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Jerry Gumbert » 2012 » June Steve Safran's MediaReinvent
  • AA: Customer Service is DOA

    June 16th, 2012

    I have two very, very close friends at American Airlines and I am certain that this story will offend both of them greatly.  But, it needs to be told.  I am
    a travel warrior.  I have flown over 5,000,000 miles on AA. I thought I had seen it all after some 22 years of flying until early Tuesday evening.  As I was walking off my airplane in Las Vegas, I saw a young 18 or 19 year-old girl running to the jet bridge door at the next gate for her departing flight to Chicago. She was late.  As soon as she got there, the gate agent closed the door right in front of her without saying a word — not a word — and just walked away.  The young girl broke down crying and pleaded with the gate agent who never even looked back or acknowledged her.

    I stood there in disbelief.  How heartless and mean-spirited can a human being be?  How can a “service” agent care so little about service?  How can an employee hate their job and people so much?  Two complete strangers walked over to the young girl and tried to comfort her. She was hysterical as she was headed to her father’s funeral just outside of Chicago and had now missed her flight.  Then, they did what the AA gate agent should have done:

    They helped her!  The strangers — not American Airlines.

    If there were ever a time and place AA employees should be helping people it is now in the darkness of bankruptcy.  I completely understand that you must get to the gate on-time, no exceptions, but in this case it was the rude, Christ-less, and unforgiving bitterness of an AA employee that was so ugly and wrong.

    I salute the two strangers who helped the girl get on another flight so she could bury her father the following day.  I deplore this service agent and so many like her today.  They are angry and cruel. I waited there for 17 minutes before the plane headed to Chicago pushed back from the gate.  I have six children aged 15 to 23.  That young girl in Las Vegas could have been one of mine, and the thought of what an American Airline employee did on Tuesday to a grieving young woman makes me want to never fly AA again.

    When people stop caring about others, we are no more than animals in the wild.  When employees stop caring about customers, the business value equation weakens.  At American Airlines, it is DOA.

    Posted in Branding | No Comments »

  • The Power of Emotional Marketing

    June 7th, 2012

    Local TV stations have a marketing problem.  The problem has existed for a long time but has evolved from concern to crisis over the past four or five years.

    The problem:  We don’t have the level of talent and investment required to market effectively in an increasingly complex world.  If there is ever a time when broadcasters need to prove, hour-by-hour, its relevance and value, it is now.  Well, yesterday.

    In addition, AR&D’s consumer research and critical analysis continue to paint a troubling picture for marketing local TV news. Simply put, we just aren’t very good at it. We all understand the importance of brand and its unique points of difference that drive a narrow message. But, very few station marketers have neither the ability nor time to create original, authentic creative capable of significant impact. Instead, they hold tightly to touting product “features” and using flashy “production techniques.”


    My friend and industry Chief Marketing Guru, Graeme Newell has been beating this drum for years. If we continue to fail to connect with consumers at an emotional level —  touching their hearts and souls — we will be left behind.  Soon.  Our important product features are well-known by today’s TV viewers:  Severe weather/the forecast, investigative/in-depth, breaking news and traffic reports. However, station marketers are selling these product features instead of how these features make people feel. That is the essence of emotional marketing, it makes you “feel” not “think.”

    Here’s a good example: Seat belts.  Most states have ongoing campaigns focused on driver safety and the need to buckle up. The overwhelming majority of them use the “Click it or Ticket” campaign. The message: “If you don’t wear a seat belt, it will cost you money.”  The assumption is that a $50 to $75 fine will scare people into fastening their seat belt.  Unfortunately, there are volumes of research that prove traffic violations are a risk most drivers are willing to take.

    One emotional marketing approach to seat belt safety is to focus on the value that “other people place on your life” and how that makes YOU feel.  Click on the link below to view a spot that targets this specific message.

    Embrace Life.

    Ah, embrace life.  Wear a seat belt.


    To thrive in the future, we must let go of the past (it doesn’t work anymore) and embrace new opportunities in the new world order. We must challenge ourselves to blaze a new path, a new way to approach TV news marketing. One that focuses on the value of what we do — not a play-by-play of it.

    Just do it.

    Posted in Branding | No Comments »