Archive for January, 2012
With the holidays coming up, I was thinking of my upcoming travel. Every year, I go back home to New England to visit with family and friends for the holidays. However, the flight home is a means to the end. How can I get back home in a quick, efficient, and cost-effective way without being as cramped and uncomfortable on a flight that will last no longer than two and half hours? My upcoming travel got me thinking about future trips that I want to take (without breaking the bank or my legs). I would love to go to New Zealand and Australia, but the concept of flying over 24 hours in a confined space is not a thrilling prospect for someone tall like me – I’m 6’2” – who needs that extra legroom! I would love to fly business class, or even first class, for such a long flight, but the additional costs are usually prohibitive. Air New Zealand, however, has introduced a new innovative concept for coach… called “Skycouch” (or also known as “Cuddle Couch” by industry observers). So what exactly is SkyCouch and how did this idea happen?
Per Air New Zealand, the Skycouch is a trio of Economy seats that together create a flexible space for two people. You can use the seats like you normally would, or with the touch of a button, the footrests will come out from under each of the three seats, that the passengers can then pull up to create a flat, flexible space for sleeping or to stretch out in. Two passengers thus take up the three seats and pay about half the cost of the third seat to get this additional convenience.
So how did this concept evolve? The project began in 2004, when the airline ordered new 787 and 777 aircrafts from Boeing. It then took four years for the airline to figure out how to reconfigure the seats and make them work within the confines of an airplane. The airline began the project by tinkering with different furniture concepts and designs in a warehouse. Then, over time, several seat manufacturers built mock-ups for the airline to test with customers and staff. One of the problems encountered by the airline was a design that would pass airline safety standards. The airline also had to make ensure that the concept would not cannibalize first class. Not to mention how to put this new class of service into computer reservation systems for themselves and their airline partners. However, the company resolved all of those issues over time before putting it on the market for customers.
Air New Zealand appears to be winning over customers with their service and their new Skycouch seating in economy coach. In particular, they recently took fifth place overall for best foreign airline in the 2011 Conde Nast readers’ poll. I think this is one great example of how a company showed, that even within the confines of an airplane, innovation can be achieved by thinking outside of the box. And that is a great lesson for anyone working within any box. Now I just need to figure out how to think outside of the box to take two weeks off from work and to pay for the airfare to New Zealand…
You still have until April 15th 2012 to contribute to your 2011 IRA accounts, but the government is already one step ahead and has announced some changes to the 2012 rules. This will not only affect how you save, it will also affect direct marketing communications in the near future. One change is the allowable limit one can contribute to a 401(k) account, which was increased by $500. The new cap will be $17,000 in 2012, up from $16,500 in 2011. However, the catch-up contribution, which is the extra amount individuals 50 and older can contribute, will remain $5,500. There was also an increase to IRA income limits. While the IRA contribution limit will remain $5,000 ($6,000 for individuals 50 and older), the income limits which provide some workers with a tax break for contributing to a traditional IRA will be a little more relaxed in 2012. Roth IRA income limits are also going to be more relaxed. Those eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA must make below $110,000, but this is up $3,000 from 2011.
These may seem like small changes, but when it comes to marketing communications, banks and investment companies will focus on any little change to draw attention to their IRA accounts and encourage contributions. We might not see a heavy emphasis on these changes until late next year, when mailings encouraging IRA contributions tend to be at their peak, but they will certainly be a popular subject.
I recently embarked on a road trip that took me more than a day’s drive away. These kinds of trips used to be somewhat daunting when you took into consideration the various radio station offerings as you move into the more sparsely populated sections of the country. To help keep me alert and engaged while I’m driving, I’ve always enjoyed hearing something new and unexpected. In the past, satellite radio has been great for that but I recently discovered an alternative that works almost as well. Pandora. I’m able to set the types of things I want to listen to and make my own “Radio Stations” I just plug in my iPhone to the car’s sound system, and off I go.
Since I opt for the advertising supported version of Pandora, I occasionally hear an advertisement. Generally they are short, sweet and to the point. On this particular trip, I only heard one ad for what seemed like only a few times an hour. It was for American Family Insurance. The ads were very short and since I was an attentive audience for the better part of 16 hours I heard the ad many times. In fact, it was the only ad I heard while listening to Pandora on this trip. When I realized that I was only hearing a single ad for a single company I thought that was pretty astonishing. On regular radio when they go to a break you hear many ads for a variety of products and services. They are doing something a bit different here.
A few hours into my trip as I heard the American Family ad again, it made me think that I have also seen ads for American Family Insurance on one of the games I play on my iPhone. These aren’t product specific ads, more like company branding with the call to action to find out more about what American Family Offers. A simple message really, with the potential to stick.
It’s pretty clear that American Family is using the electronic/mobile media format as a way for their brand recognition campaigns to stand out from the clutter. One of the problems any marketer faces is that of getting an effective number of repetitions and in multiple formats for the message to be front and center in the consumer’s mind. In this case, I think American Family’s strategy is pretty effective. The company was definitely front and center for a while. It even got me to write a blog about it.