At a time when most of the airlines of the world are struggling, one carrier is seeing nothing but "blue skies." Despite the simultaneous problems of September 11, a recession, and war, the airline—aptly named JetBlue—has continued to succeed where competitors have faltered. For the second quarter of 2002, JetBlue reported a net income of $14.6 million on operating revenues of $149.3 million, while nearly all major airlines reported record losses.
What's the secret behind JetBlue's success? It's a combination of successful branding, unique positioning, and integrated marketing communications that transcends seemingly every aspect of the "antiairline" approach. JetBlue flies at about 80 percent full on every flight (versus the industry average of 64 percent) and attracts travelers from all segments— students, grandmothers, and business travelers (Everybody who likes low fares and a great flying experience). JetBlue has adopted a unique positioning in the industry, and takes every effort conceivable to maintain that image and attitude.
First,there is the unique positioning. Initially positioned as a low-fare, all-coach carrier, the airline has evolved into what one writer has described as a cross between Southwest Airlines (low price, all coach) and Virgin Atlantic (hip and sassy). This means that fares generally are lower than those of competitors flying the same routes but the product itself is more attractive. The planes are new and feature leather seats, each of which offers free satellite TV on a personal video screen. The pilots are efficient and honest about delays, and the flight attendants offer excellent service and go about with a "fun" attitude. JetBlue claims to bring pleasure and style back into flying—and they usually do.
JetBlue has also focused on branding. Its strategy has been to emphasize the things that distinguish the brand from other carriers but cost little—things like courtesy, comfort, and punctuality—while paying less attention to those items that do not, like food. Service is a top priority, including updates on flight status every 15 minutes. Vanity Fair magazine named JetBlue its top airline of 2000, and readers of Conde Nast Traveler and Zagat rated it number 2 behind Midwest Express—an all-business airline that charges much higher prices.
The communication mix for JetBlue supports the brand image and positioning. From the blue potato chips to the stylish blue uniforms, all communications attempt to appeal to its "aspirational audience"—frugal, yet style-conscious consumers. For example, the JetBlue website is simple, functional, and user-friendly. It doesn't look like other airlines' sites, nor does it have the same impact. (More than 60 percent of JetBlue's customers book on the airline's website, while other airlines average about 10 percent.) The original advertising mes-sage—"Somebody up there likes you"—attempted to be "un-airline," focusing on big-city swagger and wit rather than the typical "small-world" theme used by others.The post-September 11 campaign—"reasons to fly," which included both TV and radio spots, featured sentimental and nonsentimental reasons for flying—but did so in a humorous style to maintain JetBlue's personality.
The question in the minds of many travelers and industry pundits is, How long can JetBlue keep this up? With its strong identity, positioning, and brand image, and consumers' increasing hatred for other airlines, the future looks pretty bright. Let's hope so!
Sources: Amy Goldwasser, "Something Stylish, Something Blue," Business 2.0, February 2002,pp.94-95; Sally B.Donnelly,"Blue Skies," Time, July 30,2001, pp. 24-27; Scott Donaton,"Flying Lessons: JetBlue Soars When Front Lines Value Brand," Advertising Age, Feb. 11,2002, p.16.
■ ■I Ipili i m nonalcoholic drinks may come into consideration at various times and/or in certain situations. The marketer must consider all likely competitors, as well as the diverse effects of use and situations on the consumer.
2. Assessing consumers' perceptions of competitors. Once we define the competition, we must determine how they are perceived by consumers. Which attributes are important to consumers in evaluating a product and/or brand? As you might expect, for many products, consumers consider a wide variety of attributes or product benefits— most if not all of which are important. Much of marketing firms' research is directed at making such determinations. Consumers are asked to take part in focus groups and/or complete surveys indicating which attributes are important in their purchase decisions. For example, attributes considered important in the selection of a bank may include convenience, teller friendliness, financial security, and a host of other factors. This process establishes the basis for determining competitive positions.
