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I read recently an admonition in a comment to a post that social media/business "only works well for companies who already deliver a competitively superior product".
I don't agree with that comment, especially since by definition the majority of companies don't deliver a "competitively superior product" - the majority deliver a fit-for-purpose product which satisfies a value equation in the mind of the buyer.
It's the old salesman's lament - we're having trouble selling it because we don't have any competitive advantage. Sure, so how many companies are selling the next Walkman or iPad? A minuscule fraction of a percentage point. Most are selling pizzas and Chevrolets and doing ok, some very well. Go get another job!
Fast Company just reported on how JetBlue has redefined the airline category and now has the 4th greatest "social currency" of all US brands, headed by BMW, Mercedes and Lexus - Apple #5.
Here's the amazing truth, in a comment by Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of Vivaldi Partners and author of the study. He thinks JetBlue's blue chips, visual identity, terminal, TVs, and amenities are distinctive but not breakthrough different.
"Every aspect has been copied or exists with another airline. As a brand that follows this logic of distinctiveness, social media and technologies are the absolute godsend communications tool. A distinctive brand disproportionately benefits from social tools."
Aha. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole, and amplified through social media. This is the business of incremental or continuous improvement, leveraged through social media, as opposed to "creativity" "brainstorming" and "innovation departments". And since social media is the lever of WOM just as steam powered the lever to create the Industrial Revolution then social media powers WOM to create tremendous shareholder wealth.
JetBlue's greatest distinction is that it ensures satisfaction in an industry where it's competitors don't seem to care. (My mind flashes to banks, there's an opportunity!). So what happened to the poster child Southwest Airlines in all this - perhaps they just missed the social media oomph of JetBlue?
So the message is to let the little bits add up, sweat the details, make sure it all integrates, including the social media strategy, and then let WOM do it's job.
I'm also thinking that JetBlue have mastered that tremendously illusive quality of brand depth. We're pounded by brand promises, and the airlines are masters at the smooth ad, but not only does the promise rarely align with reality, but when something goes just slightly wrong you find yourself dealing with a hell on earth i.e. there is zero brand depth.
What's your take on Jet Blue's success and the role of social media, and where did Southwest fall off the map?