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What Brands and Marketers Can Learn From a Flight Attendant
Posted on February 5th 2013
The need for brands, marketers - truthfully all of us, to be completely transparent is paramount in today's world.
- This past July I wrote an article A Transparent, Live Case Study Of A Company Going Social which told the story of a company called Domo, its CEO Josh James and his very forward-thinking ideas on the use of social media among his employees.
So that's one example of the use of the word "transparent."
Back in 2010 I wrote a piece entitled About that whole transparency in social media thing...
That article spoke to the fact that many commenters on blogs and websites do so under the auspices of anonymity - AKA the polar opposite of full transparency.
Chalk another one up for the use and definition of the word "transparent.".
Well the other day I witnessed a whole new way to define and use the word "transparent" and it came from of all people, a flight attendant.
I won't say the name of the airline or what flight I was on but I will share with you a snippet of a conversation that took place between one particular flight attendant and a passenger that inspired me to write the very article you're (hopefully) reading.
Setup: The passenger, who was obviously from another country, was trying to find a place on a very crowded plane to stow a child's toy which presumably was for, a child. Yes, I deduced that all by myself. This passenger and the flight attendant had the following conversation not 3 feet from where I was sitting.
Passenger: "Can I check this since there is no place to keep it on the plane?" (He was asking if he could check the item so the ground crew could stow it with the other larger luggage items, etc.)
Flight Attendant: "Not if you ever want to see it again."
Now truth be told, I was not exactly too thrilled to have this conversation take place literally right on top of me, but as soon as those words came out the flight attendant's mouth, I immediately sat up in my seat.
'Did I just hear what I thought I just heard?' I wondered to myself.
Not only had I heard it, so too did the people around me including a man named Doug Gale, who was seated next to me and who is a director at a global financial company. Up until that point I had no idea who he was but for whatever reason when I heard the flight attendant say those words, I turned to him and said aloud "that was worth the price of admission!"
Why did I say that?
Because I loved it, that's why.
It was honest, forthright, candid and you better believe, transparent.
The flight attendant was looking out for the best interest of the passenger and knew full well that if the toy was checked in, it would essentially be checking out, if you catch my drift. The flight attendant pulled no punches and there was not a second of hesitation on their part.
As a writer/journalist I am always on the lookout for stories, inspirations, and so on that I can share with all of you. Obviously for this forum and in this context those stories are in the fields of branding, marketing, advertising. If I get an inspiration or story idea that does not fall into these buckets, there are other avenues for which to share them.
But as soon as I heard what I heard, I knew I wanted to share it here.
What Brands And Marketers Can Learn From A Flight Attendant
So what can they learn and for that matter ALL of us learn from this flight attendant?
Well first off and this should be painfully obvious but as I previously mentioned, we all need to practice full transparency - both from an individual perspective as well from an organizational/brand one.
The next lesson we can learn is to always put the best interests of your customers, AKA the ones who pay your salary - first and front and center.
Let's say you're a marketer and your boss or your client comes up with an idea for a campaign that you know is doomed to fail.
Do you speak up or say nothing?
Sometimes the hardest thing in life is to tell people something they don't want to hear but NEED to hear.
In the case of the flight attendant they knew, from past experience, that if this item was turned over to the ground crew, it would be a mistake.
If you're a marketer and you know something is doomed to fail based on previous experience, do you not speak up and voice your opinion? An opinion based on experience for that matter. Even at the risk of having your boss or client get angry with you?
Look, I realize I may be taking some creative license with the word "transparent" in sharing this story and juxtaposing into the world of branding, marketing and advertising but, that does not mean there are not valuable lessons to be gleaned from this story, either.
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions.