Seth spotted this ad for troubled American Airlines:
Let’s say you run an airline with a horrible cost structure and you’re facing bankruptcy on an almost daily basis.
Why on earth would you waste money on marketing like this?
Do the folks at American believe that some harried New Yorker is going to choose to fly to Tokyo on the spur of the moment for sushi and because American is the brand that prompted them fly there on American?
Where’s the ROI?
It’s hard for businesses that are in trouble to face the hard truths. So much US airline marketing seems an attempt to put a brave face on things. It’s understandable but I think it treats customers like children who can’t deal with reality.
I can imagine the desire to try and show business as usual and not scare people off. But when two people are in a relationship and are not talking about something blindingly obvious, it’s completely life sapping. Thus American and United both run the risk of being Basil Fawlty, trying far too hard not to mention the war.
There are no miracle cures but I’d recommend some really straight talking. An acknowledgement of the kind of trouble the airline is in. A confirmation of where money can be saved (and this kind of advertising could be on that list); where cuts won’t be made (safety) and the areas where something creative is needed (how to offer efficient customer service without either wasting money or short-changing the customer). A willingness to enter a conversation. A dropping of pretence. A vote of faith in customers that actually would like their airlines to succeed and don’t need a miracle to show some loyalty.
Sadly, I fear that the most likely reason the external conversation is forced and unconvincing is… that the internal ones are forced and unconvincing. And when a company is in denial, I wouldn’t look to an adman for a bit of down home honesty.