How Does JetBlue Deliver a “Groovy, Love-Filled Experience”?

August 12, 2010 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Just a day after Steven Slater made his spectacular exit from a JetBlue airliner after being accosted by a passenger he is destined to become a cult hero for the underappreciated and over-burdened everyman. As evidenced by his growing Facebook fan page, his story hit a raw nerve with countless numbers who can’t wait for the end of each work day to escape their personal versions of Slater’s hell. No doubt, these disaffected masses will soon enjoy another measure of vicarious pleasure, as Hollywood must be licking its chops at the prospect of a reality TV series that taps into the collective pain of so many pitiful souls. While the prevailing view is that Slater gave the passenger and JetBlue what they both had coming I see it differently.

This episode perfectly illustrates the trouble companies run into when they fail to build serious hiring and training practices around matching temperament to task. The resulting fallout can create a serious disconnect between what a company promises to give and what its customers really get. JetBlue’s promise to deliver a, “groovy, love-filled experience with lots of benefits” didn’t work out so well for at least one passenger. The truth is, airline brand promises rooted in pleasant journeys and puffy blue skies fall apart at nearly every customer touchpoint for all but one storied brand – the only airline brand to consistently turn a profit, I might add. Any flyer knows the airline experience is too often made especially unpleasant by people performing tasks they clearly despise. Maybe Slater hated his job, maybe he didn’t. I’ve never met him. But there is no question that Slater was either a bad hire in the first place, or JetBlue management failed to weed him out when he turned bad. His temperament clearly wasn’t matched to his task, as evidenced by his poorly conceived exit strategy.

Let’s face it relatively few of us are cut out for the stress and strife of dealing with the flying public – and especially the very special group of self-oriented individuals who are better known as horses’ asses. Slater’s frustration is easy for most of us to understand. And that’s why it’s so important for brands that rely on front-line employees to deliver their brand promises to get the hiring and training right. Temperament has to be matched to the task. Fitting people to culture, and personalities to positions is something great brands take seriously and always do well. And, companies that do it poorly are destined for mediocrity and also-ran status. This wasn’t the first broadside blow to JetBlue’s brand, and it surely won’t be the last.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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