In today’s blog, I wanted to focus on some of the interesting low-cost carrier shock marketing techniques used by budget airlines, aka LCCs, to get the message across around their unbundled base fare offerings.
First of all, let me introduce a few concepts. The first is the concept of a low-cost carrier, of LCC. Low-Cost Carriers are airlines that deconstruct their fare bundles to the most basic atomic unit – the bare fare. Anything additional costs extra – such as seats or bags. LCCs are carriers such as Spirit or Frontier in the US, or Ryanair or easyJet in Europe.
Travellers LOVE to HATE them. We all complain about being nickled and time for every little thing in aviation, but then out of the other side of our mouths complain just the same about high fares. We as consumers can’t have it both ways. Low-Cost Carriers have tried to give cost-sensitive consumers at least one of things they want – low fares (often at the expense of customer service, a flying experience, and amenities). The better low-cost carriers manage to at least offer low-fares that lack amenities and customer service with humor and a smile – check out my recent blog on flying Spirit if you are still a skeptic.
As such, these carriers often need to roll-out Low-Cost Carrier campaigns to educate their consumer base about their offerings, their fares, what IS included, and what is NOT included, so that expectations are set the moment customers step foot in the airport.
And that’s the main thing Low-Cost Carrier marketing campaigns aim to do – set expectations upfront to avoid customer satisfaction meltdowns down the road. if customers understand what’s expected of them, why fares are so cheap, and the tacit agreement around the creature comforts and elements of basic humanity passengers are expected to give up for such low fares, passengers will generally not complain, will follow the rules, and will even give LCCs high ratings (again, check out my Spirit blog if you don’t believe me).
So in particular, Low-Cost Carrier marketing has again gotten interested with shock and awe tactics not meant only to educate customer about what unbundled base fares (or bare fares) truly include, but also as a way to actually…wait for it….build a brand. Case in point, the Spirit “Bare Fare” campaign.
Then, they go a step further to explain the Bare Fare with “real” bears.
Oh, and sex.
You can choose from 3 quizzes, and you’ll earn 500 Spirit miles with each quiz you pass. For every correct answer, your “tutor” will undress for success. Take each quiz once to earn 1,500 miles, total.
This is Low-Cost Carrier marketing genius.
Did you pick the Dude, The Bear, or The Babe? Or all 3?
These tactics kind of remind me of what easyJet did last year with its Happy Bums campaign, or Ryanair’s ‘Low Fares. Made Simple’ campaigns today (side note: Ryanair is the first Low-Cost Carrier to roll-out TV spots).
Some other “crazy” Ryanair ideas (or maybe they were just Low-Cost Carrier marketing tactics?):
- Fat tax – In 2009, Ryanair proposed a fat tax for overweight passengers. On third of travelers voted for this charge in an online poll. Hey, give the people what they want! Fat = more (expensive) fuel!
- Pay for the toilet – In 2009, this idea was thankfully “wiped” away by Michael O’Leary himself: ‘If someone wanted to pay £5 to go to the toilet, I’d carry them myself. I would wipe their bums for a fiver,’ he said.
- Vertical seating – In 2010, Ryanair introduced plans to charge passengers £4 (about $6) for standing-room jump seats.
- Self-stow luggage – In this hair-brained idea, Ryanair thought to ask passengers to roll their own luggage across the runway and onto the aircraft themselves. Safety concerns got the better of it.
- Charging £40 for not printing boarding passes. ‘We think they should pay €60 for being so stupid,’ said O’Leary. Note – Spirit does this today.
Ryanair and other Low-Cost Carriers marketing tactics have evolved over the years to be more tongue in cheek but the fact remains that you get what you pay for – practically nothing for practically nothing. And the purpose of these Low-Cost Carrier marketing campaigns, gimmicky and shock and awe as they often seem, are typically to continually remind demanding passengers of this fact to avoid PR disasters later. And of course to make headlines.