Posted July 23, 2008 by Zak Patten
In this age of distraction, when new entertainment options are but a mouse click or remote button away, marketers will try anything to capture the limited attention span of potential customers. Sometimes they walk a fine line between what's edgy and what should have never made it out of the marketing manager’s head. Sometimes, as in the case of Spirit Airlines, the line of taste is so far behind them they can't even remember what it looks like.
Spirit, the ultra-low-cost carrier, has its own particular style. We here at BookingBuddy thought it would be fun and educational (but not for kids!) to take a stroll down memory lane with the little airline that could (offend). So without further ado, let's count down the top five most tasteless Spirit airfare sales:
1. M.I.L.F. This one got Spirit into some hot water, and I don’t mean of the Jacuzzi variety, though that does conjure up the kind of image Spirit would probably endorse. Ostensibly, the airline was promoting the idea of Many Islands, Low Fares with its latest sale acronym. But just as AA stands for both American Airlines and Alcoholics Anonymous, some critics suggested the M.I.L.F. sale was a cheap ploy to gain market share with the Maxim crowd, who might think it was a different, more suggestive acronym.
2. Hunt for Hoffa Somehow Spirit’s “Hunt for Hoffa” sale, (actually a game that involved digging for long-missing labor leader Jimmy Hoffa’s body by clicking online boxes) went over even worse than the M.I.L.F sale. It seems there was still some love out there for Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975. Hit almost immediately by a deluge of customer complaints, Spirit buried Hoffa and renamed the promotion “Happy Sale.” Eventually, the marketing stunt did prove successful, by at least one measure: It came in eighth on CNN Money’s 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.
3. Threesome Sale Chalk up another one for overgrown frat-boy humor. Earlier this year, Spirit sent out an email that announced: "We're having a threesome. Join us in the fun." While some recipients of the message took it as a reference to the practice of, well, menage a trois, apparently Spirit was really trying to promote "three sales in one." The misperception was likely amplified by the repeated use of the word “threesome” in the accompanying marketing copy.
Favored by bloggers, instant messengers, and mobile-phone users everywhere, “WTF?” is used to quickly express outrage and disbelief. Typically understood as a vulgar expression of incredulity, Spirit Airlines claims the more family-friendly “World Traveler Fares” as its intended meaning. This sale proved to be a great way for the airline to showcase the international destinations in its route network, if not its sophisticated wit. Seriously, what were they thinking?
5. Oil Falls to Just $9 a Barrel* Not tasteless in a sexual or morbid way like some of the above, but more along the lines of a cruel hoax, the latest Spirit sale to grace the Internet was an attention-grabbing headline, particularly in these times of four-dollar gasoline. With the nation, not to mention the airline industry, reeling from the effects of astronomical fuel prices, Spirit opted for a phony headline and accompanying fake press release to grab the eyeballs of its potential passengers. Reporting that the oil markets had experienced the “largest one-day drop in history,” and full of quotes from “experts” such as Caut Offguard, Bubbles R. Burstinfast, and Shud A. Nown, the release was clearly a parody, though the nature of the topic may induce a chillier reaction on the part of the nation’s drivers. When it comes to humor (and especially oil-related comedy), Spirit may have proven that it’s best not to go to the well too often.
These may be the bottom five, but Spirit has had many other low points in its sales over the past couple of years. Who could forget the Mullet sale, with that airline/hairline reference to “business in the front, party in the back”? And of course, there was the spinoff D.I.L.F. sale, which celebrated Father’s Day with its “Dad I'll Love Forever” message, though the more cynical among us might claim that D.I.L.F. was actually a lewd double entendre best not expressed in polite company.
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