Air France aims its new airline, Joon, at credulous millennials

Graphics: Air France

Air France announced a new subsidiary targeting millennials, Joon. It apparently believes that millennials will select an airline based on branding and style, unlike everyone else who buys on price, convenience, and a reduced chance of being assaulted. The resulting announcement is as airy as a fresh-baked Parisian croissant.

The Joon announcement is breathless

My first question on reading this announcement was to wonder, “Who’s the audience for this?” If you’re a millennial (or any other kind of customer), you read this and ask yourself, “Do they really think I’ll choose an airline based on the flight attendants’ spandex uniforms?” If you’re evaluating Air France’s business as a journalist or analyst, nothing here is encouraging. It’s a classic example of what happens when you have to say something, but don’t have anything substantive to say.

I’ll deconstruct it for you. I’ll put the content free words in italic and passive voice in bold, followed by commentary and a translation for each section.

YOUNG AND CONNECTED… DISCOVER JOON!

Air France presents its new airline, Joon, which will start operating medium-haul flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle this autumn, followed by long-haul flights in summer 2018.

Commentary: To any millennials reading this: does “young and connected” make you want to discover this airline? However, the first sentence in the release is substantive, and at least they put it at the top. I’m assuming that airline folks know what “medium-haul” means, because I don’t.

Translation: Our new subsidiary, Joon, will start operating some flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle this autumn, with longer flights to follow in summer 2018.

Joon is especially aimed at a young working clientele, the millennials (18 to 35 year-olds), whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology. This new brand has been entirely designed to meet their requirements and aspirations, with an authentic and connected offering that stands out in the world of air transport.

Commentary: Here’s what I and other mature folks have learned from working with young professionals: Don’t generalize, don’t condescend, and make statements based on facts, not fairytales. (Come to think of it, that’s good advice for speaking to colleagues of any age.) Meaningless phrases like “lifestyles revolve around digital technology” and “authentic and connected offering” will arouse suspicion rather than interest, and mark the author as clueless. Weaselly adverbs like “especially” and “entirely” also set off bullshit detectors. Joon also deserves demerits for the passive “is especially aimed” and “has been entirely designed,” when it could have just taken responsibility and said “We.”

Translation: We started an airline to attract millennials. Our research shows they like technology.

Joon will not be a low-cost airline as it will offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France.

Translation: We’re charging full price, targeting the small but elite “rich millennials” segment.

Joon is a lifestyle brand and a state of mind. Short, punchy and international, the name Joon is designed to address a worldwide audience.

Its visual identity is based on an electric blue colour code symbolizing the airline’s dynamic attitude, as well as the sky, space and travel. The uniform of Joon’s flight attendants will be inspired by the new fashion codes, basic and chic.

Commentary: Marketing-speak. Talking to customers about branding is vacuous.

Translation: The name is short and doesn’t sound French. We think millennials like the color blue.

«We started with our target customer segment, the millennials, to create this new brand that means something to them. Our brief was simple: to find a name to illustrate a positive state of mind. This generation has inspired us a lot: epicurean and connected, they are opportunistic in a positive sense of the word as they know how to enjoy every moment and are in search of quality experiences that they want to share with others. Joon is a brand that carries these values», said Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand at Air France.

«With Joon, we have created a young and connected brand that will give the Group a new impetus. Designed for our millennial customers, it will offer more than just a flight and a fare, it will offer a global travel experience. We’ll provide a further update in September, with more details on the brand’s content, products, services, destinations and range of fares!» said Dominique Wood, EVP Brand and Communications at Air France.

Commentary: This is pure marketing bullshit: “new brand that means something,” “positive state of mind,” “epicurean and connected,” “opportunistic,” “know how to enjoy every moment,” “more than just a flight and fare” . . . I can’t even. Can someone please explain to me how a “global travel experience” differs from what any airplane flying between countries delivers? Special note to Ms. Wood: regardless of how excited you are about an announcement three months from now, never approve a quote that ends in an exclamation point!

