Suddenly Marketing

Brand Messaging | Content Strategy | Writing

Your Marketing’s Worthless If …

You invest a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and cold hard cash in creating the best marketing you can. You slave over brand development, agonize over your USP, tinker endlessly with your tag line. You eat, sleep, and breathe lead generation, conversion, market penetration, niches, verticals, bounce rates, automation, and content. You’re inspired, integrated, and optimized to within an inch of your life.

But it might all be for nothing.

This is a familiar soapbox I’m about to climb onto (see – Let’s Forget About Marketing for a Minute), but I believe with every marketing (and human!) gene in my body that what I’m about to say bears repeating.  So, in case you missed my first rant, here’s  my point:

You have to offer your customers more than marketing.

People are overwhelmed with marketing messages. They are becoming desensitized to even the slickest, most psycho-tactical (I just made word that up) marketing campaigns. The over-saturation of marketing in their daily lives has made consumers (especially B2B consumers) a jaded and cynical bunch. They’ve heard it all before. They’ve seen that song and dance. They aren’t interested in marketingese and they aren’t falling for any advertising … no matter how clever.

How can you get past such apathy?

Simple – wow them with a superior product, excellent service, and a delightful experience. Yes, I just said “delightful.” And I meant it.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I recently flew to San Francisco for business. On the way out, I flew American; on the way back – JetBlue. I hope I never have to fly American again. It wasn’t that American was that awful. It was adequate. They got me where I needed to go on time and in one piece. If I’d flown them on the way home as well, I wouldn’t have had anything to say about the experience. It was almost a non-experience, if you know what I mean – just another commoditized travel affair.

But I didn’t fly them on the way home. I flew JetBlue, and the contrast in service and comfort is definitely something to write home about:

  • American: Lousy, center aisle TVs with lame re-runs of syndicated cable shows like Cash Cab
  • JetBlue: Individual, seat back TVs with on-demand programming, recent movies, and a gazillion music channels
  • American: A sad selection of for-purchase snacks that were mostly gone by the time the flight attendant reached me at the mid-section of the plane. Most options were of the cafeteria variety – wrapped in plastic, wilted, and the color of paste.
  • JetBlue: A wide variety of free snacks including some classic faves and some new ones I just had to try. Boxed meals that looked good enough to be offered by a local eatery and available in several, customer-centric options (wake up, cheer up, and power up, to name a few).
  • American: Small seats packed so close together that even my 5’6” frame was cramped and I was unable to open my laptop far enough to be able to read the screen
  • JetBlue: Enough room to stretch my legs out without touching the seat in front of me – allowing me to work productively for several hours

Both airlines did what they had to do – they got me from point A to point B without any tragedy. But, only JetBlue put themselves in my shoes and went the extra mile to deliver a superior product, service that made me comfortable beyond my expectations, and an experience “delightful” enough to inspire me to write this post. Out of curiosity, I took a quick peek at the main websites for American and JetBlue. I wasn’t surprised to find that JetBlue’s site included content under the header “JetBlue Experience” that was all about these “wow factor” elements. American didn’t have any similar content on their site.

By the way – the difference in cost between the two tickets: the JetBlue flight cost me a whopping $7.58 more than the American flight. The difference in the service was worth way more than that.

The lesson

My decision on which airline to fly wasn’t based on any marketing, but my future airline decisions will most definitely be based on my actual experience in the air. It’s important to remember that though your marketing might bring you a customer, only your product, service, and experience can keep one. Ensure that your marketing doesn’t go to waste by aligning the reality of what you deliver with the intention of your marketing messages. It’s easy to fool someone once with glossy, shiny, marketing; but if you can’t deliver the goods, you will have lost that opportunity forever and – with the potential of social media to spread word-of-mouth tales – quite possibly lose many more opportunities as well.

So, market to your heart’s content, but don’t forget that marketing isn’t your real job. Delivering “delightful” products, services, and experience is your job. Do it well.

Have you had any similiar experiences? How did they impact your buying decisions?

Image Credit: Sisyphus by Titan, 1549. Sourced from Squidoo.


