Cross-Media Case Study: Kind of Blue
Jetting puts on a happy face
The skies have not been a happy place of late. Lost luggage, long delays, no meals and outrageous baggage fees - these are just a few of the reasons flying can be torturous. Given the sorry state of the heavens (not to mention the airline terminals), it is not surprising to learn that overall satisfaction with the airline industry declined this year to its lowest level in three years, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
That said, JetBlue Airways passengers are not dissatisfied. In fact, passengers surveyed for the aforementioned study ranked JetBlue the No. 1 airline overall - out of both traditional and low-cost carriers - in terms of customer satisfaction based on performance in the areas of cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, aircraft, boarding, deplaning, baggage, check-in, and reservations.
Moreover, Sam Thanawalla, director of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates, points out this is the fourth year in a row that JetBlue bested all of the airlines in the study and the third consecutive year that JetBlue beat all of its low-cost competitors.
Not bad for an airline that was founded less than 10 years ago on the premise of bringing humanity back to air travel. Given the frustration people are feeling with airlines and air travel in general nowadays, JetBlue and its agency jwt New York decided it was time to remind everyone that JetBlue tries harder to make its customers happy, which led to the launch of the "Happy Jetting" campaign last May.
You're not flying on JetBlue, you're jetting, the campaign posits, and jetting means you're getting competitive fares, great customer service and complimentary onboard amenities like xm Satellite Radio, Directv and free snacks.
Which, when compared to your Spirits and your AirTrans, sounds like nirvana at 30,000 feet.
This One's Optimistic
"The campaign is optimistic. JetBlue has always been an optimistic airline, and people need that optimism, especially during these times," says JWT partner and business director Kristina Lenz. "It's not rainbows and puppy dogs at all. We're not promising bunnies on every seat. It's really just a better experience, with common respect and courtesy."
This question has to be asked: What's so wrong with the word flying that JetBlue had to adopt the term jetting? jwt executive creative director Con Williamson says, "It's glaringly obvious that flying sucks because of what all of the other airlines have done to flying, so we wanted to distance ourselves from that as much as possible."
And, by the way, let's not confuse being a "jetter" - as JetBlue is now calling its passengers - with being a member of the jet set.
"We're not saying 'jet set,'" says Jeff Bitsack, Williamson's fellow jwt executive creative director. "Jet set is old-fashioned and conjures up images of china and silverware and being served crescent rolls, and we didn't want to go back in time. Jetting is contemporary and something completely new."
The Happy Jetting campaign is aimed at a wide range of jetters, everyone from parents traveling with kids to people on business trips, and the overall tone of the campaign is energetic, quirky and fun. JetBlue is releasing its Happy Jetting message through a varied media mix, including a TV commercial set to Electric Light Orchestra's upbeat "Mr. Blue Sky."
Directed by Johan Renck, who has shot music videos for Madonna and others, the JetBlue spot uses wacky characters and situations to illustrate the perks the airline offers. For example, when the text "Jetting is decked out in leather" appears on the screen, we see an image of heavy-metal guys clad in leather - a nod to JetBlue's leather seats.
The spot aired nationwide, with the focus on JetBlue's top markets: New York, Boston, San Francisco, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Long Beach, and Austin. The campaign surrounded consumers in those markets with out-of-home advertising, says Lenz, citing, for instance, JetBlue's domination of Manhattan's Union Square subway station and Grand Central.
Highlights of JetBlue's online efforts include an aol Instant Messenger takeover, a New York Post site domination and interstitials on The New York Times site; there are print ads, too.
All of the communications in the campaign guide consumers straight to happyjetting.com. Launched in May, the site, which was produced by JWT's in-house digital group, tallied more than 1.7 million page views by June.
Features on happyjetting.com include a quiz to determine whether you are a flier or a jetter. One of the questions: Would you rather have 100 free channels of XM Satellite Radio in your ear or a banana in your ear?
You can also assemble your own "Jet Class" on the site by getting friends and family to upload photos into a group picture like the ones we all posed for in grammar school. Once you've gotten five people to upload photos to your Jet Class, you are all entered into a monthly sweepstakes; the winners nab free travel on JetBlue.
Additionally, happyjetting.com has a jet simulator that allows visitors to play the role of a JetBlue passenger and depicts the benefits of flying - er, jetting - with the airline, which, apparently, includes high-fiving your flight attendant.
Asked for his opinion on the Happy Jetting campaign, air travel expert Tom Parsons, who runs bestfares.com, says it's a good idea to promote in-flight features such as Directv, "especially with the other airlines pulling their in-flight entertainment." Parsons didn't get the TV commercial, which he maintains "is for yuppies," and he found the flier vs. jetter quiz on happyjetting.com useless, but he got a real kick out of the site's jet simulator. "It's unique and entertaining," Parsons praises. "But I want to know if I can really high-five a flight attendant on a plane."
"It's okay. Just let him know you're going to high-five him. I think it's really important to inform first that you're about to high-five," Williamson responds, musing, "but the low-five might be safer."
Kidding aside, it is smart for JetBlue to play up its friendly, attentive flight crew, says Thanawalla of J.D. Power and Associates. "Our study clearly shows that the people factor is the most important overall driver of customer satisfaction and the greatest contributor for the decline in satisfaction," Thanawalla says. "Passengers are very dissatisfied these days with the information they get from airline staff, the way their bags are handled and the way they're treated onboard by the flight crew. But JetBlue got the highest rating you could get for flight crews."
St. Valentine's Day Massacre
For all of the merriment portrayed in JetBlue's Happy Jetting campaign and the high marks the airline currently gets from passengers, JetBlue wasn't feeling the love on Feb. 14, 2007, when it suffered an operational meltdown that left hundreds of passengers trapped on the tarmac at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport; JetBlue had to cancel hundreds of flights.
Asked whether this Happy Jetting campaign was designed to repair a tarnished image, Bitsack says no, maintaining that JetBlue had previously built up so much goodwill among its clientele that it quickly recovered from that public relations nightmare.
Both Parsons and Thanawalla agree that all was soon forgiven, and JetBlue's ranking as American's favorite airline in the 10th annual Consumer Loyalty Engagement Index issued in 2007 (after the fiasco) by Brand Keys supports the assertion.
"People are willing to forgive meltdowns like the one JetBlue had because JetBlue was willing to be honest, take responsibility, come up with [its own Customer Bill of Rights], and say, 'We're going to make an effort to correct this,'" Thanawalla says.
But how will passengers react to the new fees JetBlue has implemented in recent months to offset oil costs? In August, the airline announced it would no longer supply free blankets and pillows on its flights and would instead charge customers $7 for an eco-friendly pillow and blanket kit, which comes with a $5 coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond. The airline also recently started charging for seats with extra legroom, tacked on a $15 fee for a second checked bag and instated a ticket-change fee of $100.
Jetting may be happy, but it ain't cheap.