During a divisive time, how can a company inspire people to lay aside personal opinions and do something for the greater good? JetBlue has an answer.
Imagine you’re relaxing in an airplane seat. The plane is headed from Boston (in a politically blue state) to Phoenix (in a traditionally red state). Everyone onboard is politically divided; they’re digging in and holding their ground. Super Tuesday is right around the corner. Suddenly, an announcement comes over the intercom.
The announcer states that everyone on the airplane has a chance to win a round-trip ticket to anywhere. But here’s the catch: All 150 random strangers must unanimously agree on that destination. And round and round we go. Domestic versus international. Costa Rica versus Turks and Caicos. The plane is now divided on more than politics. Fortunately, it’s a five-hour flight, so there’s plenty of time to talk to your neighbors and listen to their reasons for traveling to a particular destination.
But here’s the difference: When it comes to travel, everyone realizes they all benefit more by giving in a little. In the end, everyone agrees on Costa Rica, and all the passengers cheer and give each other high-fives. Most people hadn’t originally chosen Costa Rica out of all the options, and so most passengers had given up their ideal solution for the greater good.
“So, what did we learn?" asks the announcer. "When people compromise and work together, all parties can win.”
That's the concept behind an ad spot JetBlue ran earlier this year. And it isn’t the airline's first purpose-driven campaign. Tamara Young, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue, described other piece of content at the 2016 Sustainable Brands Conference.
During the last presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the country again was divided. Some people threatened to leave the country if their candidate lost: “If Obama wins I’m moving to Canada,” some said. And vice versa.
JetBlue is a nonpartisan company, and it wanted to turn the negative dialogue into a positive one. So it created the Election Protection campaign, a landing page that prompted people to select their preferred candidate and the destination they wanted to go if their candidate wasn’t elected. After the election, there were a few lucky winners. JetBlue was nice and made the tickets round-trip, not just one way, so the person wasn’t stranded in another country. The campaign was able to turn negativity into something positive in hopes that people would become more optimistic.
Since JetBlue’s campaigns are all about bringing people together (both physically via flying and emotionally), the company tackles other topics beside politics. For example, it decided to create dialogue around another polarizing topic: babies on airplanes.
This Mother’s Day, JetBlue turned crying babies on airplanes into a perk. Parents find it more stressful to fly with a baby. They cross their fingers that the toddler doesn’t have a meltdown or squirm too much.
On one Mother's Day flight, JetBlue announced it was the first time a crying baby is a good thing. Every time a baby cried, all passengers received 25 percent off their next flight. In other words, four crying babies were equivalent to a free round-trip ticket. Every time a baby cried, people smiled and a few clapped. By the end of the flight, everyone had won a free round-trip flight. “Thanks to all the moms and babies on board today for making the flight so special,” the flight announcer said.
The hope was that the campaign would start positive conversations and create empathy and compassion. The ideal result is to create a welcoming atmosphere for parents traveling with children. (Disclaimer: The crying baby discount was for this one flight only and is not a new policy, just in case you were getting ready to suggest your friend with a fussy baby take a flight with you.)
Jet Blue’s purpose-driven campaigns have been highly successful and received billions of media impressions. But Young says it’s not about advertising. Instead, it’s about “inspiring humanity.”
The content connects with people, she says. They feel confided in and see themselves as part of the mission. Creating thought-provoking experiences opens up one-on-one dialogues with customers, and JetBlue receives important feedback.
The main lesson that can be learned from Jet Blue is that brands shouldn’t be afraid to talk about taboo and divisive topics. When brands authentically spark dialogue and engage people in conversations, they form deep relationships with customers. And that depth is something customers crave.
Image credit: JetBlue
Renee is a social impact strategist who works with companies to help them focus on key social and environmental opportunities. She loves connecting with people so feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.