Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT) is a commercial pilot training school available only to future pilots who have committed to working for Lufthansa after they obtain their pilot’s license. Since they are constantly being sent students from Lufthansa’s corporate office in Germany, they didn’t need help finding more students, which is the primary issue for most flight schools.
However, they had a severe shortage of certified flight instructors (CFIs) to train all the students. If they couldn’t find enough instructors, they would have to limit the number of students signed up for training, which could really hamper Lufthansa’s ability to operate. While pilot shortages have become a trend across the industry, slowing down training was clearly not an option!
That’s when we got the call. In the past, LAT had successfully partnered with United Airlines to help promote its pilot training program. When certified pilot instructors committed to staying with LAT for a certain number of years, they would be put on the fast track for a career with United Airlines, which is considered a top-tier opportunity for young pilots. Alternatively, most would have to spend years earning much less, working unfavorable routes for regional carriers. They had a partnership that stood out from the rest in the industry and just needed an effective way to get a clear message in front of the right people.
Our initial work included a video that focused on the emotional appeal of being a pilot and the fast track that this program offered, while the landing page communicated more of the tangible benefits of joining LAT.
Just as we were getting the United Airlines work off the ground, the partnership collapsed. In addition, with instruction beginning on January 1st, it was imperative to hire six instructors by the deadline. One of their biggest differentiators was gone overnight, and we were on a deadline that could not be moved under any circumstances. We realized we were in need of a new integrated marketing strategy that could stand on its own without United Airlines.
Two things were imperative with this new campaign. First, it had to be able to efficiently reach a very niche target audience. Secondly, we had to find an interesting way to communicate the numerous benefits of work for LAT as a certified flight instructor that still existed. These efforts all had to eventually ladder up to our short-term and long-term goals, which included:
With the focus on the United partnership being a thing of the past, we had to shift our focus to highlight some of LAT’s other differentiators. Many of LAT’s competitors treat certified flight instructors as short-term solutions to the ongoing task of training pilots, leading to high turnover rates. They are given large classes, making the experience very impersonal and overbearing. Meanwhile, pilots who fly for regional airlines are also underserved by other companies, as they are forced to comply with unstable schedules, low wages, and few flight hours. Both types of competitors, flight schools and airlines, use misleading advertisements to make false promises to pilots and flight instructors.
Because of this, Lufthansa chose to focus on the following differentiators, while being very careful not to make promises they would not be able to deliver on.
We were able to use the website to highlight some of the more practical benefits of working at LAT, which weren’t new but had never been clearly communicated to the target audience. Meanwhile, some of the things that had more of an emotional appeal required that we create a new look that really felt a step above the competition.
We identified that one way to stand out from the rest was to invest in a photo shoot that featured the new aircraft and showed other certified flight instructors in lifestyle shots that could generate a more emotive response. The result was very aspirational-looking photography that was used throughout the website and campaign assets.
LAT had previously dealt with confusion among applicants they reached who wanted to become pilots, rather than flight instructors. In many cases, they were reaching too broad of an audience, so we had to dial in a very focused media strategy that concentrated only on specific pilots, existing certified flight instructors, and aviation students. When you are going after an audience like this, you have to do some outside-the-box thinking, which we delivered on.
Sure, our strategy included the obvious digital advertising channels like paid search and paid social, which allowed us to get hyper-targeted, but since it was such a small audience, we looked for other ways to get the word out. Ultimately we found that out-of-home billboards near the airport were a great option, as they would be seen on pilots’ commutes. In addition, we had campaign assets in bars and restaurants around the airport that would be seen when people were on breaks or after work.
We also utilized a paid email list from the Federal Aviation Administration to better target people on paid search, as we had the most up-to-date pilots who have received their licenses. In short, we were fairly certain our message was getting in front of anyone who was a potential candidate, multiple times per day, and in numerous different contexts.
We’ve significantly increased interest in and application numbers for LAT’s certified instructor program. In addition, the campaign also helped create a more solidified brand identity for Lufthansa Aviation Training as the best place to work for flight instructors across the industry.
Below we have outlined some of the most important stats and figures that are a result of the campaign, including increased effectiveness of digital marketing efforts and an increase in the number of applicants. We even had a certified flight instructor candidate mention the campaign during an interview, saying they had originally seen a billboard, which got them to ultimately head to the website and apply.
Increase in the number of applications submitted
Cost per lead. Lowest they have ever had
Of instructors hired in time for the start of the 2019 training class
The campaign has proven to be so successful in continually bringing in applicants that we have since had to taper down our efforts due to the overwhelming volume of leads that have been generated. We are currently continuing our successful partnership with Lufthansa Aviation Training and averaging about 150 applicants per month as of June 2019.