Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

These aren't easy times for the airline industry.

Somehow, a mixture of happenstance -- the Boeing 737 MAX grounding, for example -- and airlines' own money-gouging ways have created a sense of tired mistrust among customers.

Surely, though, at least one or two airlines still feel the love. 

Or, in the case of Southwest Airlines, the Luv. 

Well, I've just cast eye on a new study performed by brand consultancy MBLM. 

Its shtick it to examine what it calls Brand Intimacy. This is, apparently, "the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love."

You might imagine that airlines -- and, indeed, other travel brands -- may not soar in the love department.

Here's MBLM's verdict

The travel industry ranked last out of the 15 industries studied for the fourth consecutive year.

MBLM's managing partner Mario Natarelli is enthusiastic with his criticism of airlines in particular: 

These brands have become associated with inconvenience and mistrust, as consumers have become frustrated with baggage fees, delays and cancellations. The airline approach appears more transactional than relationship oriented, which we believe would be a much more compelling strategy and one that creates stronger bonds and more powerful connections.

Which leaves one to wonder just how bad it is.

Well, Southwest was indeed voted the most brand-intimate of the airlines.

Hurrah, I hear you cry.

Please temper that as I tell you that, among all brands, it came in 109th place.

JetBlue, Alaska and Delta were next in the intimacy department.

Filling the rear end of proceedings -- among U.S. airlines -- was United

It staggered in at number 167 overall and 10th among airlines.

One statistic loomed above all others. A mere 11 percent of respondents said they can't live without United.

This compares to, oh, a mere 16 percent who can't live without Southwest.

But seriously, are there really many brands that, ultimately, we can't live without?

Well, number 1 out of all brands in the intimacy score was Disney. A startling 26 percent of respondents claimed they can't live without it.

Which, some might mutter, says a little too much about the world today.

Apple came in at number 2. A quite staggering 38 percent of its lovers say they can't live without it. Which beats Amazon -- the number 3 brand -- by 6 percent.

Of course, one shouldn't conclude too deeply from such research. After all, the number 4 brand was -- please prepare for a tremor -- Chevrolet.

If anything, these numbers for airlines show that once human feelings about a brand -- or, indeed, an industry -- lurch toward negativity, it's hard to bring them back toward the light.

As I fly around, I don't see that United or American are truly so much worse than many of the others. Not so much worse.

Yet, one moment encapsulated for me how many customers currently feel about the airline business. 

I was on stage at this year's SXSW and mentioned in mere passing that I sometimes write about airlines.

With entire and disturbing spontaneity, the whole audience booed.

Published on: Jun 1, 2019
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