Earlier this week, I was traveling for business and it was the typical airline experience. Oversold flight, not enough pillows or blankets, insufficient overhead baggage space (probably caused, at least in part, by the fear of mishandled luggage and incremental fees for checked bags) and not even a free package of peanuts for those of us crammed into coach. But I travel enough so I'm used to it -- what can you do? In fact, as far as travel days go, this flight was by no means atypical and I might even say the experience was better than others I've suffered through. You with me? OK...
So we land and I grab a cab downtown for the first meeting of the trip. My route took me past one of the city's pro sports stadiums -- and atop the stadium's upper tier, erected in humongous light-up letters, I see the logo of this very same airline.
So I'm thinking, naming rights for a stadium probably costs somewhere in the neighborhood of a zillion dollars, all for the privilege of creating an impression with (or just impressing?) local sports fans and random drivers-by. How is it possible that the airline can justify an advertising (sorry - sports marketing) spend of this magnitude but can't justify spending that same budget to make the customer experience better?
Seriously -- think about all the things this airline might have done for customers if they hadn't already sunk their money into stadium naming rights. Lower fares? Lower (or no) fees for the first checked bag? A few more pillows? A coach-class snack? There are probably a dozen or more ways they might have (even ever so slightly) delivered a superior consumer experience that could get flyers talking in positive ways -- rather than griping about giant logos perched atop the cheap seats.
You've no doubt noticed that I haven't named the airline. This post isn't even really about the airline. It's about all of us. If we work as client-side marketers, we've no doubt been lured at one time or another to invest a six- or seven-figure sum in a splashy sponsorship, flashy web temple or major media event. If we're agency guys, we've no doubt recommended one (or many) of these things and ensured our clients that there is clear ROI in flushing money down the toilet.
Cuz clearly there's no ROI in spending money on the very people who spend money with you, is there? (sarcasm intended)
Sorry people, but this is "middle finger marketing." It's marketing at, rather than marketing for. It's investing in the promise of new business rather than in the reality of your current clients. It has more to do with your ego than it does with your customers. And to your customers, it probably amounts to something akin to a tacit "screw you" -- so don't be surprised when your customers reply with, "no, screw YOU."
Am I saying that all traditional marketing is bad? Nope. But I am saying that, as marketers, we all need to make sure we have our priorities straight. If times are tough for your company, they're just as tough (if not more so) for the people who do business with your company. Instead of flipping customers the bird, you should be reaching out your hand, patting them on the back and letting them know that you're doing what you can to help