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Listen Up, People! Consumers Are Being Duped

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I’ve reached the end of the line, my limit has been breached, as it were.

I have had enough, and I can’t stand no more.

I’m talking about ads, commercials, spots, whatever cool vernacular you want to use to describe the visual medium that plays over airwaves and into our house via what is commonly referred to as a TV.

The target of my ire is aimed directly and squarely at the airline industry. Truth be told, I do not blame these companies and their respective ad agencies one bit for capitalizing and promoting a benefit they offer and others don’t. I get it … It’s their USP, Universal Selling Point. Or at least it’s one of them.

Here’s two spots from two different airlines:

The first one is Southwest’s campaign---which I like by the way in terms of creativity and execution---that promotes and advertises the fact that on their airline "Bags Fly Free!"

The second spot is for Jet Blue and promotes and advertises the fact that passengers on their planes get … a whole can of soda!

Now before I go on, let me state for the record that I do not fly very often, point being I don’t even know if these “amenities” are still being offered by each respective airline. But just the fact that they were at one point in time was enough to make me want to put pen to paper, as it were.

I just love the line in the Jet Blue spot … “free unlimited brand-name snacks.”

Man: “What airline should be fly, honey?’
Woman: “Jet Blue, for sure … ! We can get all the Oreos we want, and none of that store-brand crap the other airlines offer.”

But think about this, boys and girls. Should we as consumers now be happy that we are getting something for free that should have been always been free to start with?

Are you kidding me?!?!?!!

I was out a few days … I apparently missed the part where the American consumer gleefully celebrates getting ripped off, duped, and downright conned by the greed of corporations and companies.

Don’t you see what is happening here, people?

1. Companies are taking things that used to be free and now assigning a cost to them.
2. Everyone gets outraged.
3. The outrage dies down and ultimately passes, and the aforementioned charging for what used to be free becomes an accepted practice.
4. Said company then creates an ad campaign/blitz that promotes and advertises something which is NOW free, which should have stayed free the whole time!
5. We all dance gaily in the streets and happily patronize said company for “being different” than the other guy.

And this is just one industry I’ve touched on …

Did you know some supermarkets now charge you to use a shopping cart? How many restaurants now charge for what used to be free refills on beverages? We even have to pay for air for our tires now!

So, if you’re enjoying something for free right now, chances are it won’t be free for very long, and the cycle will begin and then one day, it will be free again.

What can we as the American consumer to stop this incessant cycle from happening or are we powerless to stop it?

Help me out, please … someone. Anyone. Bueller?

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Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions.

He has worked on everything from a Super Bowl TV spot to a Mom and Pop radio spot---and all points in between. He doesn't drink. He doesn't smoke. He doesn't use foul lang... well, he doesn't drink or smoke.

He is a naturally curious and opinionated person who's had to fight his way (sometimes literally) for everything he's achieved professionally. And if it were not for his rock (AKA his wife), he would not be here today. He would still be stocking shelves, not that there's anything wrong with that... 

Follow @steveolenski on Twitter

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  • by David Blanar Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    I must have missed the bit in the Bill of Rights which guarantees Americans Frito-Lay(tm) snacks on domestic air travel.

    Maybe it was between the sections ensuring freedom of religion and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

  • by Natasha McEachron Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    I personally like that airlines don't really serve food on flights anymore. I traveled a lot as a kid and always hated the smell of those airline dinners. Most dreaded was that that nasty looking "beef" dinner with the thick gloopy brown sauce served in a metal/ foil thing that smelled disgusting and hung around in the air long after the food was cleared away. Not to mention the food was served on trays that look like something out of Oz. It might be unfair to them but I still associate that beef dinner smell with Delta and American Airlines.

    While in college, I pretty much traveled exclusively with JetBlue when traveling during the holidays largely because you could watch your own TV. Who said that I want to watch the in-flight movie what if I want to watch Food Network or the Discovery Channel?

    Great commercials but I don’t really care about these “perks” one way or another. Although if you travel frequently on Jet Blue you’ll probably get diabetes from all of those sodas so the airlines win again…

  • by Ben Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    Author says: "I apparently missed the part where the American consumer gleefully celebrates getting ripped off, duped, and downright conned by the greed of corporations and companies."

    I say: Greed of corporations, duped? Surely you are smarter than that! You apparently missed the part where nothing in life is free. If they "gave" free snacks to us before, the cost was actually included in the ticket. Same thing with free bags, friendly competent employees, and everything else that's changed with the industry. You also apparently missed the part where the airline industry has been decimated and unprofitable for years. At least southwest and jetblue are trying to differentiate themselves.

