Fortune Favors the Brave: Two Major Learnings from Building a New Marketing Category
By Louise Bristow, VP, Marketing and Communications, Archer
Today, more than at any moment in history, delivering memorable, effective, meaningful marketing is a steep hill to climb. Competition for attention has never been greater. Consumer channels are besieged by the 24/7 news cycle that can at times seem impossible to break through. Channels are expanding and diversifying such that the route to an audience’s consciousness is no longer direct. In any given sector, competition is fierce. But these obstacles intensify when you add another element into the mix: marketing an industry that does not exist. It’s a challenge that we at Archer are familiar with as we work to launch our urban air mobility service and our electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
eVTOLs have long been (incorrectly) associated with futuristic tropes, like the flying cars of the Jetsons and too many science fiction movies to mention. However, while this image resonated with consumers, it did a long-term disservice to the credibly emerging eVTOL industry and the marketers within that industry. Why? Because in addition to introducing a new technology, eVTOL marketers realized that they would simultaneously have to combat the idea that flying cars were coming to suburban garages. At the same time, we were faced with the added task of allaying consumer fears around safety, noise pollution and accessibility.
To launch Archer’s brand, we were faced with the ultimate challenge: creating a category from scratch and reconfiguring consumer’s expectations. Here we’ll discuss two of our most important considerations for building a new marketing vertical including: research and timelines.
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Do your research, but be your own inspiration
The concept of a clean-sheet marketing opportunity is often talked about but seldom more than industry speak designed to push the creative boundaries around existing concepts. For Archer however, the opportunity was as real and exciting as it was daunting. Before plunging into messaging and our brand look and feel, we surveyed the broader landscape. It was important for us to understand the images that consumers had already been presented with and the shortcomings of the pictures those painted. Not just in our own emerging sector, or indeed the broader airline sector, but beyond that into the world of new electric vehicles and other innovative forms of transportation. Defining and understanding the whitespace to differentiate our brand and our product from the outset was critical.
In Archer’s earliest days, we took time to study our aerial companions – both real and imaginary. We saw imagery featuring sleek vehicles soaring across ominous backgrounds and a futuristic cityscape, depicting a dystopian future that felt far off and difficult for consumers to connect with. Somewhat binary and purely functional in a world of sci-fi buildings and faceless characters. And as a result, this mode of transportation that many were promising to launch in the 2020s still seemed like a futuristic dream.
To build public acceptance, we knew it was vitally important to depict how eVTOL would be woven into the fabric of everyday lives. To do that, we steered away from overtly futuristic imagery, instead showcasing eVTOL aircraft existing in cities and nature, a seamless part of today’s consumer experience. We opted for this approach because we knew, as a young company entering a widely questioned industry, that we had to make eVTOL feel real and accessible.
What you should take away from our experience is that while it’s imperative to research and understand your peers and the broader market context, to truly stand out, you must carve your own path. Take your learnings and make them work for the vision of your brand. It’s ok, and sometimes in your best interest to go against the grain.
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Set realistic goals for growth
Archer’s marketing team has never looked at the company or the eVTOL industry with a startup mentality. Yes, we move fast. Yes, we are innovative and unbounded by what’s gone before. But we have a plan to build the foundation of a brand that will, we hope, become a globally recognized company. To approach this daunting task, we worked to break our timeline towards commercial launch into digestible milestones over the coming months and years. This allows us to make our goals ambitious, but still achievable.
Such goal posts included:
Define our brand: It was important for us to create our own category and brand voice that was set apart from the broader eVTOL industry.
Grow our channels: For Archer, it was, and always will be, important to build an authentic audience, not just a big one. We’re looking for explorers and adventurers that share our pioneering spirit to join our tribe of changemakers. Engagement is key and to drive that, content must be thoughtful, well-produced and relevant.
Find and expand our community: This is where educational content plays a huge role, and the stage at which Archer currently sits. Closing the educational gap around eVTOLs as a form of transportation and an eventual travel service has been key to expanding our community as one of the few companies in this space offering real insight into the mechanics behind both the aircraft and the business.
Change the world: Granted, this one might be considered very ambitious. While we’re not there yet, we do believe that eVTOL transportation has the ability to change the way we move around our biggest cities and eventually the world. This moonshot goal remains our north star and drives not only our marketing and communications strategies, but everything we do at Archer.
The biggest takeaway here is to be realistic when developing your marketing plan. Take a hard look at your goals, define exactly what you need to achieve them, then create a workback timeline from there. Nobody changed the world overnight and succeeding with the small tasks is central to achieving your overarching goals.
We’ve learned a lot about creating a new marketing category in the past two years. Some of our biggest takeaways include prioritizing what your customer needs versus what you want to show them, and finding ways to make your storytelling immersive and authentic at every step.
We’ve done this through extensive written and video educational content that explains how our technology will work to everyone – no matter their technical background. I’d go as far as to say educational content in a new and unproven space is perhaps the most important marketing collateral we’ve produced so far.
But of course, there is room for creativity alongside that learning-focused content. To paint a picture of eVTOL reality for our community, we’ve utilized cutting-edge production technology to build a movie-quality set that allowed attendees and livestream viewers to feel like they were flying inside our aircraft when we unveiled it for the first time. While this isn’t a possibility for every brand, my takeaway is to invest in high quality events that do your story justice and capture the attention and imagination of your audiences. You don’t need flashy activations every day to make an impact with your brand, but the ones you invest in will last far longer in the memories of your audience.
And, as we all know, finding a lasting home in the hearts and memories of our target audience is every marketer’s goal.
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