Why bother?

united  ssssjpgHow many companies can lay claim to being the perennial poster child for terrible service in their category?

Comcast is one for sure. And, then, there’s my beloved New Jersey Transit. NJT totally dominates the bottom of any Garden State customer satisfaction list.

But, NO ONE can touch United’s remarkably dismal performance record. And, to their discredit, United’s bottom-feeding performance is remarkably consistent. Year-in and year-out, United OWNS the aft section of any airline ratings report.

Just last week, for example, The Middle Seat’s annual scorecard of the nine major U.S. carriers placed United in the cellar for the second straight year. That’s eye-opening. It’s also a differentiator worth exploiting for marketing purposes.

Predictably, United tried to put a positive spin on their turbulent results (sadly, though, the words carry about as much weight as a United pilot’s announcing a “minor” delay).

Here’s what United’s EVP for marketing, technology and strategy, Jeffrey Foland, told The Middle Seat, “We have had a material improvement but we know we have more to do.”

C’mon, that’s like the Titanic’s Captain Smith saying, “We know we’ve struck a berg, but we’re still expecting an on-time arrival in New York.”

I think United should stop with all the double-talk and feel good messaging (i.e. they recently re-introduced the legendary ‘Fly the friendly skies’ advertising campaign’).

Instead, United should own the words, phrases and images that align with their performance.

I’m thinking of taglines such as:

– ‘You really didn’t need that bag, did you?’

– ‘If you think your life is tough, try flying United”

– ‘United: Your day just got worse.’

And, my personal favorite:

‘Why bother?’

Most of us ignore feel-good advertising and boastful taglines because they don’t match our actual experiences with the brand.

But, that doesn’t stop Madison Avenue types from dusting off such totally off-base campaigns as the current United one. And, so it goes……

On that note, here’s one last suggested tagline:
“United: Sipping our own Kool-Aid.”

And a free First Class upgrade to Greg Schmalz for suggesting this post.

15 thoughts on “Why bother?

  1. I heard through the grape vine that they are trademarking the following slogan:

    United- the mark sanchez of airlnes.

    • Oh c’mon – Sanchez may be inept but he’s not surly. The way things are going, Christie may be a better choice.

  2. Agreed, Stan. Apparently, no airline bumped more passengers from previously reserved seats in 2013 than United. Now, that’s what I call pouring salt on the wound. Delays, cranky flight attendants and lost bags are one thing. But, leading the category in tossing people off planes has to be an all-time low for this bottom-feeder.

  3. I think Nixon is timeless, Peter. You don’t think Gen X and Millennials know about Richard M. Nixon and his brooding, paranoid ways, and would get the analogy?

      • We (millennials) get the reference, we just don’t care. United would have to first change their entire business model to align with JetBlue or Virgin to appeal to millennials. Actually, to appeal to anybody.

  4. American Airlines had one of the most improved brands of 2013 (although, rebranding and being featured in a Disney movie is kind of cheating.) Do you think their merger with United will hurt them more than it helps United?

  5. Hi Sienna. I’m pretty sure American is merging with US Airways. Regardless, I doubt it will improve anything. United totally destroyed Continental Airlines after those two merged.