My Facebook friends are all too familiar with my latest travels because I:
- Posted, nay, bragged about the amazing place my husband and I stayed in the Bahamas (probably to the annoyance of our friends), and
- I detailed the really expensive and disappointing experience that I had flying Spirit Air, much to the entertainment of our friends.
Since we’re in polite company on this business site, I won’t detail exactly how I described the smell in the Spirit Airlines terminals, but suffice is to say, my descriptor wasn’t classy and I’m not proud, but it was true. There was a definite “funk” in the Spirit Airline terminals in both Chicago and Ft. Lauderdale. Top that off with lack of chairs, plugs for phones and even basic amenities and you’ve got yourself a low-rent airline. Which might be O.K. if the ticket prices were actually low-rent. But they weren’t. For this kinda of luxury, my husband and I spent $800 per ticket. (Don’t get me started on the people who sat next to us, the size of the seats, etc.)
I had almost forgotten our brief, but nevertheless traumatic Spirit Airlines experience until this morning, when I received their latest e-marketing piece. Normally I just toss their communications in the trash folder because I’ve been too lazy to unsubscribe, but this one caught my eye.
“Don’t Passover These Low Fares” appeared in my Inbox bright and early this morning and, while I’m not Jewish, I thought, “wait a second! This seems just a wee bit offensive.” (BTW, I’m not Irish either). So I consulted my good friend Kathryne Auerback who is a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of stuff, including items pertinent to this story: marketing and Judaism.
So I forwarded the email to her and asked, “I’m not sure, but is this offensive if you’re Jewish? Seems like it might be a pretty dumb play right now.” Indeed, Kathryne confirmed my initial suspicions. Take a look at the above picture and enjoy her keen observations. She writes:
I like to think I have a pretty good sense of humor and I try not to take myself too seriously, but this ad is extremely offensive. It’s bad enough to make a joke about a major religious holiday (could you imagine an Easter sale picturing Jesus on the cross?), but at least get the details right. A single candle in a brass holder with a handle is totally wrong — looks more like something Grandpa Walton would be carrying up the stairs to bed. Holiday (sabbath) candles symbolize our commitment to following G-d’s commandments. Matzoh is square (and symbolic of social justice and freedom from brutal tyranny). Could you imagine an ad picturing Catholic communion wafers in funny shapes?
Right on, Kathryne. This is why I enjoy working with her – because she has a way of cutting through to the core and using great, real-world examples to illustrate her point.
Interestingly, Kathryne felt inspired enough to share her observations with the communications contact on Spirit Airline’s site, as well as with the CEO. On the plus side, she received a prompt answer. On the down side, it was pretty much a form letter from Customer Service Rep #54xx5. The letter stated:
Thanks for contacting Spirit Airlines; I’m writing in response to your message to our CEO, Mr. Baldanza.
Spirit Airlines has adopted a business model that offers our valued customers extraordinary opportunity for affordable travel. I understand that you may have been offended by our most recent promotional advertisement. It is certainly not our intent to offend our valued customers.
We continue to be receptive to all constructive criticism, both formal and from customers as well. Your comments, questions and concerns assist us in providing increasingly better service.
We strive to provide the best customer service possible coupled with the lowest fare to offer you the perfect choice of Airline. We look forward to seeing you on one of our flights in the very near future.
Thank you for contacting Spirit Airlines.
Oh, Customer Service Rep #54xx5, you do feel our pain! Not only did they adequately address the Matzoh symbol, which you could mistake for a child’s crackery birthday candle if they didn’t have that clever intro “Passover Savings” but they also took this window of opportunity to sell Kathryne on her next flight. Um…something tells me that neither Kathryne nor I will ever get on a Spirit Airline flight.
In all seriousness, this – in my humble opinion – is an Epic Marketing Fail! I advocate for a sense of playfulness with most of my clients. People enjoy it, connect with it and it can help build rapport. But you pretty much don’t make light of religion – anyone’s religion – as your marketing hook. It’s just bad business.
So, Spirit Airlines…perhaps you should rethink your holiday marketing pitch this Easter. No communion wafers in the shape of airplanes, ok?