JetBlue: Creating a Social Brand (2012) Stanford Graduate School of Business Case (Aaker and Schifrin)
In 2012 the New York-based airline JetBlue served 70 cities with 650 daily flights. JetBlue prided itself on being a fun, low-cost airline with high-quality customer service and popular amenities not found on other airlines. But while it had loyal frequent customers, the wider public did not understand JetBlue had a differentiated product. Also, the company had a tradition of treating everyone the same, which was an important part of its brand identity, but many passengers did not perceive JetBlue as a business airline. JetBlue was addressing these issues through human-centered marketing including humorous YouTube videos, an organizational structure designed for innovation, targeting customer interaction using social media, and authenticity and transparency. By detailing JetBlue’s successes and failures, the case provides students with a practical, real world example of how to create and grow a social brand. For its human-centered marketing, JetBlue used YouTube to launch multiple ads that spoke to its brand identity through humor. These ads resonated with people across the country, went viral, and attracted widespread media attention. JetBlue also designed for innovation, especially through the concept of “fast failing,” where ideas are tried quickly and cheaply ($5,000 -$10,000), and they either succeed or fail fast. If the ideas fail, the company moves on quickly to something else. One of these ideas turned into one of JetBlue’s most innovative and successful marketing promotions ever. JetBlue made a serious mistake in 2007 that damaged the company’s reputation. JetBlue tried to operate during a big storm, but ended up leaving passengers on planes on the tarmac for up to 11 hours without additional food or water being supplied to the planes. JetBlue’s CEO put up an on-line apology, which had over 400,000 views on YouTube and was the impetus for the company to start using social media on a large scale. JetBlue saw that customers were answering back to the YouTube video in the comment section, which created a scalable channel to have two-way communications with customers.