Brand Loyalty Weathers Sandy

Hurricane Sandy cancelled thousands of flights to the northeast U.S. for several days. Eight of those flights were mine as each prospect for getting home from San Francisco fell like a domino. Throughout the urgent search for a flight home, with several airlines to chase, which airline brand experience pushed my fingers to one website or toll-free number vs. another?

The competition was on, with all the other people in my same predicament. But I couldn’t chase every option – not enough time without a virtual team of assistants who could be on-hold for me during the “higher than normal call volume.”

United had the most flights but was never on my list because I don’t believe they have the “friendly skies” that their old campaign use to promise.

That left Virgin America and JetBlue. My favorites. So much so that I was willing to pay a much higher price for two one-way tickets so we could get home. After all, Virgin had the flight and the seats. But the best way out, even at a high cost, became no way out. They cancelled the flight – according to my mobile message, although it was still confirmed online. Couldn’t get someone on the phone to confirm anything.

JetBlue, which was my original booking, actually did nothing for me in terms of finding me a new flight. Their mobile message assured me they were doing everything they could, which was not much. Still, I trusted them because they’ve always done the right thing for me in the past.

Even with a series of failed phone calls and absent website options, I chased JetBlue to solve my problem. Not terribly long thereafter, I was on my way back to Boston on a JetBlue flight. Enjoying my free Terra Chips, cookies, and a smile or two. Never mind that my mobile message still said they were working to rebook me.

The net of it all is that the brands I trust get my understanding and forgiveness. This bears out two key tenets of advertising:

  1. Build your brand when you have a great story that can build up trust for when your story turns negative.
  2. Support your story with the consumer experience, which has a longer memory than words, alone (even in an ad).

In our e-vironment where access to competitive information and pricing appears to drive us to brand indifference and commoditization, brands still have power. And whether you’re in a pinch or a crisis, you go with what you know. The brand you trust wins out.

When do you go with a specific brand, no matter what? Why?

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