When the Chinese retail giant, Alibaba, launched its online travel platform Alitrip (it grew out of Alibaba’s previously established Taobao travel service) in late 2014, it was taken as a signal that the Alibaba Group was serious about being a competitor in travel industry in China. But Alitrip, as did other, smaller travel start-ups in China, ran into the reality of Ctrip.
Ctrip, already the top online travel agency in China at the time, was in the midst of an expansion mode in which it was acquiring travel companies and making strategic investments—not only in China, but in Asia and elsewhere globally, including the United States. According to an item last July in ChinaMoneyNetwork.com, “Ctrip is now the absolute monopolistic force in online travel in China. One anonymous analyst jokingly describes it as holding a 100 percent market share.”
Against such a force, others have failed, but they did not have the backing of Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group and the richest man in China. In May 2017, Forbes reported that Ma had a net worth of $31.1 billion.
Supported by such considerable resources and a seemingly determined Ma, the decision was made to scrap Alitrip and build a completely new brand with the Alitrip infrastructure—one developed through its own research that would “focus on the millennials raised in the digital age.”
The brand “Alitrip” was ditched and last November, “Fliggy” was launched. Fliggy (or “Feizhu” in Chinese) means “flying piggy”—as tnooz described the moniker, “a rather playful take on the idea of attracting Chinese to discover destinations in other countries.”
Since then, Fliggy officials have been on a mission to grow the brand and its market share. While revenues are steadily increasing, the brand has a way to go before it is as common as “Alibaba” is.
At a show of hands during a presentation by a Fliggy executive at last month’s Amadeus Airline Executive Summit in Dublin, only a small number indicated that they were familiar with the brand.
What Makes Fliggy Different: Wells Zheng, vice president, international air tickets at Fliggy, told the Dublin conference that Fliggy is different than other online travel agencies and metasearch sites because it is not simply a comparison site; rather, it provides “a direct connection between the airline and their customer.”
As reported by tnooz, Zheng said airlines can gather data directly from customers as well as expose their brand: i.e., while Fliggy is trying to “eliminate the information asymmetry,” OTAs “stand between brands and their customers,” Zheng added, explaining that Fliggy’s main–its flagship store—enables brands to operate their own shop but provides them with marketing and data analytics support.
The latter part is appealing to the airlines and other travel suppliers, as they have signed up with Fliggy in impressive numbers.
More about the Pig: How does one come up with a pig as one’s brand image? Labbrand,–it has offices in Shanghai, Singapore, Paris and New York—which describes itself as “the leading China-oriented global brand consultancy,” explains how on its website.
“We reinvented the brand identity of Alitrip and developed the lovable mascot ‘Fliggy’ as well as a comprehensive visual identity system.
“Travel Redefined: Fliggy (previously known as Alitrip) is the OTA brand of Alibaba with focus on the millennials raised in the digital age. By providing diverse, convenient and quality travel related services, Fliggy strives to become the go-to choice for the younger generation when they plan their travels, especially for overseas trips.
“Labbrand stood out in the pitch and was solicited to design the new brand identity for Fliggy. How do we create an impressive and unique brand image that can differentiate in the highly competitive OTA market in China? This was the main question that we asked ourselves.
“The ‘Piggy’ that Flies: ‘Travelling is just like being a pig- we eat, sleep and have fun.’—This is the interpretation of ‘travel’ by the Alibaba team. Based on this concept, our designers worked closely with Alibaba to create a distinct and lively image of ‘Fliggy’—the Flying Piggy.
“Without going the conventional route by giving the piggy wings, we designed the unique element of ‘flying hairs’ to paint a stylistic and dynamic picture of Fliggy flying against the wind. The hairs also create a shape of a lightning, symbolizing the speed and efficiency of Fliggy.
“The Colors of Travel: We identified yellow as the main color for Alibaba’s Fliggy. The Fliggy icon is outlined with a golden band, echoing the color of the lightening. At the same time, it evokes of an inspiring imagery that the travelers are always being embraced by the warm sunshine. The pink nose of Fliggy represents the flushed cheeks of the travelers. The white base is the result of the sunlight’s seven colors combined, pure and simple, just like every traveler’s passion towards the world.”