North Africa. The airline can also improve its load factor that was 79% in 2013, as against 80.1% of the Aerial Experiment Association. The same is true of daily aircraft utilization, with the airline recommended to improve its medium- and short-haul routes. It would be beneficial if the new Istanbul Airport enabled expansion. Set to be put into operation in 2019, the airport will have the capacity of 90 million passengers. Its expansion to 120 and then 150 million by 2027 is recommended. The company needs to order the now considered long-haul fleet planes like Boeing 747-8 and A380, which is sure to open new destinations and help the company enter new markets in South Africa, Asia, North and South America. The adaption of Sun Express will allow fighting long- and short-haul low cost competition (CAPA n.pag.). Considering the economic benefits of recommendations, company stakeholder like investors, shareholders, and customers will only welcome changes. Who can offer resistance are market competitors possibly trying to tarnish air carrier reputation, as foreign pilots may have tried to.
Turkish Airlines is an Istanbul-based airline company that has taken the industry by the storm contesting the once dominant positions of market competitors. The company has set itself plenty of strategic goals like the expansion of destinations and subsidiaries, quality service, and customer awareness, to name a few. Employing its innovative quality strategy, the company has come to serve Turkish coffee and tea aboard and use the services of chefs. Turkish Airline has also employed social media platforms like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook to update consumers on cultural occasions, developments, and contests awarding winners with memorable prizes. Over the years, the air carrier has signed deals with movie stars like Kevin Costner and famous footballers like Didier Drogba and Lionel Messi to produce commercials and connecting with the fans of the icons, which proved extremely successful. From an economic perspective, Turkish Airlines benefitted from the dual ownership of the government and public investors who helped maintain the air carrier during the days of crisis and allowed it to go global in the years afterwards instead of going bankrupt. Given complaints as to pilot’s incompetence, the company would arguably be better off reducing the presence of the natives of Turkey or at least having such pilots retested by foreign specialists, which may evoke some opposition. Destination coverage expansion and fleet diversification are profitable recommendations; thus, if they do provoke counteractions, these will be on the part of market competitors.
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