Analysis: How Cathay Pacific's new brand can take flight in HK's competitive lifestyle market

Global airline brand Cathay Pacific is launching a new premium travel lifestyle brand called “Cathay” that offers a new range of offers in dining, shopping, hotels, and wellness – enabling the brand to engage with customers not only when they fly with the company, but every day. The first of these offers will be a new Cathay co-branded credit card which will be launched in Hong Kong. These will all culminate in a refreshed customer relationship programme in the first half of 2022.

According to a statement by the brand the “Cathay” position was created to make its proposition more appealing. “By integrating our offerings and through better partnerships, we will bring a wider range of products and services to the benefit of our customers,” said the brand. It will also bring together Cathay Pacific, Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles all in one place, simplifying the way the brand’s customers interact with it, including how they earn status and use miles.

As part of the launch campaign developed by the Cathay team at Publicis Groupe Hong Kong, the film visualises these rewards with a playful take on a magical world with a lush vegetable garden, a sea of dresses, a fitness galaxy and a space filled with hotel chairs, only to discover that these scenes are all housed within Cathay’s new premium travel lifestyle brand.  

Edward Bell, general manager of brand, Insights, marketing at Cathay Pacific, said the new offering is part of 'Move Beyond' – a vision for leadership, innovation and service excellence. “The new Cathay brand brings travel thinking and inspiration closer, into our everyday lives,” he added.  

Explaining that the creative execution was created to set the brand apart from its usual competition, Natalie Lam, chief creative officer, APAC and MEA at Publicis Groupe, explained that given Hong Kong is a city full of premium lifestyle brands, the team needed to create a film that would set Cathay apart from the usual glitzy yet identical competition. “Taking inspiration from Cathay’s heritage of service and attention to details, we want to take the viewer out of the expected reality, by injecting magical twists into everyday moments, and bring them into an immersive, fluid journey of visual wonder,” Lam explained.

Earlier last month, Cathay Pacific announced its new business model. Under the new plan, Cathay Pacific will become just one of the brands within the Cathay ecosystem. This is a model not unlike the one that AirAsia has taken where the brand now offers a wide variety of businesses including food delivery, online groceries as well as health and insurance segments.

Meanwhile, recently Singapore Airlines also launched a digital travel experiences platform named Pelago to connect consumers to global and local cultures through at-destination experiences. There are currently more than 200 curated experiences on Pelago and each of them are carefully curated to meet the needs of consumers in Asia Pacific, from group types such as singles, families and couples.

Jessalynn Chen, managing director of Labbrand said that creating the new “Cathay” brand and ecosystem makes good, rational business sense as many brands are now repositioning their offerings to avoid “business casualties”. She added that as an industry with high potential given the boom that is about to occur post-pandemic due to the pent-up demand, brands in travel should experiment with new ways to engage with consumers, build community and loyalty.  

While not much information is shared yet on where Cathay Pacific hopes to take the “Cathay” ecosystem, Chen also said experimenting with other unconventional industries beyond just “Lifestyle” which will contribute to its brand building journey. During this low travel period, Cathay should look to create a “belief-led community of adorers and fans, targeting them at unlimited touchpoints, getting closer to them, and blending into their lifestyles”.

Andrew Au, managing partner of Wander Consult added that ultimately it will come down to execution to judge if the new brand will really take flight. Given the tough year for travel and the ongoing political tensions in Hong Kong, Au said it is understandable why the brand would want to try something bold and different.

This expansion into areas beyond its current domain expertise makes sense as Cathay Pacific thinks of itself less as a provider of a product or service but rather a provider of experiences.

“I applaud the brand for thinking about its clients in a holistic manner and it will need to think about the new Cathay experience at all aspects and points of the customer journey. The brand will need to try to seamlessly connect the dots pre and post-purchase in a circular manner,” he added.