JetBlue isn’t the biggest airline. They don’t have the most planes, most employees, or largest global footprint. They don’t offer the most direct flight routes. Yet, the company is responsible for engaging in one of the most compelling conversations within the air travel industry. An industry often riddled with drama and characterized by controversy, rather than the value-add its meant to provide to its millionaire customer base.
But why is it important to highlight the nature of this market with its significant barriers to entry and limited competition? Because too many airlines are focused on messaging that is incompatible with the reality of travel, or even with the reality of the personality of the brands themselves. Too frequently we are told about a cleanliness, punctuality, and standard for satisfactory service that is simply incongruous with the experience that ensues when we check in for their flights or board their airplanes.
And while we’d rather refrain from having an otherwise negative analysis of any industry, it behooves us (and whoever reads this) to keep it real.
JetBlue is different, on purpose.
They speak and act from a well-established, differentiated position, enabling them to take measured risks that speak to a closeness with that reality; that vital ingredient occasionally absent in other marketing strategies within the sector.
Put simply, JetBlue is at the vanguard of branding. Their sustained market share growth in the last decade and a half is not coincidental. It’s more of a logical result arising from a deliberate strategy that remains in tune with the mercurial sensibilities of its universe.
Today, the fate of businesses is dictated by consumers more than ever before, and not by the service or product providers. The adage “if you build it, they will come” is true; that is, if ‘they’ like ‘it’ and ‘it’ reflects who ‘they’ are at their core. Consequently, JetBlue considers customers first. Of course, profitability and shareholder returns are crucial, but those objectives are achieved with paying customers, particularly with paying customers with an allegiance to the brand. Thus, JetBlue customers regularly serve as ambassadors of a value proposition that they wholeheartedly believe is better because they are not only able to identify with the message, they trust in the execution of that promise.
For JetBlue, communication seems to go hand in hand with a relentless emphasis on user experience, allowing for travel that minimizes stress and maximizes wonder (as travel should). In air travel terms, that means things like most legroom, lots of premium TV channels and XM radio stations, free wi-fi, and unlimited snacks. “But people will take advantage of unlimited pretzels and it will hurt the bottom line.” To that, we like to think JetBlue would say, “not quite.” Instead, it demonstrates a belief that people will appreciate the familiarity generated by such an offer, almost as if to make the point that customers are people, too, not just units representing dollars.
Now there’s a powerful business principle: a commitment to treating people well. From the moment you check-in and unload your baggage, to the kindness and consideration of the flight attendants, and the smile of the pilot as you exit the aircraft. Yes, these perks and behaviors work and are successful by way of defining perceptible competitive advantages. They go a long way in both differentiating the brand and adding value to customers, thereby driving a client loyalty that is difficult to match, much less surpass. But, it doesn’t stop there.
JetBlue has a commitment to innovation. And just because they give people rides on airplanes doesn’t necessarily mean that innovation is in the latest plane (although their planes are consistently more modern than their competitors). It means a comprehensively innovative mentality. It means understanding that what led to growth in the early- and mid-2000s might not (and probably won’t) work in 2017. It means understanding that dynamism and the ability to change with the same swiftness of a rapidly changing world matters.
Cheers to JetBlue, a company that keeps climbing as a result of their smart branding. One that encourages human connection.