Delta Airlines

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

26 June 2014

Delta Airlines lives up to its brand promise 

Apparently, Delta Airlines is taking market share form its competitors. It seems that Delta is growing in almost every market, and American/US Airways and United are shrinking to an almost perfect correlation to the growth being captured by Delta. Delta is even gaining against low-cost carriers like JetBlue.

Now I am sure you expect a brand man like me to credit Delta Airline’s growth to its brand and you would be right. “Keep Climbing” is the best brand theme line in the entire airline industry because it is one of the few that is about the flyer and not the company. It answers quite nicely who we believe we are when we chose Delta. We are someone getting ahead and succeeding in all things.

Delta AirlinesBut, I do not believe, as terrific as the Delta brand promise is, that the slogan is the sole reason the airline is winning the battle for a finite pool of customers. Trust me on this. Delta Airlines has culturally decided that it needed to win more than your airfare. It wanted to transform the experience as best as it could. The theme line came about because the culture permitted it. Looking at your business from the outside in changes everything and, in this case, it also changed the theme.

I’m A Different Frequent Flyer

I am a Global Services flyer with United. It is their highest status. It is so secretive that United doesn’t release the criteria needed to gain that status. Supposedly, I am treated the best by United. Sometimes, that’s true. Most times, however, I am just another weary face boarding a beat up and worn out aircraft.

My status does permit me to board first, behind folks who need extra time to board because of infirmity and military service people in uniform. This provides me with the wondrous advantage of sitting on the hard, uncomfortable seats longer than the last to board and a birds-eye view of all the other harried and angry passengers.

I fly Delta Airlines occasionally and I have to say it treats me better with no status than United usually does with its highest level of affinity. Delta still brings little bags of pretzels or treats to my seat with my choice of beverage. It staff is always professionally dressed and seem to smile more.

I am not noticing this because Delta Airlines has told me to “Keep Climbing,” but I think it is being delivered as a real promise more often than not to the traveler. The flight crew has embraced it as well. Delays and plane troubles are part of the experience for everyone today, but you would be surprised how much easier it is to take when the messenger is professional and understanding.

So keep climbing Delta. If I were given equal status on your airline as I have with United, I would never fly United again.


  1. Mike Oz

    Never really thought about it that way. “Keep Climbing” is the best in the industry, but it does have to fulfill that promise to be effective.

    It seems to be working for Delta. But it’s a hard road for any airline because we all think they are terrible.

  2. Corbin

    Good brand promises are just as much as statement to internal stakeholders as it is to consumers.

    When internal stakeholders embrace the brand they make it real. To your point that the slogan does not deserve all the success, that is true but without it how would the employees make it real?


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