July 22, 2010

JetBlue wins prestigious global marketing honor

This week in London we were awarded with a prestigious Airline Strategy Award from Airline Business magazine in the area of leadership in the field of marketing! The very impressive commendation is published below an d describes our airline as “an aggressive and spirited marketer, putting consumer issues first.”

Last year, Lufthansa won this global award, and in 2003, as a three-year-old airline, we earned top honors! Other carriers receiving Airline Strategy Awards in various categories were top brands like Emirates and Qatar Airways.

JetBlue Chief Commercial Officer, Robin Hayes, accepts our award in London

The award commendation:

JetBlue was highly commended by our judges as “an aggressive and spirited marketer, putting consumer issues first”. Quite simply, this is an airline which exceeds expectations. And this type of recognition is not new; JetBlue’s emphasis on the customer experience has consistently won it accolades from inside the industry and beyond.

It is also putting its true-hybrid strategy to work with its partnerships with shareholder Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, South African Airways and a highly-anticipated interline deal with American scheduled to debut later this year. With the exception of Lufthansa placing its code on some of JetBlue’s flights, all those arrangements are interline agreements.

For the moment, full-fledged codeshares are well in the “maybe” category for JetBlue. Chief commercial officer Robin Hayes says if it moves forward with more complex agreements, its customer transparency will remain intact. “We will select our partners very carefully and we will make sure that disclosure to customers is good so that they fully understand what they are purchasing.”

The carrier’s self-declared “contrarian” nature, which has been present since its inception 10 years ago, has given it a nimbleness with customers that many of its legacy competitors fail to enjoy. You don’t need to look far to find an example of the airline’s innovative marketing approach. In late 2009, after the busy summer travel season, JetBlue was faced with a sluggish economy, coupled with low demand. It decided to “create a feel good factor, both for the customers and ourselves”, says Hayes.

Using its inherent agility JetBlue conceived and launched its wildly-popular “All You Can Jet” campaign in a three-week span. Customers opting to purchase a $599 pass enjoyed unlimited travel throughout the carrier’s network for a 30-day period during the seasonally slow September-October time period. During that time up to 80 customers on some of JetBlue’s flights were pass holders, generating ample buzz for the carrier’s in-flight crew members, pilots and airport crewmembers. “For 30 days it was just one big party,” says Hayes.

If JetBlue had looked at the idea through a traditional lens Hayes believes “we would have said we can never make this work, we would dilute what we would have already gotten. But we didn’t, we really saw it as an opportunity to be contrarian.” Another key driver in the campaign’s success was JetBlue’s decision to promote it through Twitter. The social media buzz resulted in a flood of demand for the passes and supplies quickly dried up.

But JetBlue primarily uses Twitter to apply its philosophy of being a customer service company first, and an airline second. Both Twitter, as evidenced by JetBlue’s 1.6 million followers, and Facebook “are clearly ways that customers want to talk to us”, he says.

Twitter allows customers to give instant feedback during their journeys. “So if you’re having a good experience, or not having such a great experience, and you could use some help, it provides them with an instant way of communicating with us,” Hayes explains. This allows JetBlue to have a clear picture of its customer service performance in real-time. “We’re pleased, but the reason we’re pleased is that it’s something that’s working for our customers,” says Hayes.

Most of JetBlue’s executive and marketing teams have spent the first half of the year executing a virtually flawless cut-over to the Sabre reservations and distribution engine. But Hayes says JetBlue is now ready to get active again in late summer and early fall. “We have quite a few things plans that will be creative and create a good sense of fun.”

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