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Spirit Airlines takes flight with Unique Promotional Messages

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Spirit Airlines takes flight with Unique Promotional Messages
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Consumer brands are not only tough to establish, but expensive in the process. The investment and impact both have long term implications, so most companies exercise extreme care in crafting their intended message.

Brands within categories tend to share turf. Soft drinks are young and fun, while banks tend to convey safety and confidence. Contrasting messages have emerged in some verticals as newer competitors attempt to shake up the space. For example, discount brokerages tend to emphasize personal service and low fees, while the big boys (who’s left?) issue a more traditional sentiment.

The airlines have generally held pattern, painting aspirational pictures of all the places they can take you and the comfort in which they will do so. This was the case when the US had 5 or 6 trunk carriers, but not anymore. Whiz kids Jet Blue and Southwest have broken the operating mold and leverage their business model in their brand communications.

Almost apart from the pack is Spirit Airlines, who would receive the award for edgiest airline, if there was an award to give. Spirit has spooled up its promotional engines to blast out a seemingly endless string of wacky messages that paint the sky like a summer contrail.

The spirit messages that I am thinking of are presented via the company’s favorite media channel – email. The 2-3 times per week emails feature price, price, and more price that look like a multiplication table:

  • $12 off for 12 hours
  • $24 off for 24 hours
  • $35 off for 35 hours
  • $48 off for 48 hours

Others punctuate seasonal change, ranging from an Autumnal “Jack O Low Fares”, an Election Day “Ochobama” fare special to Thanksgiving’s “Tan your Turkey” event.

But the self proclaimed “Kings of Shock Marketing” has outdone themselves with a series of promos that would thrill Dr. Ruth to the bone: “Red Light Specials” are just the start with “Don’t Go South Without Protection” and “We’re proud of our DD’s (Deep Discounts)” joining up with “MILF”, “WTF”, and “We’re having a threesome (Three sales in one)” capping off a list that might create misgivings about exactly what services are being offered.

Spirit evidences a high level of self-awareness when it writes in an email that “These promotions are designed to be entertaining, humorous, and of course, impactful”, and to their credit, they don’t miss a trick. Even the current economic cycle gets the spotlight with “The High Fare Bailout Sale” run last fall.

The question is not so much “what are they selling” as “is it compatible with air travel”? I’m all for differentiating from the competition, but has Spirit gone “hors categorie” in their attempt to gain consumer attention? Will this branding create the competitive edge needed for future survival, or will Spirit simply become known as the Ashley Madison of the skies?



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