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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005 at 2:26 am

Could you overcome “new coke”?

By Howard Kaplan
August 31st, 2005

Honestly, I doubt it.  Let’s face it, Coca-Cola did what most of us could only dream about- unleash a monster NEGATIVE word of mouth campaign, and live to tell about it.  Ironically, they even did one better- they profited so much from their failed campaign, the Chicago Tribune actually credited them with planning the entire strategy in advance.  Nice try, but even the executives acknowledged their flaws.

So what do we do as marketers today?  What do we learn from our past transgressions?  Apparently, we’ve learned nothing.  We continually hide our customers concerns beneath corporate double-talk and ad-speak in our messaging.  We shy away from actually trying to anticipate, and respond to, our customers fears and issues.  We sell them features, when what they really want is benefits.  We make them false promises, when what they really want is empathy.  We build our sales process around our business goals, rather than around the customer’s buying process, and meeting their needs. 

These examples are everywhere, and not the least bit challenging to uncover.    But here’s a positive example, someone out there doing something notable, from which we can all learn.  I’ve been critical of JetBlue in the past, because they still fail miserably at providing intuitive scent trails for us to follow when buying tickets, but today they did something impressive.  I was booking my ticket to Annual when they popped the following message:


Imagine that?  Reminding me I’d be flying on a date that may not make me feel comfortable, and providing an alternate context with which I could choose to think about.  Of course, this also comes before I’ve confirmed my payment, so I could easily switch to another date, if I so chose.  Might it be an irrational fear for a flier to have?  Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not the point.  They’ve recognized some fliers may feel this way, and they envisioned the negative onslaught they’d receive if and when they charged $75 change fee for people who just realized the date, and were no longer comfortable flying. 

Don’t be afraid of creating fear in the mind of your visitor, be afraid of what happens when you fail to address the fear she’s already experiencing.

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Comments (3)

  1. Howard, I think you’re giving them a little too much credit. I got the same message when I booked my red-eye from Denver to JFK. That was August. BTW, did you change your travel date? ;-)

  2. In some ways I agree with Dave’s comment. I’m not sure if they are recognizing the date of Sept. 11 or if they are simply recognizing it’s an “early flight”.

    If it the pop-up is truly meeting the customer at the point of fear, GREAT… they are applauded by this wacko (that’d be me). If it’s a simple suggestion from JetBlue, I find it interesting the date and the thought of the date came to your mind. It’s all about perspective.

  3. Giving Customers Choice – or Inciting Terror?

    Howard Kaplan posts that providing customers up-front-choices, even for unforseen events, in order to better serve customers is a good thing….

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