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business models, strategies and technologies

Reconsidering SAS coffee cups

SAS let customers design their own disposable coffee cups – and then apparently dumped the whole marketing exercise in the metaphorical garbage …


Design your own

Early in 2012, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) forked out big bucks for whole page ads in Børsen, the major Danish business newspaper, informing us cattle-class plane passengers that we now have the profound honour of being able to design our own disposable coffee cups  – see www.sas.dk/design.

SAS social media success?

I admit I was somewhat gobsmacked – why would anyone even want to design their own disposable coffee cup? What was the real point of this big, expensive ad? What did it give me, the humble reader/potential passenger/ticket purchaser? And what did it give SAS?

Dead-end design

OK, perhaps it gave a slew of budding designers and designer wannabes a brief moment of aspiration – and perhaps even five minutes in the spotlight (the winner was …”Frida is 32 years old and lives in Jönköping, Sweden with her husband and 3-year-old son. She’s working as a free-lance illustrator and graphic designer. You can see more of her work at www.fridaaxell.se.

As a born cynic, I couldn’t help feeling that this smelled like a lame example of ad agency window-dressing, selling beleaguered SAS corporate buyers on the fashion-of-the-month mantra that ”social media is good”. And as if to confirm my suspicions, the ”announcing the winner” website turns out to be a clumsily written dead end. It features all the usual Scandi-English mistakes, and has had no apparent life/meaning once the competition was won.

Dead-end business

Worse still, it turns out to be a dead-end property with no obvious relation to mainstream SAS. All the links are to SAS on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, respectively – but it’s impossible to click from this site to the ”real” SAS website. And it’s impossible for the visitor to get to actually do anything so mundane as book a flight, or get info about SAS’ real business of selling plane tickets. It seems that the whole expensive exercise of kow-towing to the clumsy gods of social media was not exactly a big credibility booster for SAS. My cynicism unfortunately proved right, when the site was still “live” but totally dormant and un-updated in March 2016 !

I wonder how much SAS paid some grateful ad agency to shoot themselves in the foot like that?

Ignoring the realities

As was pointed out in an article about SAS woes in Air International April 2012, SAS is an atypical airline compared with most European legacy carriers. 70% of its available seat kilometres are short-haul flights. Which on intra-Scandinavian flights and with current cost cutbacks means there often isn’t even time to get the proverbial cup of coffee poured!

Somehow this seemed like a marketing exercise that was and is painfully divorced from customer realities.

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