Ryanair is one of the most unique and successful low-cost airlines in Europe. Despite having so many negative associations, it still remains the leader in this market by having the biggest share of customers and flights (European Low Fares Airline Association, 2008). Hence, what are Ryanair brand key secrets making it so successful? The Keller‘s Customer-Based Brand Equity Model incorporated with Pillars of the Brand were used to make an analysis which helped to answer this question. Ryanair brand was analysed according to such components as brand awareness, brand associations (Pillars of the Brand) and brand image. Brand awareness includes the performance of both brand recall and recognition. Evaluating Pillars of the Brand and brand image, the set of both positive and negative associations was sorted out which determines the brand equity of Ryanair.
Measuring awareness helps us to identify how strong the brand is in the mind set of the consumers (Aaker, 1996). Different tests were carried out in order to test the brand recognition of Ryanair . The tests included making the participants identify the Ryanair brand using two cues (Appendix B). In the first exercise the participants were given a set of colours and had to match the colours to the airline. Out of fifteen responses, only three were able to attribute Ryanair with the colour blue. On the other hand, EasyJet was a clear leader in the “colours” battle, due to its strong saturation of the orange colour. The second test involved people being able to identify different brands when given the logo as a cue. Although, the Ryanair logo looked memorable, people were unable to recognise it. Therefore, the results proved that both the logo and the colour do not add much equity to the brand. However, the brand scored high on the brand recall tests (Appendix A) when given the airline product category as a cue. But it should be questioned whether this is sufficient to add enough equity to the brand. After all deciding which airline to travel with is a high involvement decision according to the elaboration likeliness model. But according to (Baker et al 1986), decisions that are high involvement need a high level of awareness in order to become a member of the consumer’s consideration set. So according to that theory Ryanair should have a low probability of being selected which is clearly not the case. Bettman (1979) seems to explain this by saying that if consumer decisions are mainly made in settings away from the point of purchase such as that of Ryanair then brand recall is more important. Although Ryanair scored high on brand recall, the mind mapping exercise (section C) showed that the brand was well known due to its negative attributes. Whether this is sufficient to weaken the brand depends on the familiarity factor as discussed by Jacoby (1977). The negativity such as low quality or bad service needs to be linked with a positive experience to sustain the service’s usability. The negative attributes are therefore eroded away through the cheapness of the service. Therefore neither brand recognition nor brand recall is adding much equity to the brand. This is because consumers are more influenced by the brand functionality factor rather than brand likability. Nevertheless, Ryanair’s brand awareness needn‘t be high because the airline’s marketers are bridging the gap between brand recognition and recall by pairing the brand with its product category through its advertising. The distinction between brand recognition and recall may not matter that much, as consumers thinking of the category are likely to think of the brand due to the strong association between brand and product category (Keller, 1993). Therefore we can conclude that brand awareness is a necessary but not always a sufficient step in building brand equity.
Pillars of the Brand
A brand value can be described as ‘a state of mind that is important to...