Mike Malik, Chief Marketing Officer, joined Cirium in 2018 to lead the marketing and communications strategy for FlightGlobal and create a separate brand identity for FlightGlobal’s data and analytics business. He has an extensive background in airlines and aviation and has held several senior roles including more recently, Chief Commercial Officer – Aviation at UBM Plc, and President of Aloha Air Cargo.
A year into his role at Cirium, Mike shares his views on the success in establishing Cirium as the leading provider of travel data and analytics solutions, his vision for the brand in 2020 and the rationale for the divestment of FlightGlobal.
What excited you about the role and inspired you to join Cirium?
When I joined FlightGlobal, I saw nothing but potential; great products, services and a unique combination of data sets which no one in the industry could match – but the challenge was establishing a new brand identity that showcased all these parts. A highly cohesive brand would enable the company to evolve and transform the industry’s perception. The company’s executive leadership shared my vision and gave me the freedom and flexibility to drive this change.
Why did you need to rebrand the company?
While FlightGlobal is a fantastic brand, it didn’t come close to conveying the company’s full range of products and services. We were regarded as a publishing company when, in fact, 90 per cent of our revenue was generated from data and analytics. Our sub brands; Diio, Ascend, Flightstats and Innovata, were well known in their niche sectors, but our research showed none of these conveyed the full power and range of our unique portfolio offering. Also, none of these sub brands could support becoming the new ‘master brand’.
What were the goals for the new master brand?
The new master brand needed to have a singular purpose so we could own the idea of ‘data and analytics’, in the mind of the prospect. We needed to create a brand that resonated deeply with employees and customers alike, while at the same time maintaining the sales momentum during the transformation.
Why did you divest FlightGlobal after Cirium was launched?
The divestment allows the FlightGlobal brand the independence it deserved in a new home and we wanted to ensure that we found the right fit. Separating the FlightGlobal from Cirium allows each brand to focus exclusively on their strengths, FlightGlobal on print and publishing, and Cirium on data and analytics. It was a tough decision but something we all agreed would be best for both brands.
What key skills does a CMO need to manage a launch of this scale?
Focus, focus, focus: branding is one of those areas where you will receive plenty of opinions and suggestions, so it is incredibly important to stay true to the vision you establish. You should own the brand you create, treat it like your own personal property. Success will be based on
effectively managing multiple stakeholders, a solid knowledge of the market, a deep understanding of customer needs, and, an appreciation of the power of technology and automation. These skills were vital to navigate the process for Cirium and shorten the time to market. Thanks to the help of a hugely dedicated team and committed colleagues, we were ready to launch Cirium just five months after I took over the team.
What was the most crucial factor in successfully bringing the new proposition to market, and differentiating Cirium from competitors?
We asked ourselves the question, why and what are we here to do? We determined our role was to enable the industry in its task of moving people and goods around the world.
What sets us apart from our competitors is our ability to provide unmatched data and analytics that powers the industry. Our customers rely on us to fuel their systems to make millions of decisions, small and large, on a daily basis. Helping the industry make smart decisions makes the entire industry more efficient and ultimately, supports our vision ‘shaping an intelligent future’.
What has been the key objective for the Cirium brand in 2019?
The key objective was to develop an overarching brand that would be a natural home to the diverse number of products and services the company offered. I didn’t want to develop a new operational structure, but a brand architecture that allowed all the existing and future products to fit harmoniously into a clear formation. So we created four audience segments; improve the traveller experience, develop a commercial strategy, manage financial investment and improve air operations These distinct segments allow everyone to understand the company’s value to the industry.
How did you approach internal comms to engage employees?
The expertise, passion and commitment of our people was key to the new brand being a success. That is why we worked hard to make sure colleagues were on board from the beginning. Given the short time from inception to launch, we developed a plan to ensure maximum engagement during this branding journey. We created a brand ambassador network, which included employee representatives from our 11 offices around the world and our virtual community. They were fully briefed on each stage of the brand development to help sell-in the new brand to their colleagues. We also developed a series of five videos to explain the process and made sure colleagues bought into the journey at every stage. By the time the final Cirium brand was revealed, we had an enthusiastic audience of highly receptive colleagues who understood the reason for the re-brand and how it would help the business grow in the future.
How have you approached relationship building with airlines and other key partnerships?
Through our multi-channel communications campaign, launched six months ago, we are constantly reaching out to current and future customers so they understand the full value of working with Cirium, and our extensive portfolio of services, which can help them achieve their own business goals.
What has been the response and feedback from business partners and the industry to date?
Through the external brand campaign, we released a series of videos which highlighted Ciriums portfolio and experience. The response from business partners and across the industry has been hugely positive and encouraging.
What’s next? Where do you plan to take the brand in 2020?
Our goal is to make Cirium a household name in travel and aviation. While only a small portion of our work is in the B2C space, (FlightStats.com), every ambitious B2B brand must also establish itself as the go-to expert in its particular market in the minds of consumers. We are working to make Cirium internationally prominent as the leading brand that powers travel and aviation. We aim to further clarify our role in the industry by continuing to enhance our messaging that resonates with travelers and business customers alike. It’s an exciting time for Cirium, directing a new brand from inception and establishing it as a industry powerhouse is a marketer’s dream.