Beware the Impossible Guarantee
"When we started out, we had to come up with promotions that were colorful and made good stories to get the media coverage we couldn't afford. But one of the big risks with marketing is creating expectations that cannot be fulfilled.
"A recent example: We have, I believe, the quickest baggage delivery in the industry. From the time the plane stops at the jetway until the first bag arrives on the baggage carousel should be no more than eight minutes. People constantly tell us how surprised they are that their 'last-minute' bag arrived so quickly. So we started talking about using this in our advertising.
"Now wait a second, we're able to do that most of the time. In some stations, though, the plane is located so far away from the baggage-claim area that we couldn't deliver on that promise. Well, gee, if we do it 82% of the time, why don't we just write off the other 18%? You can't. If you get a customer who's flying you for the first time, and he's read this, and you don't deliver on it, he never flies you again.
"We have turned down many promotions because they imposed too great a burden on our people. The staff can't provide good customer service if they're distracted by some new guarantee, and you've got to remember that advertising is a message to your people as well as to the outside world."
-- Herb Kelleher, Cofounder and CEO of Southwest Airlines