As Virgin Australia prepares for a food giveaway stunt at lunchtime today a marketing expert says both that airline and soon to be rival Air New Zealand are both scoring points in the battle of the burgers.

Virgin is giving away 500 burgers from The White Lady at Takutai Square near Britomart in a dig at Air New Zealand's campaign around the meatless Impossible Burger available to business class passengers on the Los Angeles-Auckland route.

Virgin is also promoting its campaign to attract Kiwi beef suppliers and will also announce some changes to what sort of food passengers can expect on transtasman flights later this year.

Andrew Barron is managing director of Interbrand NZ, a leading global brand consultancy, and says Virgin is doing something of an Air New Zealand on the Kiwi airline.


"Air New Zealand won't be worried about any impact on their brand. But for Virgin, it is a very clever move. They have used a cheeky ambush campaign to jump on the back of Air New Zealand's well thought through promotional plan [the United States developed Impossible Burger], so they get an instant win," he said.

"It's a good response from Virgin which wins them some instant respect and consideration as an airline [so a very cheap way to reset the relationship with the market], but brand associations need to be meaningful so Virgin cannot dwell on this."

Virgin was earlier this year dumped as an alliance partner by Air New Zealand from October 28.

Barron said Virgin will have to build "brand behaviour" over time, which is something Air New Zealand was very good at.

Faced with the end of the partnership and competing with the bigger airline from the end of October, Virgin had quickly gained a lot of goodwill and visibility.
Virgin has signalled it can do "cool stuff" too.

"From being nowhere near the same level of consideration, they have associated themselves with Air New Zealand [that lovely, engaging airline you all know and love] and they have put their own spin on building the customer relationship by partnering with Kiwi burgers and meat.

Barron said it took Virgin from being a stranger compared to our favourite airline, to making them more familiar and opening up consideration.

Air New Zealand was very effective at building customer relationships as
demonstrated by many of its communications and brand acts like the safety videos.


The Impossible Burger was another example of the airline understanding that its customers appreciated it for the ways the brand behaves – it establishes a promise in the customer's mind about what that brand experience will be.

"If you think about it, very few business customers will select them because they actually want to eat the Impossible burger mid-flight – what it is really for is to persuade people that the airline is innovative, in touch with the zeitgeist, and cares about people's overall experience."

Air New Zealand said feedback has been positive about the Impossible Burger.

''The burger is proving at least as popular as any of the other burger options we've offered previously,'' a spokeswoman said.