Mumbai: Boeing, creator of some of the world’s most iconic aircrafts of the 20th century, commemorated its centennial year on Friday. But it was European arch-rival Airbus, that stole their thunder by releasing a classy, congratulatory message for the aircraft maker. Something you would hardly ever expect from your fiercest competitor. The video, titled ‘One thing to say to Boeing’ was launched four days ago and has already garnered close to 3.5 million views collectively on Facebook and YouTube.
The video which features Airbus employees at different establishments from across the world, talks about Boeing and the company gearing up to celebrate 100 years in the business. “We’ve been hearing quite a lot about Boeing lately. About their 100th anniversary. 100 years is a long time. Lots of products (are) built over 100 years. Lots of aircrafts, lots of tough competition in the aerospace marketplace. A lot of history. That got us at Airbus group thinking. We at Airbus compete hard against Boeing. Day in and day out. Fighting for every honour. Working tirelessly to connect and protect people around the globe. Innovating every day. Since we do all of those things in competition with Boeing. What do we have to say about Boeing Company? What would we tell our competitor as they make a big deal about their 100th year in business? We at Airbus think the answer is obvious. Al 150,000 Airbus Group people have just one thing to say to Boeing. One thing. Congratulations... Here’s to healthy competition in the next 100 years. Here’s to the future. From all of us to all of you. Happy Birthday Boeing and thank you for the competition that makes us all better.”
The video which ran across social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter among others, also features congratulatory messages from senior management such as Allan McArtor chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Fabrice Brégier, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Airbus, and John Leahy, chief operating officer—customers. Boeing, on their part, thanked Airbus on Twitter with “Thanks @Airbus for an amazing tribute. Here’s to the next century of health competition & industry achievement.”
“Human memory is the most expensive real estate on earth. If you (as a brand) want to find space there you have to not just congratulate your competitor. It has to be done in a witty manner,” said Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd point to other examples where brands have managed to surprise and tackle competitors with this strategy. A case in point being that a Burger King campaign, which was launched last year. Burger King wrote an open letter to its rival McDonalds inviting them to mark International Peace Day by creating a burger with them. The McWhooper, a mix of the Whooper and a Big Mac, would be made out of ingredients from signature burgers from both the rival food chains. While McDonalds declined their offer, the campaign caught media attention, and got thousands of people to launch their own version of the McWhooper.
According to a report by Campaign UK, the Airbus video is the brainchild of Clay McConnell, head of communications of Airbus Group, Inc., the Americas subsidiary of the Airbus Group. “In discussing how we could position ourselves vis a vis Boeing on its 100th anniversary, we determined that we really wanted to leverage their momentum and the attention paid to their anniversary to position Airbus as an innovative, global, forward-looking and diverse company that worked on really cool stuff,” he told Campaign. “Above all, we wanted to do it with good nature and a sense of humor.”
While both Airbus and Boeing have flung mud at each other across the years. Especially in trade journals. The famous Pinocchio ad created more than a bit of a stir in the aviation circles. “But then, even as puerile it sounds, in a duopoly like this, noise has to be made. Sometimes even at risk of sounding childish,” explained Prathap Suthan, managing partner and chief creative officer at the agency Bang in the Middle. “However, this commercial is pure elegance. Leadership point very well made by the bigger of the two. In fact, if not for Boeing, Airbus wouldn’t have pushed harder for bigger and more efficient planes. The world needs a Boeing to be snapping at their heels, and Airbus knows that as well. This is like the finals of Wimbledon. Where the winner praises and congratulates the runner up. Centre court etiquette. To the manor born,” he said.
Adding, that in terms of gain, anyone who sees this will immediately have a warmer handshake for Airbus. “Airbus would have its stature taken higher with this public display of wishing Boeing. Very well done indeed. And a lesson to many squabbling ones out there. There’s always the Europe versus America story built into this as well. For all the brashness typical of America, this is a typical gentlemanly and well-meaning show of respect and admiration for their biggest competitor. There is really no loss of face ever, in acknowledging and appreciating your competition and your challenger,” said Suthan.
To be sure, it takes a lot of guts for a brand to pull something off like this. Not only do their have to be fairly confident but also have a secure positioning in the minds of their consumers, say experts. Recently, automaker Mercedes-Benz sent a cheeky message congratulating rival BMW on completing 100 years. “The Mercedes-Benz Museum is congratulating BMW on its hundred-year anniversary with an invitation: from 8 to 13 March 2016 employees of Bayerische Motorenwerke (BMW), which was founded on 7 March 1916, will enjoy free admission to the museum in Stuttgart. Those arriving in a BMW will be allowed to park free of charging in a prominent position directly outside the entrance on the hill. The restaurant will additionally serve up a special Swabian speciality for the first 50 BMW employees at the end of their tour of 130 years of automotive history,” said the company through their message.