Monday, June 16, 2008

Did Ad Age Just Suggest JetBlue NOT Advertise? No, It's About the Experience!

The headline over on Brand Autopsy is certainly attention getting: "Advertising Age recommends NOT ADVERTISING." The article shares portions of an Ad Age editorial that said:

“JetBlue is missing the point with its recent ad push. What it needs is to get back to what made it a media and consumer darling: customer service and good internal and external communication.”

“… convincing more people to fly doesn't seem like a smart move for an airline that has trouble handling the passengers it already has. It won't fool new passengers, and it will only upset current passengers. JetBlue achieved its success by being unlike the other airlines. Its good name spread -- via word-of-mouth and smart marketing -- because great customer service gave it a compelling story to tell.”

“Priority No. 1 should be getting back to a place where consumers want to share good stories. Take the money being wasted on that campaign and plow it into customer service.”

While it seems Ad Age might be suggesting JetBlue suspend it's advertising, the editorial really speaks to two non-advertising needs: Providing a great experience for consumers and being transparent. These are the two foundations upon which Word of Mouth is created in the age of social media.

Advertising is and will always be critical, but it cannot overcome poor experiences. Advertising creates the promise, but if your brand cannot deliver on that promise, then you're setting yourself up for failure. Saying what you do and doing what you say is no longer a competitive difference but table stakes in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Epinions,, the Comcast Sucks and Taco Bell rats videos, and MyThreeCents, where people are complaining about JetBlue for everything from lost luggage to unannounced flight changes to unrefunded tickets.

Of course, as Abraham Lincoln almost said, "You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't please all the people all the time." The goal isn't to prevent any and all complaints from reaching the Web, and trying to do so will cause attention and resources to be dedicated where they are not going to best use. All a brand can do is get its product and service right (not simply "right enough"), create a genuine brand using all the tools available to marketers, and engage consumers in the places where they're praising or complaining about the brand.

As far as I'm concerned, JetBlue's problem isn't with how or whether they are advertising, but with how they're using social media. JetBlue gets points for having a Twitter account, but they lose points for how they're using it. People are talking about JetBlue--both positively and negatively--but JetBlue isn't really engaging in the dialog. They're not thanking people for the compliments, nor are they apologizing for flight delays or addressing consumer complaints. Instead, as of today, the JetBlue Twitter account is more focused on the person maintaining the account than on consumers. You can read about the fabulous time "JetBlue" had in Vegas, or how s/he saw someone making out, or what state they're flying over--all of which provides zero value to consumers.

Walking the talk means more than just living up to your advertising promises. In 2008, it's also about being focused on customer needs wherever your customers are--even on Twitter! (Especially on Twitter!)


Morgan said...

Thanks for the feedback - Twitter is a growing medium and it'll take some time for rules and norms to establish themselves when it comes to a corporation's involvement.

If it helps, while we may not regularly respond to people's compliments or concerns publicly out of deference to the rest of our 'followers,' we do engage in DM conversations with with as many as possible.

- Morgan from JetBlue

Augie Ray said...


Thanks for the comment and additional information. I am pleased to see that JetBlue is engaging in direct responses on Twitter, since I agree the public "reply all" responses get tiring.

And congrats on again being noted with the highest customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates!

Morgan from JetBlue said...

I'd love to claim total credit for the J.D Power and Associates award, but it's truly a testament to our crewmembers who strive to keep customers relaxed and informed during their travels. They're an inspiration for me every day.

Have a great 4th of July weekend!

mannacio said...

Jet Blue has lost its way. It's CEO use to take its flights for feedback. Now management won't even take phone calls nor will they let complaints be escalated to them. Here is my most recent experience.

On July 13, my sister and 96 year old mother arrived at SFO two hours early for a delayed flight and went directly to the terminal on their computer printed boarding pass. But Jet Blue changed the gate to one in a completely different security corridor and pushed up the flight time making it impossible for my mother or sister to get to their gate on time. They also had no one at the originally assigned gate to direct passengers to the new gate or to assist the elderly and disabled through secure areas to expedite the transfer. Clearly they don’t care that my mother is 96 and uses a walker and, having missed the flight, had to wait for another 8 hours for the next flight. Isn’t this a delay caused by Jet Blue? I think any impartial observer would agree it is. But Jet Blue is not impartial and clearly has a conflict of interest in deciding who should be compensated. The result is that the Rights Jet Blue protects are its own. I have escalated this problem but, though I requested someone in Senior management Jet Blue assigned a “specialist” who handles ADA type complaints. She is investigating. Waiting for a response from their airport manager in San Francisco. But why? They know what the original gate was and how far it was from the reassigned gate. They also know there was no assistance provided getting from one place to the other.

Any impartial observer can easily see who is at fault here. But Jet Blue has a conflict of interest, and they know it. So why bother with a Passenger Bill of Rights if you don't plan to live up to the spirit in which it was created? I guess they'd rather say they're doing something than have congress do it for them. But true concern for the customer, that's a thing of the past. If it costs them money to gain customer satisfaction you can be sure the answer will be no. I think this seals their fate.