Guest Post by Maria Adcock, BiculturalMama
Spirit Airlines, the low cost no frills airline, recently sent an email to its customers with the subject line, “Want to See Our Weiner?” Upon opening the email, the viewer saw a picture of a hot dog with the phrase, “THE WEINER SALE With Fares Too HARD to Resist” with the word “HARD” bolded in all caps. It then stated, “Fares from $9 each way based on roundtrip purchase.”
Perhaps Spirit Airlines wanted to ride the wave of media attention regarding the recent scandal involving Congressman Anthony Weiner. Perhaps the airline simply intended to use sex to sell tickets. Nevertheless, Spirit Airlines failed in Marketing 101 by sending an off branded email. It smelled of desperation, it certainly would offend some, and if $9 fares alone couldn’t peak customers’ interest then something was wrong.
An email that touted the low $9 fares would have been adequate to entice people to open its email. The sex-driven email, however, did not persuade me to purchase more than what I already would have. Thank goodness I opened the email at home instead of in an office where the subject line alone could have been mistaken for porn.
Spirit Airlines went further, sending an email two days later with the subject line, “The Weiner Sale Expansion – Bigger and Better!” The body copy stated, “Don’s lie…size does matter! But don’t worry, we’re not enlarging our fares. We’re expanding our Weiner Sale!” I started to wonder if Spirit Airlines wanted to only target men obsessed with their size, because at this point I was turned off. It felt cheap, like Spirit Airlines thought its customers were so dimwitted that only the use of sexual insinuations would get our attention.
It all went back to branding – does Spirit Airlines want to be known as the carrier that must resort to blasting its customers with weiner-referenced emails because $9 fares weren’t enough? Spirit Airlines needs to assess who they are because its current branding leaves customers puzzled.
Maria Adcock is a marketing consultant, MBA, and creator of www.BiculturalMama.com. Maria formerly worked at General Mills, Sara Lee, Time Warner and other brand management and media companies.