Years ago, I began flying a particular airline because they offered great fares, but I stuck with them because they became my habit. Even after discovering better rates elsewhere, I chose to remain loyal to that familiar, unchanging face. Knowing what to expect from them built trust. Trust led to that much-needed feeling of safety. The feeling of safety – from an airline no less – trumped any dollar value. But after an unintentional encounter with another airline, it was love at first flight. For the first time, I realized that familiarity and trust might create a relationship, but not necessarily a strong or long one. What my one-flight-stand showed me was that even brand loyalists need more than just a safe bet.I had long allowed myself to believe that lower prices justified poor treatment. Why smile at me when I’m not paying as much? Why talk to me when I’m not worth as much? It was an understandable and acceptable tradeoff. That is, until my flight-in-shining-amour came along [flight-pun quota exceeded]. And there I was. Paying less. The skycap not only smiled at me, he joked with me. The attendant at the gate – she made eye contact while she spoke. Real. Human. Exchanges. Who knew a ‘cheap fare’ could make someone feel so valuable? Then there were the no-bull departure times and routine early arrivals. They delivered on their promises, brilliantly managed my expectations, and disrupted my longstanding habit in the most beautiful way.I was in the arms of another brand and I…felt…appreciated.Before I knew it, I craved witty intercom musings, and to be whisked away in a seat of my own choosing. Peanuts, pretzels, whatever…I was hooked. With this wing, I thee wed. Goodbye, dreary blue fabric, assigned seating, and baggage fees. It was time for a brand divorce. It made me wonder how many other brand breakups ended the same way.Marriage and brand relationships are not terribly different. To be divorce-proof, they both must maintain two contrasting feelings: safety, which comes with steady consistency, predictability, familiarity, and reliability; and stimulation through things like disruption, newness, unpredictability* and discovery. Both ensure our freedom and ongoing evolution – our physical and emotional survival. Both elicit the same kind of loyal and disloyal behaviors dependent on met or unmet needs & wants. For us women in particular, we’re often pegged as the ones in the relationship that need more safety than stimulation, more comfort than discovery. But do we?
**To this day, I fly my fave even if it means I have to go all the way to Baltimore to get to a meeting two minutes from Reagan. I fly to Midway even if my hotel has the words “O’Hare” in it. Yes, I’m that loyal. If you stay consistent, deliver on your promises, and treat customers well, maybe they’ll give you the brand “I do” too.
Signed, Love-a-fare Lori
Lori McIlwain | ViaMark Creative Services
*This doesn’t mean unexpected baggage fees, but way to kill the romance.
**Speaking of women – use consistent elements in your identity and messaging, but show women personality, too. Hitting us over the head with obvious copy and literal visuals may win you a date, but it’ll end at first base. Tell us a joke. Talk to us as if we’re more decisive than dependent. Tampons and minivans, you think that’s all we buy? The upsell pitch after every oil change – are you trying to make us break up with you? Gah. Don’t let your brand die alone-