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Robert Pollack, VP-brand and market positioning, Boeing commercial airplanes

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Robert Pollack is the first to admit that there are risks involved in getting creative when the product you're trying to market costs more than $5 billion to develop. But taking a few risks is exactly what Boeing needed to do, according to Pollack, who joined the company's commercial airplane segment in 2002 to lead a new strategic marketing team.

Pollack opted to rejuvenate the company from the inside out, starting with a new brand promise, "revolutionizing flight," to encourage employees to think boldly. Then, in a move to make Boeing look more global, the team decided to change its planes' livery color to gray, after 25 years of using red, white and blue paint.

It also decided to jumpstart interest in the development of its first new passenger aircraft since the 777 was introduced in 1990. Three years ago, Boeing forged a marketing alliance with AOL Time Warner. As part of the alliance, AOL members and nonmembers alike could go online to vote for one of four possible names for the plane. Dreamliner was the winning name. Boeing also created a World Design Team of aircraft enthusiasts and industry insiders who were consulted on the design.

Boeing continues to build on that relationship, sending the team's 2,000 members regular e-mail updates on the Dreamliner, which is not expected to go into service until 2008.

In August, Boeing relaunched a separate Web site, www.newairplane.com, that Pollack called "a little more daring." The move was part of a subtle shift in the marketing strategy to reach a broader population. Instead of using Boeing's "Forever new frontiers" tagline, the motto on the site is "How will you travel through life?"

The company also has embraced the use of weblogs. Since January 2005, VP-Marketing Randy Baseler has made weekly entries in his blog, detailing Boeing initiatives of interest to both the b-to-b customer and the passenger.

"B-to-b companies tend to be slower in the adoption of new marketing technology," Pollack said. "We think going forward we should be in the forefront on new marketing technology because we make the most technologically advanced product in the world."

Looking ahead, Boeing plans to team up more with its airline customers to tell the story of its aircraft, reasoning that helping airlines with their revenue growth is as significant as helping them cut maintenance costs, Pollack said.

"We think of it in stages," Pollack said. "Remotivating an organization that had become a little too arrogant, that was the first stage. The second stage was talking to the industry about the changes we were making. The final part will be convincing the flying public that they will prefer flying on a Boeing airplane." —M.E.P.

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