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Delta: How the World’s Most-Flown Airline Keeps Climbing


At Storyforge, we are obsessed with learning about the origins of successful brands, hearing their heritage stories and uncovering the lines that connect their founding philosophies with their present-day successes.

We’ve found that, more often than not, the keys to a brand’s future success lie in unlocking the original philosophies and values.

The keys to a brand’s future success lie in unlocking the original philosophies and values.

Take Delta, as an example. By passenger numbers, it is the most flown airline in the world. What started as a crop-dusting service in 1924, is now the world’s most valuable airline by market capitalization and consistently tops customer service surveys.

In fact, most of the elements of air travel we now take for granted, and that have been copied by every carrier, were introduced by Delta. A look at their list of “firsts” reveals an astonishing array of services each of which was revolutionary at the time of introduction.

How can a 90-year-old airline still lead the pack, still lead innovation and still top satisfaction polls? One only has to look back to its origin and the philosophies on which Delta was built, eloquently articulated by founder CE Woolman, credited with establishing the Delta Difference:

“There is only about two percent difference between success and failure — and that two percent is the determination and singleness of purpose that makes us do things. Without it, we are just another airline — with it, nothing can stop us.”

This quote is both profound in its simplicity and its gravitas. This quote from Woolman represents a leadership mindset we see in every successful brand; the idea that singleness of purpose is all it takes to succeed.

We sometimes dismiss simple ideas and concepts in favor of complex systems and solutions. After all, isn’t our business complex? As complex as a business may be, adding further complexity is rarely the answer.

Simple is hard, simple isn’t easy, but simple and single-mindedness of purpose may be all that is separating you from your vision.

It’s what allows Delta to “Keep Climbing.”

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