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  1. GREAT story..great comparison…great lesson.

    Really enjoyed this Jaime. In reality, it doesn’t take much, does it? But boy do the little things matter.

    Great perspective :-)


    • Jamie Lee

      The little things DO matter … much more than we might think.

      As a follow-up to the post, I’m traveling to NY at the end of the month to cover a media event. Can you guess which airline I’ll be flying?

  2. Jon

    “Though your marketing might bring you a customer, only your product, service, and experience can keep one.” That is sooo true. Very well stated.

    The experience is everything now more than ever. This likely has a lot to do with social media because what do most people do when they’re blown away by something? Text it. Tweet it. Status update about it on Facebook.

    When they’re ticked off? Same thing. So you had better over-deliver if you’re marketing/selling something these days.

    Not that glamorous or exciting but I love the experience of working with HostGator as my web host. Great live chat support, they’ve sent me coupons for different services when I didn’t expect them, and have solved my problems quickly and in a friendly manner. I’ll never stray even though there are cheaper alternatives.


    • Jamie Lee

      Thanks for stopping by, Jon … and for your insights.

      You’re absolutely right about the impact of social media … it’s like the Big Brother business never really wanted, right? 😉 Hopefully, the end game will be better quality products and services as the public opinion weeds out the lesser options.

      Your HostGator story is a perfect example of what I’m talking about … those little things and attention to detail that make a difference to real people in their real lives. THAT’s the stuff that counts.

      TKS again!

  3. Hi Jamie,

    Very nicely written post here, as usual!
    Reading this, I was reminded of a post I wrote a couple of months ago, which I will go ahead and link you to right here:

    But yes, I believe more and more that what you point out is becoming the new, and best, way to do business–create that delightful experience where you nearly forget you are even a customer!

    Thanks for your insights as always, Jamie.

    Best wishes,


    • Jamie Lee

      Always so nice to see you here. :)
      Read your post (isn’t it funny how leaving a comment can sometimes inspire your best thinking?) – great points made along the same lines. It’s not just about the product – it’s about the experience.

      Two additional resources:
      Scott Gould’s blog: (I love his work on experience-based business and frameworks) He’s @scottgould on Twitter
      I just downloaded Guy Kawasaki’s new book “Enchantment” which looks to be about many of the same themes and concepts:

      Enjoy & thanks for joining the conversation!

  4. Dear Jamie,

    I could not agree with you more and have had this exact conversation about the same two Airlines with friends and colleagues.

    I used to have to fly to Romania for work and would ALWAYS do whatever it took to book my flight through Air France and avoid American or Continental. If I fly to NY there is not even an option for me to fly on anything other than Jet Blue and I will add one more key that is even more subtle and inexpensive than cool airplanes, better food, more space or awesome lounges – genuine people/employees who give a sh*t about me.

    I always pay particular attention to a person who does not even take the time to smile when I board a plane and unfortunately this is the absolute norm at AA.

    My experience with both Jet-blue and Air France has been that people seem to care and even go out of their way to make things more fun or comfortable for everyone.

    Unfortunately, a lot of people from many service based companies forget that THEY are the Brand and that with very little effore, they could not only make themselves a favor (by maintaining customers and thus preserving their jobs) but also enjoy life a bit more by adding more value than what they are bring “paid” for.

    I highly recommend Thank you Economy just released yesterday by Gary Vaynerchuck.

    A Big hug to you,


    • Jamie Lee

      Having worked in retail way (way!) back in the day, I have very little patience for service providers (B2C or B2B) who don’t make my experience exceptional. My stint in retail was mostly at a jeweler in Boston’s diamond district. Each morning, I put on a “character” to do my job. No matter what was happening in my personal life, I got into my role and tried to make each customer feel special and appreciated.

      I had the pleasure of speaking with UK-based “experience dude” Scott Gould (@scottgould on Twitter … follow him!) last year and wrote about “Pyramid of Expectations” here: I have a feeling it’ll be right up your alley!

      … and now, I’m off to book some JetBlue flights for my end of the month trip.

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