With a fleet of over 120 aircraft, Etihad Airways serves more than 600 destinations directly and through seven partners. Etihad is among the youngest airlines in the world, and also one of the fastest growing. Representing 17% year-over-year growth, more than 17 million passengers flew on the airline in 2015.

The situation: A need for differentiation

Etihad is the youngest of the “Big Three” Gulf airlines. All three benefit from being ideally positioned as a flight hub, just eight hours from most places, and all three place a significant emphasis on luxury. The high degree of competition made it difficult for Etihad to stand out, especially given its relative youth in the market, so the brand faced a need for differentiation.

A winning formula: Luxury meets innovation

Etihad’s solution was to create a new approach to innovation that is focused on making the customer’s experience more personal, more groundbreaking and more luxurious. As part of this, the brand established a Digital Guest Innovation strategy using multi-channel distribution to offer passengers customized packages tailored to their travel preferences and loyalty status.

When benchmarked against the industry – and even our own campaigns – our Flying Reimagined YouTube activity knocked it out of the park. We saw an immediate and tangible impact on revenue and user consideration.

Elizabeth Selby, Head of Social Media and Digital Marketing, Etihad Airways

To underline its commitment to innovation and luxury, Etihad created a virtual reality film featuring Nicole Kidman promoting the brand’s reimagined flying experience. The film was introduced at the Arabian Travel Market and launched a few months later to global press through exclusive Google Cardboard preview kits at each global event.

Impact: Digital uplift is driving higher revenue

Etihad also initiated a YouTube blast to give the brand incredible boost among global audiences. The campaign delivered excellent results: a 44% higher campaign click-through rate compared to regular brand initiatives, a 62% view-through rate (versus the industry average of 20 to 25%) and a cost per view that was 60% lower than the industry average.

“When benchmarked against the industry – and even our own campaigns – our Flying Reimagined YouTube activity knocked it out of the park,” affirms Etihad’s Head of Social Media and Digital Marketing Elizabeth Selby. “The best part, however, was that we saw an immediate and tangible impact on revenue and user consideration. Thanks to the campaign, viewers were 22% more likely to consider Etihad and 7% more likely to pay extra for the Etihad flying experience.” At the same time, revenue increased by 8%, referral traffic increased by 25% and Etihad’s app was downloaded 26,000 times in the weeks following the campaign.