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Spirit Airlines Email Campaigns – Clever or Clueless?

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Spirit Airlines Email Campaigns – Clever or Clueless?
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We read a lot about techniques that break through crowded email inboxes by using inventive subject lines. Today, I paused and had to click through an email received from Spirit Airlines. The subject line said “Dope deals end tonight!”.

Reading the body of the email, there was a play on Lance Armstrong’s disastrous fall from grace with an image of the Livestrong bracelet sold by his foundation inscribed with “Tour de Fares!”. The message “don’t be a dope and pay high fares” was accompanied with an offer of 75% off fares purchased within a specified time period. Oops, the offer was actually only 7.5% off fares as I realized that a red dot inserted as part of the graphic was intended to be a decimal point.

One of my favorite columns to read in DM News is titled Battle of the Brands. Reading today’s email from Spirit compelled me to do a quick comparison to contrast the marketing approach of the discount airlines, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit. I’ve written before about Spirit’s approach to email marketing here and you can get some background by giving that article a quick read.

It’s clear to me that Spirit continues to adopt an “us against the world” approach to marketing. While JetBlue promotes community and charitable giving, Southwest continues to inject good clean fun into the flight experience. Spirit seems uncertain of where the draw the line between edgy humor and offensive teasing. While you can smile about promotion of “Red Light Fares”, building a promotion on the personal tragedy of another person is going just a bit too far.

Aside from the shot at Livestrong and Lance Armstrong, the offer itself fails by invoking a monstrous Loyalty Asterisk in the form of a small red dot. Most people would conclude upon first read that the offer was 75% off fares only to realize the truth with further scrutiny. Why set potential customers up for disappointment? In a season where consumers are responding positively to transparency and direct talk, why create ad copy that could be construed as misleading?

Spirit probably won’t be talked out of its email marketing strategy. I just hope they find a way to be closer to Clever than Clueless in the future.

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