I’ve been traveling a lot for work recently, 25 legs in 40 weeks, and all of that travel has been on Southwest. I’m sure there are road-warriors who travel more, but, from Southwest’s perspective, I’m an up-and-comer, or something like that. Pretty much unknown to them until the beginning of this year, I’m now an ‘A-list’ member of their rapid rewards program.
As a kind of ‘thank you’, they’ve sent me, for the second time, four drink coupons.
I find a few bits interesting about this marketing piece:
- If I redeem this coupon, there is a real cost to Southwest. It isn’t a big cost, but it has a cost. The value to me is $6, and the cost to them is probably $3. In comparison, if they were to give me a free early-bird check in, it costs them nothing, and saves me $12.50. It seems to me that this a more ideal ‘give away': more benefit to the customer for no cost to the company.
- Only about half of the US population drinks alcohol on a regular basis. So it seems like a fair number of these coupons will go unused. Which may be Southwest’s goal, but if that is their goal, then it is an even deeper marketing failure than I can address here.
The converse of that last point, is that 30 percent of people haven’t drank in the last year. Given the strong cultural prevalence of alcohol consumption in our country, I’ll assume that these people are probably actively resisting drinking. Like me.
So what this means is that Southwest has just sent a “thank you” to some of their most valuable customers that a non-trivial number of those customers will be actively irritated by receiving.
Or put another way: Southwest has likely encouraged/enabled alcoholism.
So that’s why this seems like a massive marketing failure–nearly half of the recipients of this marketing will be at best ambivalent, and maybe as many as a third will be insulted/irritated by it. Considering how easy it would be to offer other perks for free (early-bird check in, a month or two of a-list status, free WiFi internet) that would not actively offend a portion of the population, it surprises me (a little bit) that they’ve chosen this method of marketing.