Column: Marketing tips you can learn from the Blue Angels

Andrew Ballard

Andrew Ballard

I was among many that enjoyed the Blue Angels’ performance this summer during Seafair.

While listening to the television narrator, I realized the discipline and preparation that goes into their show has many similarities to what is necessary for a successful marketing program.

Since 1946, the Blue Angels (named after a famous New York nightclub) have been wowing audiences around the world — they’ve flown over nearly a half a billion people.

Their primary mission is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Flight Demonstration Squadron as a means of recruiting for the Navy, clearly a marketing function.

As Marine Corps Capt. Corrie Mays, who is the events coordinator for the Blues Angels, explained the rigors of their program during the television broadcast, I took away four parallels that are central to effective marketing.

Teamwork: The Blue Angels have 126 team members; most are behind the scenes, and each one carries out a critical mission and coordinated duty.

This is a good company model. Your entire team (not just sales and marketing) should be aware of the marketing program and their respective roles.

Every successful organization, I believe, is a marketing organization.

From the person who answers the phone to the person who delivers the product, they are all part of the marketing team. This is as much about culture as it is communications.

It is management’s job to ensure everyone in the organization is up to speed on the marketing mission.

Conditioning: Blue Angels pilots fly a $28 million F/A-18 Hornet at nearly Mach-1, often executing maneuvers that pull over seven G’s.

Their pilots do not wear G-suits (pressurized garments to keep the blood from pooling in the legs during strenuous maneuvers.)

You need to be in excellent condition to withstand that kind of stress and keep from “blacking out” during a performance.

The same is true for your marketing program. Your people and systems must be able to manage the stress generated by your marketing program.

Map the entire “customer experience” — from point-of-entry to purchase and service to retention. Identify areas in bad shape and begin conditioning.

Preflight: The Blue Angels always go through many preflight planning sessions before they hit the tarmac. Followed by a highly choreographed “walk down” preflight routine as the Blue Angel pilots climb into their F-18 Hornets, start them up, and taxi out for takeoff.

Your company can go through a similar process before launching a marketing initiative. Go through a “preflight” checklist to make sure your systems are up and everyone involved knows what to do.

Just as the Blue Angels have a “low-altitude show” they perform on cloudy days, you, too, may need to have a contingency ready.

Debrief: After every show, the Blue Angels debrief. They go over video and discuss each maneuver. They resolve communications, coordination and areas needing improvement. Do you and your team debrief after each marketing venture?

Do you know what went right and wrong, and, most importantly, why? Think of the added preparation you’d go though if failure meant endangering lives.

Thankfully, most of us aren’t held to that standard — but could you imagine how much your marketing program would improve if you were?

If you and your entire organization focus on teamwork, conditioning, preflight and debriefing, even to a lesser extent than the Blue Angels do, you’ll experience far better results, and your marketing program won’t likely “black out.”

Andrew Ballard is president of Marketing Solutions, an agency specializing in growth strategies. For more information, call 425-337-1100 or go to www.mktg-solutions.com.

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