2013: Christopher Luxon “Think global, but act local”

By Brierley Penn

“Think global, but act local,” said Christopher Luxon, of Air NZ, citing the need to have intimate knowledge of individual markets in order to be internationally successful. In 2013, then CEO of the airline was building a focus on using local marketing to connect to customers, recognizing that a one size fits all approach can never be successful in a globally competitive market.

Instead, Air NZ was looking to understand deep customer insights within regions such as China. “If we don’t get our act together and seize on that opportunity, there are lots of other competitive destinations.”

Luxon noted that it is important not to underestimate the power of having local staff connected to the market and businesses in China. Air NZ, by way of example, looked to employ local Chinese, bilingual flight attendants to operate their NZ-China routes. 91 per cent of visitors to New Zealand from China were coming for their first visit, and it was essential that they felt welcome upon arrival to our country. Borrowing equity from people who have knowledge of China will allow companies such as Air NZ to understand and cater to the unique values of Chinese visitors.

Luxon also touched on Air NZ’s strategy for crisis management, with the theme of the Summit being “a wake-up call”. He said that the company has learnt a great deal from the botulism scandal, recognizing the importance of being prepared in advance, and communicating openly and honestly in a crisis. The new power of social media means that information on a crisis can spread globally at a rapid pace, and controlling the flow of information that is displayed to the public is an important tool. Following the Asiana plane crash in July 2013, the first photo of the incident appeared on Twitter within thirty seconds. The first photo from someone inside the plane itself was posted on Facebook after 17 minutes. Companies can no longer afford to have delayed reactions to a crisis, as stories spread so rapidly through social media.

Luxon collaborated with businesses such as Fonterra in the fall-out from the botulism scare, which encouraged Air NZ to review their systems in China to consider how they would be equipped to deal with a crisis. Specifically, Luxon said that they had appointed a different PR agency, focused on improving lines of communication between Chinese and NZ staff, and ensured that they had resources to engage deeply with central and local government politicians in China. While Air NZ has had significant experience in crisis management, following incidents such as the Christchurch Earthquake, Luxon said that they could never purport to have all the answers. Sharing and collaboration, through real conversations based on trust, will allow New Zealand businesses to establish effective crisis management plans in the future.

China Business Summit Links

2013 Video: Summit Presentation

Biography: Christopher Luxon

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