Rebel Europe - More on the Airlines // On the Run

Quick disclaimer: I’m not coming back from a week in Europe to say that they’re better than we are. There are plenty of things we do better over here (burritos, for one). But... While there I took four inter-European flights. Amsterdam to London and back, and back again. That makes me feel like an expert. Here’s what they’re doing right and we’re not:

They’re nice. The check-in, security, and boarding processes are all basically the same as at home. You still have to take out your laptop, take off your shoes, and so on. But first of all it’s faster. Not sure, why, because like I said, the process is the same, and there seems to be roughly the same number of attendants. In fact, it may be more labor intensive. There’s an attendant that helps each person with the x-ray conveyor. Helps you take your liquids, etc. out of your back and makes sure you haven’t left any change in your pocket.

Somehow at home, this is a degrading experience, someone standing over your shoulder, barking out orders like you’re a child. These people in Europe act like they’re performing you a service, which they are. I’m not explaining it very well, but it’s just different.

Everything on the flight is for sale. Just like at home now. The difference is that they have good stuff for sale. Nice little toasted sandwiches. The Todd English food on Delta sucks compared to these joints for two bucks or so.

And the airports are nice. One time I flew out of London’s Stansted airport. About a hour outside of town. Geographically, it’s a bit like flying out of Ontario or Long Beach. But this is a huge beautiful airport. Not to mention that both Heathrow and Schiphol make LAX look like a dump in terms of both aesthetics and services.

Anybody know what the problem is?

Something else I noticed in Europe: There’s a VIP club you can join at Schiphol. And very cool stores, like Paul Smith, Nike, and Armani. We have Brookstone. Please. Heathrow has a mall that rivals South Coast Plaza.

Schiphol has massage rooms, showers, and an on-site hotel.

The point is, the airport actually takes some responsibility for the customer experience. And they should. Why leave it all up to the airlines to manage the interaction? Especially after years of proving they don’t get it. Ok, LAX does have the secret service for celebrities, but what about the rest of us, who patronize that business on a weekly or monthly basis and just tolerate it? Screw that. LAX should realize that we’re their customers and treat us as such. Happy customers spend money. Treat us right.

By the way: American just introduced some sort of crazy first class service at Heathrow. Private check-in lounge and a Flagship Club, which is adjacent to, and better than the Admirals Club. I didn’t go in, but I’m getting the message that they’re getting the message.

Rebelize It:

Make the airport a fun place to be. Be selective about who you rent space to, and hire people who understand customer service. The airport should be a guided tour that is both pleasant to easy. Make it somewhere people want to come early, hang out, and spend money. Not a fluorescent clusterfuck that people dread going to and can’t wait to get out of.

Rebel Europe - Day Two // On the Run

At the invitation of my friend Dr. Carl Rohde, head of Science of the Times trend-filter network, your humble servant was co-keynote speaker at the Dutch marketing conference Consumentrends 2008. The two-day conference, held at a very cool beachfront resort about a half hour north of Amsterdam, is a gathering of Holland’s leading marketers who come to receive insight and inspiration by functional experts and the like. The audience included representation from Phillips, fashion trade Textilia, ABN-AMRO and Pfizer, among others. Dr. Rohde — trend expert par excellence — and I both spoke about trends, although his presentation was slightly more macro, covering such topics as Web 2.0, environment, and consumers over 50. I found it very interesting, although it was in Dutch so I didn’t understand most of what he said. Great pictures, though.

My talk focused on what American brands are doing right, and what some of them are doing wrong, particularly in engaging audiences in meaningful, authentic ways. Send me an email if you want a copy of the presentation and we’ll work something out.

Couple things I noticed...

Pepsi is killing it over there. Saw it served in several places that would likely have been Coke venues in the States, including the Beachclub Republiek, where the convention was held. A bit like a Dutch version of Nikki Beach.

People asked really thoughtful questions. One guy wanted to know how companies decide – or perhaps how they should decide – what brand extensions are appropriate. For example, I mentioned what Scion and P&G have done with branded record labels, so they wanted to know how a brand might decide whether that’s appropriate. Unfortunately, it seems most brands don’t give nearly enough thought to what is, and what’s not appropriate. For example: Cartier’s recent MySpace profile launch. Are you kidding me?