EyeforTravel’s Digital Strategy Summit

May 2019, London

Europe's biggest event for commercial and digital travel execs

Q&A: tips from a top class reboot for Blacklane

Blacklane, the portal for connecting professional chauffeurs to travellers, has recently rebranded to bring its digital strategy into line with the overall experience

When 40% of your customers think your website and app lack clarity and half do not find it visually appealing, it’s time for an upgrade. That is exactly what Blacklane has been doing over the past 17 months.

EyeforTravel.com put some questions to Norbert Richard Meinike, Director of Marketing at Blacklane, to find out more about the thinking behind the six-figure rebranding exercise.

EFT: What were the main drivers for Blacklane’s recent rebranding? 

RM: The chauffeur industry was one of the last travel sectors to modernise, both in its business model and its marketing. First, we reinvented the business. We halved legacy limousine fares, eliminated hidden costs, went carbon-neutral, and set global quality standards. Then we applied our chauffeur knowledge to the airport concierge market to create a consistent global service and familiar guest experience.

The next step was to rebrand these travel sectors and elevate our messaging. Based on market analysis and a customer survey, our guests most valued our all-inclusive fares, safety, booking process and chauffeur quality. But only half of survey respondents said the website and app designs were visually appealing. Forty per cent did not find the website and app clearly structured.

The broad goals were to:

  • Build a modern, global and consistent brand matching our customers’ needs and interests.
  • Ensure the quality of the digital experience matched our quality on the road and in airports.
  • Replace the tagline of ‘Your Professional Driver’ with ‘Upgrade Your Travels’ to broaden our scope and focus on the guest benefit.

Visually, we separated ourselves with new black-and-white imagery that emphasises premium vehicles and top-quality chauffeurs and airport concierges. We introduced a new rose-orange gradient across all digital touchpoints. Our new guest app icon is a black square with the bottom half right triangle slightly lighter. This simulates a reflection on a black luxury vehicle and recalls chauffeurs’ black suits.

EFT: What are the revenue goals of the rebranding of Blacklane?

RM: First, the rebrand leads to a higher recognition in our target group. The majority of our guests travel for business and the most common ride is an airport transfer; and we want to become their go-to choice for premium mobility services. This leads to a higher usage, faster word-of-mouth recommendations and overall to higher revenue and more engaged guests.

Our revenue roughly doubles year over year, and that pace is continuing through 2019. With our redesign we will accelerate this strong growth mid- and long-term.

EFT: Part of the rebranding exercise was to ‘humanise’. What was the thinking behind this?

RM: We humanised our services to showcase the dedication, professionalism and authentic personalities of our chauffeur and airport concierge partners around the world. Legacy companies use images of stiff and anonymous chauffeurs – the exact opposite of who they are.

Legacy companies use images of stiff and anonymous chauffeurs – the exact opposite of who they are

Chauffeurs and airport concierges are about so much more than driving or walking you through an airport. They bring peace of mind to the most stressful part of travel: between your front door and the airplane gate. They have insider knowledge that goes beyond what you get in a guidebook. They love their cities, take pride in their service and commit to a great guest experience. It was beyond time for them to shine.

EFT: How long does a rebranding exercise like this take, what did it cost and what were main challenges?

RM: Our rebranding took 17 months from inception to completion. It was a mid six-figure euro investment covering employee time, a photoshoot that flew in chauffeurs from around the world, redesigned apps and websites, and external consultants.

The biggest challenge was uniting several hundred people on a bold new vision each step of the way. It began with our executive team and then went to hundreds of our crew in product, engineering, supply, customer care and marketing. In the end, we needed all of our 400 hundred employees and tens of thousands of chauffeur and airport concierge partners to be proud of our brand identity.

We had to learn how to show our global crew’s authenticity, diversity and quality. The questions we grappled with included:

  • What chauffeur and airport concierge hidden traits and soft skills are best to feature?
  • How can we best show the diversity of our guests and crew?
  • How do we communicate the peace of mind guests experience when travelling with Blacklane?
  • How can we connect the physical and digital experiences visually?

EFT: Any top tips for companies looking to rebrand?

RM: The biggest advice is to find a clear, verified customer insight and adjust all customer touchpoints to this insight. This gives your brand consistency across physical and digital products.

Blacklane provides premium services and gives travellers enjoyable, relaxing journeys. The crew on the ground makes the service reliable and memorable. Our customer care team supports travellers 24/7/365.

But our digital products and imagery didn’t match that level of quality. To now have that consistency gives our guests a top-notch experience every step of the way.

EFT: What do you see as the emerging trends in ground transportation?

RM: On the partnership side, more travel brands are considering ground transportation as part of the overall experience. Airlines especially want to provide a door-to-door experience for business- and first-class travellers’ entire trips: from the front door, to the lounge and then in a premium seat.

On the technology side, chauffeur guests expect to see more and faster innovation. The legacy world has failed to simplify the booking experience, show clear pricing, or make intuitive apps.

EFT: What are your priorities for growth? Are there any plans for an IPO?

Both business and leisure travel are growing. We see many opportunities for new corporate business, travel partnerships, and event services. An especially fast-growing segment is airline complimentary transfers. Emirates and Hainan Airlines have chosen us to provide first- and business-class flyers with rides to and from the airport across seven countries, with more to come.

An IPO within three years would be a “natural evolution of our business model”

We will extend our marketing mix from pure performance to a broader collection of digital and offline touchpoints. We want to reach our target group at the right time with the right message.

Geographically, we are focusing on the US, Middle East and Africa for further expansion. Most recently, we added Amman and Beirut, and Cairo is one of our next city launches.

Our CEO has said an IPO within three years would be a “natural evolution of our business model”.

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