E-Mail Campaign Predicts JetBlue Skies

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In a three-pronged effort, 1-year-old JetBlue Airways is expected to debut its first e-mail campaign next month aimed at building its Web brand inexpensively, increasing its ticket sales at www.jetblue.com and boosting its e-mail list.


The airline has a customer database of more than 200,000, and about half the profiles include e-mail addresses that will be used in the campaign. To increase the list prior to the campaign, JetBlue has added an e-mail sign-up box to its flight-booking page.


The exact date and size of the e-mail drop are undetermined. The airline plans to send e-mails to more than 10,000 people, said Christian Rishel, director of interactive marketing at JetBlue, New York.


The text-only e-mails will promote the bargain airline's regular offers of regional one-way flights for less than $100, as well as perks such as 24-channel televisions for each flier and more-than-average legroom, Rishel said.


"We are sticking with text because we're not convinced people want to see all of these multimedia e-mails in their mailboxes," he said. "We are more concerned with communicating our immediate retail messages."


Rishel would not divulge expenses for the campaign. While his firm has no plans to use banner ads or other Internet promos, it expects to spend $12 million this year on TV, radio, newspaper and outdoor ads in the 14 markets where it has airport hubs.


The ads will prominently mention JetBlue's Web site, which is expected to enhance its e-mail lists because the ads should lead more people to opt in at the site, Rishel said.


He said e-mail is the company's most cost-effective promotions tool.


"While we have solid [financial] backing, we are not planning to do expensive marketing like direct mail," he said. "We are a young company, and we don't necessarily have do everything traditional marketers have done."


JetBlue receives 35 percent of its ticket sales at its Web address, while getting 50 percent from its call centers and the remaining 15 percent via distributors and travel agencies, Rishel said.


The airline also is considering renting e-mail lists in order to pitch offers to new audiences and to brand itself against its biggest airline competitor in the cheap-fare sector -- Southwest Airlines.


Most airlines, including Southwest, began integrating e-mail into their online strategies last year or the year before, said Kate Rice, analyst at PhoCusWright, a market research firm covering Internet travel.


"JetBlue is so new that they don't have anything to be ashamed of in being behind in this area," she said. "There isn't anything easy about organizing a targeted e-mail campaign. You just don't shoot one out. And if there is one painful lesson we've learned from the Web, it's that it isn't necessarily bad to take things slowly."


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