The Curious Case of Delta Airlines

The Curious Case of Delta Airlines

My daughter Lena stopped by for a visit this week on her way to Los Angeles where she will help organize fittings for pilots at Delta Airlines as they release new uniforms for the first time in decades. Her visit made me think about the curious case of Delta Airlines when it comes to growing your brand in a positive way.

When I first started flying, I was a loyal Delta flier when they had a slogan “We love to fly and it shows!” I always felt like they had a hospitality factor advantage. Then a major merger and years of cost cutting from profit-focused leadership led to the airline deteriorating as employees no longer felt empowered or proud. They were unhappy and it showed.

Today, Delta is coming back, and its attempt says a lot about how to win in the Purpose Revolution. The company started treating employees like team members again, empowered people to make decisions, led the way in doing away with expiration of airline points and added free wifi for Sky miles members. While Southwest had the old storyline, Delta was ranked recently as one of the ten most relevant companies in America alongside companies like Tesla and Google. Relevant is defined as the amount and percentage of positive social media posts/comments.

It turns out the majority of that was driven by employees speaking positively about Delta. This matters because a recent study showed we only believe about six percent of what companies say in advertisements. Yes SIX! Who do we believe? Well, about 75% of us say we believe what employees say about the company.

If you want to win in the Purpose Revolution, start by treating your employees like they matter. Start thinking about the world the way your customers think about it. After all, when Deloitte asked how employees decide if a company is purpose-focused, they look first to how you treat your customers and how you treat your employees. And if there is one metric you MUST measure in the Purpose Revolution: whether your people know and believe in your purpose. They are your best ambassadors. At Delta, they helped the company stand out in an industry where today it’s hard to build brand differentiation. Sorry Southwest, you’re yesterday’s old news now.

I stopped flying Delta years ago, but I am back now. I must admit they seem to love to fly again… and it shows.


Dr. John Izzo has spoken to over one million people, advised over 500 companies, authored nine best-selling books, and helped some of the world's most admired companies. He has been a pioneer in creating successful businesses and emerging work trends for over twenty-five years.

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