United has greatly improved their business class product over the last couple of years. The reveal of Polaris in mid 2016 ahead of their new 777-300er deliveries promised both a better soft product and a better hard product, as well as new lounges. You can see and track their improvements on their Polaris site.
In order to reveal their new product, they created this Youtube video.
Looks great, right?
Well, United failed at their marketing for the product. Spectacularly.
At the time of the reveal, not a single airplane had the new seats.
United revealed the product in June 2016, but their first 777-300er delivery came in December of that year. That means that for a six month period, some people were expecting the new seats but didn’t get them. Instead, they got seats that looked like this:
Or worse, like this.
But it was not a big deal, because after all, it was just the reveal. After the official release, United would put the new hard products on planes relatively quickly, right?
The first retrofitted 767 plane didn’t go into service until September 2017…
The first retrofitted plane didn’t come out until nine months after the first delivery came with the new seats.
…And the first retrofitted 777 only went into service earlier this year.
Over two years after the seats were originally revealed, only 11 planes have been retrofitted and 17 planes have been delivered with the Polaris seats. This is a tiny percentage of United’s fleet of hundreds of planes.
From December 2016, all international flights were branded as Polaris.
When people saw the Polaris name, they thought they would get the new Polaris seat. They ended up getting disappointed when they got similar seats to the above photos.
What could United have done differently?
United probably should have focused more on the soft product while marketing rather than the hard product. While most ads such as the video above touch upon the soft product, if United had just focused on their new Sacs Fifth Avenue bedding, enhanced food, and other improvements that are on the majority of routes, they would be a lot more better off.
I hope you have enjoyed this post. See you soon for another!
[Featured image screenshot taken from official Polaris site]