Your Company Doesn’t Own Its Brand

16 Nov
The JetBlue Difference

JetBlue Rules the Skies

As I sit waiting for my wife’s flight, which is over 3 hours late, I am overcome with the belief that flying has to be one of the most de-humanizing activities we regularly engage in modern life.  Where else are you asked to wait in monstrous lines only to have to remove various  articles of clothing and, maybe, in the future, be x-rayed revealing your body in all its glory…and you haven’t even boarded the plane yet!  As you progress on your journey, you will be subjected to surly flight attendants, seats designed for Lilliputians, undersized overheads, and super sized fees for everything including, on some flights, the lavatories. Flying may be necessary for many of us, but that has never meant that it is an enjoyable experience.

The Jet Blue Difference

For this reason, it is with awe, and a bit of bewilderment, that I view the success of JetBlue Airways.   As the so called “Haggler” recounted in this past Sunday’s NY Times, he showers unusual praise on JetBlue which has successfully created a culture of empowerment where employees treat the customers the way they would want to be treated themselves.  And this culture has paid dividends for the company in the form of J.D. Powers top rankings, and the rarest of commodities today, strong customer loyalty.

The Ice Incident

Next to this past summer’s flight attendant down the emergency slide incident, many people remember the iconic disaster that was the 2007 ice storm that grounded the JetBlue fleet at JFK Airport.  As the Haggler pointed out in his piece, JetBlue should not be judged on these colossal PR explosions, but the day-to-day success that the company is able to achieve 99.9% of the time.  Yet, this incident held some very important lessons that JetBlue painfully absorbed after they had begun to recover from this debacle.

Specifically, Jenny Dervin, Director of Corporate Communications at a recent Business Development Institute forum discussed how JetBlue learned of the problem on the tarmac.  Instead of the company’s internal communications mechanisms alerting management, it was a phone call from CNN that went like this “One of our iReporters on a JetBlue plane just sent over a video saying that they were being held hostage on the tarmac at JFK…would like to respond to this claim?”  Well, for Jenny this was a wake up call that neither she, nor her company, owned the JetBlue brand, but their customers held all of the power.

Your Customers Own Your Brand

It is a testament to the strong culture at JetBlue that enables it to thrive in an environment where every customer is also a potential news source, reviewer, and brand ambassador.  With the ubiquitous availability of mobile communications, anyone can decide on the spot to broadcast their thoughts, opinions, complaints, and praise.

The ramifications for your organization are monumental.  Despite your efforts to shape your brand through advertising, websites, social media , PR, and the like, today your customers have all the power.  This means that every customer interaction whether in person or online has the capacity to make or break a brand.  The viral nature of online communications can positively or negatively impact a brand rapidly.  Your job, as your brand’s sherpa,  is to be cognizant of where the brand ownership truly rests and focus on delivering a nearly flawless customer experience every day.  The lessons and successes of JetBlue demonstrate that while it can be very scary, you need to take the leap and entrust your brand to a mostly unlikely owner…your customers.

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One Response to “Your Company Doesn’t Own Its Brand”


  1. The Internet is a Place to Connect « Practical Digital Marketing - December 9, 2010

    […] of a more significant effort to influence consumers.  As I mentioned previously when discussing Jet Blue, companies don’t own their brands, their customers do.  They hold all of the power.  The […]

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