Why Spirits Airlines' "Hate Thousand Miles" Campaign is brilliant
Recently, the budget airline Spirit Airlines launched a new crowdsourced campaign, "Hate Thousand Miles," inviting airline travelers to share the hate by submitting their biggest complaints on the Spirit website in exchange for 8,000 bonus miles. Spirit, a budget airline that utilizes cattle-call boarding and charges fees for everything save having a pilot, has long the lowest-rated airline as well as the subject of customer complaints for everything from carry-on bag fees to skimpy leg room.
The campaign invites travelers to complain about travel on Spirit or any other airline and offers a billion frequent flier miles (in 8,000-mile increments) to the best haters.
While most PR campaigns shy away from the negative, Spirit Airlines is determined to embrace it. And it's a brilliant strategy. As any customer service rep can tell you, it's impossible to talk to a customer about new features and benefits until that customer has had a good, long, angry rant about how your brand has failed.
The campaign is a winner for a number of reasons:
- It's true to the brand. Spirit Airlines has a history of cheekiness and embracing scandals in their advertising, including leveraging the Anthony Weiner and the BP oil spill scandals. Their corporate brand is irreverent and brazen, and offering "hugs for hate" is a perfect extension of that brand.
- It acknowledges reality. Unlike Bill Cosby's recent #CosbyMeme attempt at crowdsourcing captioned photos, which backfired immediately and spectacularly due to the recent resurfacing of numerous accusations of Cosby's sexual assaults, the campaign acknowledges that the public will have some negativity to vent before it will be open to hearing any of Spirit's messaging. Too often PR teams have blinders on with respect to the brand's perception or simply hope that the public will overlook past or current scandals. In the age of social media, that's just no longer a reasonable expectation.
- It uses brand-appropriate humor. The campaign features a State of the H8te video with puppet broadcasters reading the most offensive airline hate Tweets (with a significant portion of the language bleeped out) and video of cute kittens and puppies to offset the hate. The infographic offers a chart of the colorful (PG-13) words that folks have used to Tweet their airline hate.
- It has an educational goal. Once the hate has been vented and the rant has ended, Spirit understands that then and only then will customers be open to their messaging and advice on how to fly with Spirit.
Educating customers (after the rant)
Spirit is leveraging the hugs-for-hate campaign to educate the public about their non-inclusive "Bare Fares" that do not cover carry on baggage, onboard drinks, reclining seats, wifi or any other amenity and their "Frill Control" philosophy that puts the traveler in control of the final price.
“We see this as an opportunity to educate consumers about the differences of Spirit, and in return for their hate, we’ll give them a little bit of love in the form of free miles,” the airline said in a statement.
All in all, the campaign is a fun and engaging way to set customer expectations and (perhaps?) engender less traveler ire.
"People don't understand that it's a different kind of airline, so they don't understand they have to fly it differently, and they have to be prepared differently," said Paul Behnen, VP/Executive Creative Director at Barklay, Spirit's agency of record.
What do you think? Are you more open to Spirit's "Frill Control" after venting your frustration and receiving 8,000 miles?