June 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 2 
Connexion by Boeing

A new way of selling

Marketing Connexion requires a different way of thinking


In the old days-or, at least before May 17-when Boeing pondered how to market a new product or service, the company often mulled creating product brochures or placing advertisements in magazines or even on television.

But with the commercial-airline launch of Connexion by Boeing's high-speed, realtime Internet service aboard Lufthansa German Airlines last month, Boeing entered a new realm: marketing to a consumer mass audience, and forming partnerships with others who reach that market.

Traditional approaches such as advertising are still part of the picture, but they are supplemented by efforts to go directly to the individual consumer. For months before Connexion by Boeing began revenue service on May 17, passengers could get set up for in-flight connectivity by completing a one-time free registration at www.connexionbyboeing.com. Before boarding at Munich, passengers also could visit a kiosk in the airport and ask Connexion by Boeing representatives questions. Once aboard, seat-back cards showed passengers how to log on to the system.

Connexion launches airline service

David Friedman, vice president of Marketing and Direct Sales for Connexion by Boeing, last month sent an e-mail that his Connexion teammates had longed to read. “Hello from 33,000 feet above Germany,” Friedman wrote on May 17, aboard a Lufthansa German Airlines flight from Munich, Germany, to Los Angeles. “The [Connexion] system is on and everything is A-OK. Lots of buzz on board, as this is the start of a new era of communications and aviation history.”

With that flight, Connexion by Boeing successfully launched its commercial airline service. Passengers aboard select long-haul Lufthansa flights now have realtime high-speed access.

In-flight high-speed Internet access is “a highly desirable amenity,” Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with the consultancy Forrester Research, told CBS Marketwatch. High-speed services could be worth $2 billion in airline revenue within 10 years, Harteveldt said.

Although Lufthansa is the first airline to offer the Connexion by Boeing service, the Boeing business unit has definitive agreements with Scandinavian Airlines System, Japan Airlines, ANA and Kingdom Holding Co. to equip their long-haul aircraft with the service.

David Friedman of Connexion by Boeing looks on as Lufthansa passenger Alexander Neumann uses the Connexion mobile service. The two were aboard the flight that marked the launch of Connexion's commercial airline service.

These were all examples of what Terry Revnak, Connexion by Boeing Channels director, called one channel of marketing information distribution: the direct channel to the individual consumer. Two other channels are

  • Business-to-business marketing (often involving comarketing with an airline partner such as Lufthansa) to potential corporate clients, to let a company's employees use the in-flight service when they are traveling on business.
  • Forming associate service provider (ASP) relationships with businesses that sell similar services to the same demographic groups that Connexion is trying to reach.

Revnak and his Europe-based counterpart, Adla Hendry-Worobec, working with colleagues from across the Connexion enterprise, are developing this third channel. So far they have negotiated preliminary agreements with telecommunications service providers including Germany's T-Systems, Singapore's StarHub, Japan's NTT DoCoMo and United States-based Infonet. These companies provide wireless access in ground-based facilities such as Internet cafes and airport lounges.

The ideal is to link with direct distributors, so others on Connexion's sales staff can collaborate more easily with large corporate customers. Revnak and his team are working with the business unit's Network Sales group, which approaches airlines; Revnak said carriers are interested in which ASPs will help sell the Connexion service, as well as the "marketing power that will be brought to bear."

These ASP relationships and corporate contracts are important to Connexion in its current young stage in life, said David Friedman, vice president of Marketing and Direct Sales for Connexion by Boeing. The ASPs reach corporate customers already, and corporate client accounts will let the Boeing business unit send a corporation a single bill.

"The whole point is to make our system easier to use," Friedman said. "If we do that, customers will buy our service."




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