I had a fantastic chat the other week with an ex-client of mine and the boys from we are social about whether or not Ryanair was a brilliant brand. Everyone said they are arseholes, and to be honest I do not disagree one bit. Instead, and perhaps controversially, I feel that being an arsehole is a fundamental part of their incredibly successful brand personality.
Everything they do or say is set up to give across the impression that they will do anything they can to save money. From the fact that they have the cheapest aircraft interiors, tackiest colours, the seats don't recline and they charge for luggage. Famously, if there is any problem with the flight, all the airline staff have been reported to disappear, leaving the abandoned passengers to work out what to do next.
In Dublin airport, they actually have a poster from a legal firm near the Ryanair desk explaining what your rights are, and giving you a number to call for more information and legal advice, presumably because there are so many customers who would have cause to use such a service.
All of these things make you think "these are some people who really care about how they can save a few quid".
Their brand attributes I guess could be summarised as canny, smart, cheap, money grubbing
This is an incredibly successful business model. Ryanair is one of the only airlines that actually turns a profit. I think the key to it is that people by and large are not introspective. They don't think that they will avail themselves of a five pound sandwich, or need to bring more than one piece of hand luggage. They laugh at the other chumps who fall foul of these rules, but they are smart, they won't be sucked in.
Yesterday they pulled a blinder. On the day they posted their first quarterly loss in recent memory, they made an announcement that they intended to charge £30 for any duty free that is not put inside the single item of hand baggage. This sent the Guardian readers in apoplexy. It was a good idea as it deflected attention from the business performance, and played again the familiar cheapness script.
Remember we ought to be, mentally at least, giving ourselves piles if we're trying to sell preparation H, and the readers of the Guardian are unlikely to be the heartland demographic that Michael O'Leary is trying to attract
This logo looks like it cost about £750 to put together. I am sure that is exactly the effect they are after. Also, if you look on Google images, you can see that the logo itself changes about once a fortnight. They are too cheap to even have any guidelines made up. If ever they get a new temp in to put the next ad campaign, they just do what they feel.
Customer experience: This is like the inside of a big dirty bus. I would not be surprised if there was chewing gum on the underside of every one of these seats. There is no way anyone is going to nick or crease one of their safety cards either:
For Chrissakes they even have calendar girls
Website: this screams at me that this is the airline equivalent of PoundStretcher. Every fibre of its being says cheapness, and this is very clever.
Michael O'Leary himself even plays his part. He is not a stupid man by any means and his japesterish tactics and unapologetic style ties in with the whole brand framework.
I would be curious to know if they had any help with any of this work or if they really did do it all themselves. I doubt any agency would includes something like this on its portfolio, but in my opinion you cannot deny it is successful. I wonder who worked on it because looking this cheap probably costs a lot of money.