The Sledgehammer

Fly the Well-Positioned Skies

November 13, 2019

At any given time, there are 200+ actual sledgehammers present in the Heartbeat office. To celebrate their first year on the team, each HB’er receives their very own sledge—a nod to our daily pursuit of tearing down tiresome healthcare marketing. To determine what is built in its place, we often turn to outside industries, cultural forces, and personal experiences. We eagerly share them with one another, and now we’re sharing them with you. Clear the way—here comes The Sledgehammer.

Brand positioning is exalted as the most critical thing for a brand’s success. To that end, marketers spend extensive time researching, testing, debating, revising, and refining what will ultimately become a single sentence or two. Positioning should be an identity that pervades everything about a product and the experience of interacting with that product. When we create a brand position, we should use it to create an entire universe!

The two airlines that take this to new heights are JetBlue and Delta. Consider the contrast between them:

If we were to characterize JetBlue’s bubbly and colorful positioning, we’d call it the airline that elevates the average flyer. Just look at its tagline: “you above all.” It’s the airline that restores humanity to flying, even if you’re not Mr. or Ms. Fancy Pants.

Delta, on the other hand—with its stark and serious black and white photography and its “Keep climbing” tagline—is the airline for the powerful traveler. If you’re a go-getter or a big shot at work and you need to travel for important reasons, then Delta’s the one for you!

The beauty of these brands is that their positioning doesn’t stop at ads. They deliver all across the flying experience:


Product design
They build their planes to align with their brand position!
– JetBlue gives you more leg room in coach.
– Delta hypes its business and first-class experiences.


– JetBlue touts its options at regional airports (because remember, you’re an average person from an average town).
– Meanwhile, Delta hypes its hundreds of flights from NYC (because you’re either in the C-suite or want to get there).

Digital User Experience
– Look at “Travel Info” menu—it’s dominated by the amenities you get in any class. It’s all about Delta One, Delta Premium Select, First Class, Delta ComfortPlus—the fancy stuff.

– JetBlue ran a promotion on April Fool’s Day: if you were flying that day and your name was April, you flew free—literally elevating “ordinary” travelers.
– Delta, on the other hand, runs campaigns like their “Go Friday” Slack sweepstakes, which declared it would help New Yorkers reclaim their summer Fridays (because remember, you’re a business executive!).

It’s not that JetBlue can only talk about coach, or that Delta can only talk about business class, but the airlines made bold decisions to own particular territories and then ensured that those decisions pervaded everything about flying on that airline.

The strongest brands claim a unique place in a consumer’s mind—to ensure this happens for your brand, don’t let positioning stop with an ad. Let that be just the beginning.

Blog Thumbnail Photo by Nathan Hobbs on Unsplash