Translation: “We workshopped a brand for millennials,” said Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand at Air France. “More later!” said Dominique Wood, EVP Brand and Communications at Air France.

THE REALIZATION OF THE TRUST TOGETHER STRATEGIC PROJECT

In the Air France-KLM Group’s brand portfolio, Joon is Air France’s complementary younger sister, which will also inspire its customers to travel with its elder sibling.

Commentary: “Inspire its customers to travel with its elder sibling” is a convoluted way of saying “buy connecting flights.”

Translation: Joon passengers will buy Air France-KLM tickets and make more money for us.

This new airline will be managed by Jean-Michel Mathieu, CEO of Joon. As such, he will join the Air France Executive Committee.

“The creation of a new airline is a historic moment in many ways. Joon is another step in the deployment of the Trust Together strategic project. Its creation will improve the profitability of the Air France Group, enabling it to reduce its costs and ensure the sustainability of its business model. Jean-Michel Mathieu, who has taken part in the development of this new airline since the start, today becomes its CEO. With all the Group’s teams, we are concentrating our energy on the successful launch of Joon.” said Franck Terner, CEO of Air France.

Commentary:Trust together” is apparently Air France code for re-invigorating Air France-KLM. I’m wondering if “reduce its costs and ensure the sustainability of its business model” is some sort of code for avoiding unionized employees, a strategy which no French company could ever actually say plainly.

Translation: We needed a new airline to try out some stuff that won’t fly at Air France. You can tell we’re serious because we’ve switched from «French quote marks» to “English quote marks.”

BIOGRAPHY OF JEAN-MICHEL MATHIEU

Jean-Michel Mathieu is appointed CEO of Joon.

Jean-Michel Mathieu, 48, has spent most of his career with the Air France and Air France-KLM group, particularly in the Network, Revenue Management, Digital Services and Customer Relations sectors.

A former assistant researcher at the University of California in Berkeley, he is a graduate of the French École nationale de la statistique et de l’administration économique (ENSAE).

Translation: Although the CEO of Joon is a product of Air France through and through, he’s in touch with youth culture because he went to Berkeley.

All branding announcements sound silly

New brands emerge from long, time-consuming and thorough work by marketers to define their meaning. That meaning emerges from a secret code made of words and pictures. The marketer’s job is to weave those words and pictures into something that resonates.

That’s important work.

Talking about that work does little for customers, investors, or even employees. Because it’s made of gossamer, it seems thin and empty.

Don’t tell us about your brand. Show us. Only then will we believe.

8 responses to “Air France aims its new airline, Joon, at credulous millennials

  1. Who was the intended audience for this release? If it was for a publication about marketing, I could understand the emphasis on brand, although it’s still badly written. If it was for a business or general audience, it’s unbelievably bad. One hopes their pilots are better at their jobs than their external communications people are.

  2. I’m glad you caught this one, Josh. As an “xennial” I was immediately intrigued by their definition of a ‘millennial’ airline. Turns out their perspective on millennials is neat uniforms and clickbait while also throwing in the requisite word “connected”.
    You used the word vacuous earlier to describe it. I would also add inspid and disingenuous.

  3. How about concrete details on how connected this connected brand will keep it’s connected passengers in-flight? Like maybe what kind of internet connection will they have on board. There is at least one service in that region that supplies enough bandwidth for what people really like to do on tablets and phones, which is to say video. Will they offer that? What speeds? Included with your fare?
    But why bother with facts rather than the level of energy and “excitement” company executives are feeling.
    So it goes.

  4. I was a millennial, once, in the late 60’s, and I want some of whatever it is that Caroline, Dominique and Jean-Michel scored down in the 15th district, it is obviously good shit!
    How long is it since the most stupid, dumb, self indulgent so called marketers made the mistake of looking at a demographic and seeing a segment?
    Until I read this, I would have answered 15 years at least, but clearly that Moroccan shit has got in the way of their brains.
    The only good thing I can see it that it makes the rest of us look better.

  5. “Translation: The name is short and doesn’t sound French.”

    Oh yes it does. The French word for “young” is “Jeune”. They just changed the spelling.

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