Wednesday, June 08, 2011

How Spirit Airlines uses Weinergate for it Marketing

Spirit Airlines is known for its non-traditional marketing. Even before social media took off for promotion, Spirit made it a habit to leverage controversial trends (MUFF, MILF) and scandals (Tiger Woods) to advertise its low fares.

The current Anthony Weiner scandal (dubbed “Weinergate” by the media) fits nicely into Spirit’s marketing strategy. On Tuesday, June 7, Spirit Airlines sent an email to its customers containing the following sales promotion: “Check out our Weiner Sale boasting fares just too hard to resist! This scandalous sale is no secret so get socially connected … book now before this sale gets hacked!” The company’s homepage offers more Weiner puns.

The promotion has been picked up by The New York Daily News, CBS, The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC.

Arun Sharma, a marketing professor at the University of Miami, explains that Spirit has packaged the promotion well by prominently mentioning its low-cost fares. For a value brand like Spirit, cheap fares are its key selling point. He does not foresee a possible backlash from customers who are uncomfortable with the sale’s theme. "These kinds of promotions do not seem to offend the general public," Sharma said. "They chuckle over things like this."

Previous Spirit marketing campaigns include its 2009 campaign when it ran its “Eye of the Tiger Sale” to leverage the Tiger Woods scandal. The airline’s homepage featured a tiger driving an SUV into a fire hydrant to promote its $9 fare sale.

During the BP oil spill disaster, a Spirit ad featured a sunscreen-covered sunbather and the teaser: "Check out the oil on our beaches."

Spirit Airlines also put a new twist on trendy acronyms. In February 2010, it ran a promo called MUFF to diving destinations. MUFF stood in this case for Many Unbelievable Fantastic Fares. MUFF followed on the heels of the MILF promo. According to Spirit, MILF stands for “Many Islands, Low Fares.”

A few years ago, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza explained in an interview that the company practices "shock marketing" to keep advertising costs low: "People get the e-mail and forward it to their friends. ..."

Shock marketing and campaign going viral obviously work for Spirit Airlines. Let’s see what the next campaign will entail...

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