    I think you need to read the book "Who Moved My Cheese?"

  • by Eric Wilinski Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    Constructive criticism, utterly tangential to the point of the article: It's "unique selling proposition" (or "unique selling point"), not "universal selling point".

  • by Glenn Friesen Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    1. We're not being duped. Greedy corporations are simply trying to dupe us, as they've always done.
    2. We've never liked how greedy corporations behaved, especially when they insult us in public about it.
    3. When we have no choice, or feel like we have no choice, but to use the services of greedy corporations, we are almost always taken advantage of by those greedy corporations.

    I suspect there won't be any major change to the formula, unless there is a dramatic consumer revolution which destabilizes the entrenched greedy corporations.

  • by Ron Tite Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    The most powerful democracy in the world today is the power of consumer choice. So. What can the consumer do in this case? Choose a company that doesn't make you pay for Oreos.
    If none exist, then that should tell you something. Either:
    1. The business model doesn't support giving away free food.
    2. There's collusion in the category.

    With the high cost of fuel and the crankiness of consumers, they have to make their money some place. The choice for the airlines comes down to what drives more business: Charging for Oreos and keeping the seats at $100. Or NOT charging for Oreos and raising the prices to $120. Looks like you know what the average consumer has chosen.

  • by George Chasqui Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    My boss whispered something in my ear not long ago, "...the secret to success is, monetarize everything!" So now I've learned to look at everything that way. I charge $1 if you want to know what time it is. I charge my wife for sex. If I'm required to go to a party I'm not fond of, I take as much as possible from the buffet table and stuff it in my car for later. I don't wear branded T-shirts unless I get a retainer from the brand owner, and the same goes for bumperstickers. I ask for money up front when telesales rings just to listen to them. If it's a charity asking for a donation, I figure we're even, my time on the phone is your donation. I'll charge you to talk to me in person. And I'm trying to figure out a way to get paid for this message. "Monetarize everything!" It's where we're headed. Sound sad? Look around, it's everywhere. Even the US government charges you to process required government forms for you. Eventually they'll bill you for processing your tax return, or just deduct it from your refund. Hey, you know, with what's happening with government debts these days, someday we may need to pay the police out of pocket to get them to show up.

  • by Martin Bishop Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    I think your outrage is a little misplaced here, especially as it relates to Southwest. While all other airlines have been raking in billions of dollars for charging for bags, Southwest decided not to charge. It's hoping that it will earn more money attracting consumers upset at the behavior of the other airlines than it will lose by letting bags fly for free. A brave decision we should support. So, yes, Southwest is advertising something that's always been free but it's completely reasonable for them to do that since it's the only one to have resisted the temptation to charge.

  • by mpdailyfix Thu Aug 4, 2011 via blog

    The nature of business is to seek maximum benefits.
    Civilians want to get more benefits:
    1. Formulate specific laws and regulations
    2. Increase the operators to increase competition

  • by harry Hallman Fri Aug 5, 2011 via blog

    Wow it must of been a dry marketing day at marketing Profs. How did this personal rant get on a professional marketing site?

  • by Ben Fri Aug 5, 2011 via blog

    Very well said.

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi David,

    I surely hope your comment was with tongue-planted firmly in cheek but even it wasn't, the point of my article was to bring to light how some industries are taking advantage of us consumers, not exactly breaking news... :)

    Thanks for your comment!

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Natasha,

    Thanks for your comment but truth be told my article was more than just about airlines and perks... although I did love your line "trays that look like something out of Oz." :)

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Ben,

    Yes, I am smarter than that... at least I think I am :) Although my wife would surely argue that...

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Eric,

    Thank you for your utterly tangential comment :)

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Glenn,

    Yes, yes and yes!!!! This is definitely all about greed! Paging Gordon Gekko...

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Ron,

    Personally I like Double Stuffed Oreos... I wonder how much more that would cost me? :)

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi George,

    You and Glenn get what I was going for... my attempt at sarcasm may have failed but the point of my article was to remind people what's going on, has gone on and will ALWAYS go on...

    Everything has a price!

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for your comment but again, the point of my article was not to focus on one industry, in this case the airlines, but rather use the airlines as an example of how companies continue to gouge us any way they can...

    And yes, you are correct in that Southwest should be lauded for always having free bags...

  • by steve olenski Tue Aug 9, 2011 via blog

    Hi Harry,

    Man did you hit the nail on the head. It was so dry this day at Marketing Profs that the fish were knocking on the door asking for a drink of water... :)

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