Low-cost carriers earn marketing stripes despite industry challenges

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Low-cost carriers earn marketing stripes despite industry challenges
Low-cost carriers earn marketing stripes despite industry challenges
JetBlue sends out 20 million to 30 million marketing e-mails each month using e-Dialog, says Canty. He limits e-mails to no more than two a week for any customer and says open rates average around 25%. In comparing the two brands, Southwest's e-mails are crammed full of offers — compelling at times, overly busy at others — while JetBlue's are simple and short. Unfortunately, JetBlue misses a basic e-mail marketing tenet by frequently sending e-mails with one large image that appears as one big blank box for those with their email  images turned off.

In addition, Southwest prominently places its e-mail signup box at the top of its homepage for easy access, while JetBlue's e-mail signup is buried under a section of the “Travel Deals” tab. Southwest's signup form consists of four short boxes, but JetBlue's runs more than a dozen lines, asking for details such as home airport and favorite destination.  

Joanna Lawson-Matthew, senior client services manager at e-mail marketing company Blue Sky Factory, also cited JetBlue for wasting space  at the top of the e-mail where pre-header text could grab those with images turned off. She praised Southwest for its text-to-image balance and raved about the personalization and cross-sell in a transactional  e-mail sample. 

“It's transactional, but they had some promotional aspects and cross-sells to partners and they promoted their e-mail campaigns which is great for list growth,” Lawson-Matthew says.

Canty says that JetBlue wants to further tailor its messaging and the e-mail program will “continue to evolve.”

JetBlue's new loyalty program is proving most worthwhile and nearly a third of its customers are now TrueBlue members. Southwest expects to revamp its Rapid Rewards loyalty program in 2011, though it's not saying yet what those changes will look like. In the last year, Southwest also promoted a new “text to enroll” campaign that encouraged customers to use their mobile phones to join Rapid Rewards.

Peter Davis, president of loyalty marketing firm, Vesdia, says, “They've both done a good job of supporting their loyalty programs.” He praised the simplicity of both programs, but suggested that JetBlue's new points systems provides more flexibility for the customer allowing them to redeem more from the airline's partners, not just flights. 

JetBlue, perhaps due to its coming of age in the new millennium, rather than in the 1970s, possesses the sexier brand, and in terms of customer service, it consistently bests Southwest in reader and analyst surveys, including the annual JD Power and Associatesannual North America Airline Satisfaction and the oft quoted Airline Quality Rating from Purdue University and Wichita State University.

Brand Champion

Southwest narrowly edges out its younger, smaller competitor's marketing capabilities by putting a polish on its efforts. JetBlue loses points for its e-mail misses, but it has shown a willingness to innovate and shake up the industry. Even on a smaller revenue scale, JetBlue is beating Southwest in areas where it counts, such as customer service, though typically only by one place mark.

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