It’s amazing to look at the changing face of the aviation, aerospace and defense industry when the forces of supply and demand run directly into a tightened economic atmosphere that includes higher fuel prices and new markets such as India and China. While, logically, a hunker-down strategy should dominate in a down market, economic forces are actually pushing industry the other way in a frantic battle for long-term prosperity.
Now, we’re not talking about the traditional approach of introducing new aircraft models to the mix in search of a hot segment – although that is happening too with the likes of the Cessna Citation M2, Bombardier’s CSeries, and Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle, among others. No, there is a bigger dynamic at work and it’s moving OEMs in all kinds of new directions. A quick review of aviation news over the past few weeks reveals:
New technologies are emerging, such as Sikorsky’s autonomous helicopter landing systems. Old technologies are getting a new look, such as the reexamination of turboprop airliners. Zeppelin is teaming with Goodyear to jumpstart the blimp market, and Lockheed Martin and USAF Research are looking at over-the-wing engine configurations for commercial aircraft.
There’s the twist of new categories for existing companies, as Pilatus enters the business jet market with its PC-24, and Cessna builds a military fighter prototype. And two major aviation names are redefining their brands: Beechcraft is selling off Hawker, and Airbus is undergoing a major rebranding of EADS military and Eurocopter.
From an advertising and marketing perspective these changes bring a multitude of challenges. Brand identities must be expanded, contracted or constructed from scratch. The mind boggles at the gap analyses that will come spewing forth. Convince (insert target audience here) that over-the-wing engines – though ugly – are efficient; that rising fuel cost will trigger the growth of turboprop airliners; that the world needs another military trainer; and that lighter-than-air economics make dirigibles like Zeppelin a good solution once again.
The bottom line is that no company in these industries can afford to stand still for very long and survive. In tougher times, business-as-usual is shoved aside and the demand for the new will have its way. And that’s affecting everybody in aviation – from Airbus to Zeppelin.