We had quite a bit of commentary on a recent blog concerning celebrity spokespeople, with lots of smart opinions on both sides of the debate. Personally, I think most celebrity endorsements don’t make much sense from an ROI standpoint. I’m a big, big believer in word-of-mouth as being the single most cost effective way to reach consumers in an increasingly fractured and disintermediated marketplace (with good old public relations running a strong number two).
I recently came across a great example of smart, cost effective word-of-mouth marketing with JetBlue’s new campaign. While it does include some traditional radio and TV spots, it really "takes off" by coupling the ads with word-of-mouth tactics. So, while the TV spots tell personal "war stories" of happy JetBlue customers, the word-of-mouth campaign takes it to cruising altitude by inviting other customers to e-mail their favorite JetBlue "experiences" to a microsite (with the potential of seeing their stories translated into commercials). But, wait, there’s more. JetBlue is also building "story booths" in 18 major airports. At the futuristic-looking booths, a virtual JetBlue crew member will guide passengers as they enter their stories. There will also be simple postcards handed out and mailed to JetBlue customers asking them to share their experience stories.
How cool and how smart is all that? More to the point, how much more engaging is this strategy than, say, paying some bogus Hollywood celebrity millions of dollars to say he or she likes JetBlue? Ho hum. So, here’s a message from the cockpit to my traditional advertising and celebrity spokesperson "passengers," fasten those seat belts tight around your waists, be sure your tray tables are up and your seat backs are in the locked position. You’ll be experiencing quite a bit of turbulence in years to come as word-of-mouth continues to outsmart and outperform your traditional approaches.