3. Determining competitors' positions. After identifying the relevant attributes and their relative importance to consumers, we must determine how each competitor (including our own entry) is positioned with respect to each attribute. This will also show how the competitors are positioned relative to each other. Consumer research is required to make this assessment.
4. Analyzing the consumers' preferences. Our discussion of segmentation noted various factors that may distinguish among groups of consumers, including lifestyles, purchase motivations, and demographic differences. Each of these segments may have different purchase motivations and different attribute importance ratings.
One way to determine these differences is to consider the ideal brand or product, defined as the object the consumer would prefer over all others, including objects that can be imagined but do not exist. Identifying the ideal product can help us identify different ideals among segments or identify segments with similar or the same ideal points.
5. Making the positioning decision. Going through the first four steps should let us decide which position to assume in the marketplace. Such a decision is not always clear and well defined, however, and research may provide only limited input. In that case, the marketing manager or groups of managers must make some subjective judgments. These judgments raise a number of questions:
• Is the segmentation strategy appropriate? Positioning usually entails a decision to segment the market. Consider whether the market segment sought will support an entry and whether it is in the best interests of the company to de-emphasize the remaining market. When a specific position is chosen, consumers may believe this is what the product is for. Those not looking for that specific benefit may not consider the brand. If the marketer decides on an undifferentiated strategy, it may be possible to be general in the positioning platform. For example, Toyota's slogan, "Get the feeling" allows receivers to project their feelings about the brand—all of which (hopefully) involve a positive image of Toyota.
• Are there sufficient resources available to communicate the position effectively? It is very expensive to establish a position. One ad, or even a series of ads, is not likely to be enough. The marketer must commit to a long-range effort in all aspects of the marketing campaign to make sure the objectives sought are obtained. Too often, the firm abandons a position and/or advertising campaign long before it can establish a position successfully. The Rolling Stone repositioning discussed earlier is an excellent example of sticking with a campaign: The basic theme ran for a number of years. In contrast, Sears has switched campaigns so often in the past few years that it has been impossible to establish a distinct position in the consumer's mind. Further, once a successful position is attained, it is likely to attract competitors. It may become expensive to ward off "me-too" brands and continue to hold on to the brand distinction.
• How strong is the competition? The marketing manager must ask whether a position sought is likely to be maintained, given the strengths of the competition. For example, General Foods often made it a practice not to be the first entry into a market. When competitors developed new markets with their entries, General Foods would simply improve on the product and capture a large percentage of the market share. This leads to two basic questions: First, if our firm is first into the market, will we be able to maintain the position (in terms of quality, price, etc.)? Second, if a product is positioned as finest quality, it must be. If it is positioned as lowest cost, it has to be. Otherwise, the position claimed is sure to be lost. • Is the current positioning strategy working? There is an old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If current efforts are not working, it may be time to consider an alternative positioning strategy. But if they are working, a change is usually unwise. Sometimes executives become bored with a theme and decide it is time for a change, but this change causes confusion in the marketplace and weakens a brand's position. Unless there is strong reason to believe a change in positioning is necessary, stick with the current strategy. 6. Monitoring the position. Once a position has been established, we want to monitor how well it is being maintained in the marketplace. Tracking studies measure the image of the product or firm over time. Changes in consumers' perceptions can be determined, with any slippage immediately noted and reacted to. At the same time, the impact of competitors can be determined.
Before leaving this section, you might stop to think for a moment about the positioning (and repositioning) strategies pursued by different companies. Any successful product that comes to mind probably occupies a distinct market position.
The development of the marketing strategy and selection of L/evtUUpillg lilt; IVIdl Keilllg a target market(s) tell the marketing department which cus-
Planning Program tomers to focus on and what needs to attempt to satisfy. The next stage of the marketing process involves combining the various elements of the marketing mix into a cohesive, effective marketing program. Each marketing-mix element is multidimensional and includes a number of decision areas. Likewise, each must consider and contribute to the overall IMC program. We now examine product, price, and distribution channels and how each influences and interacts with the promotional program.
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