ANCHORAGE - Walruses sunning themselves may not be the first image conjured up by the mention of a Mexican beach, but it's the picture Alaska Airlines is using to tout its trips south of the border.
The Seattle-based carrier has launched a national advertising campaign that focuses on the company's Alaska roots.
Print ads for the "Alaska Spirit" campaign feature Alaska images, including a stream packed with salmon and an Eskimo blanket toss.
The marketing effort comes at a time when the air travel industry is managing costs by slashing passenger services, trimming capacity and tacking on fees.
Cutting costs also is a main goal at Alaska Airlines, but growing into new markets and shoring up business in its backyard are key to the company's plans to grow its capacity by 8 percent in each of the next three years, spokesman Lou Cancelmi said.
Alaska Airlines' only destination outside Alaska as recently as the mid-1970s was Seattle, where the company headquarters had moved in the 1950s, Cancelmi said. The airline started expanding down the West Coast in 1979, pushing into Mexico nearly a decade later.
New routes to Chicago, Denver, Boston and Washington, D.C., were added in recent years. New York City via Newark is coming at the end of this month, with Miami service following in November.
The "Alaska Spirit" campaign was developed during the company's 70th anniversary last year, said marketing assistant vice president David Palmer.
The company decided to stress where it came from to promote where it's going. Hence the photo of an Eskimo blanket toss to promote family fun at Disneyland. A polar bear promotes Las Vegas, and salmon sell romantic getaways to San Francisco.
The campaign will include print ads across Alaska and in national magazines. Radio spots begin in Alaska at the end of October, Palmer said, and later will run in Western cities.
In the radio ads, the scripts have a new flight attendant being schooled in "Alaska Spirit" by an Eskimo. The ads were approved by a Native Alaskan on the airline's board, Palmer said.
Besides giving the airline a more streamlined identity, striking images of bears, salmon and the midnight sun should also drum up Alaska tourism, Palmer said.
The company also hopes to boost Alaska's share of flights out of Seattle. While the company isn't looking to match the 80 percent lock on traffic held by major air carriers such as Delta and United at their hub cities, Alaska sees room to boost its 42 percent share of traffic out of Seattle, Cancelmi said.
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