Less leg room. No free checked bag. No snacks. Would you consider paying $3,600 for a round trip plane tickets these days? How about if that flight only lasted 23 minutes each way?
Well, taking into account the inflation rate, that is how much money it cost for a seat on the first ever commercial airplane ride which departed from St. Petersburg, Florida on January 1, 1914. The plane, manufactured by Thomas W. Benoist, boasted such luxuries as strong air circulation (the airplane wasn’t covered), complimentary cooling mist (there was no windshield, either) and choice of premium seating (only one passenger could be accommodated). But those features, along with the fact that the plane never flew more than five feet above water, didn’t stop the public from becoming enamored with flying. While it took a few more years (plus two World Wars and a national economic depression) until commercial flying really became popular with the American public, people were still more than willing to hand over their hard earned money for a ride.
Well for starters, flying was the latest and greatest. It appealed to the trendsetters & social elite who wanted to be the first to experience new things matter what the cost as well as. To them, the value provided by taking part in these expensive flights (social status & new experiences) greatly outweighed the heavy costs. As commercial aviation continued to expand, consumer’s perceived value began to shift. While prices may not have remained as cost prohibitive as some of the earliest flights, ticket prices still were steep for some. However, the convenience of being able to more quickly arrive at your destination as opposed to traveling by plane, train or boat was a huge determining factor for these consumers.
While to a certain extent the perceived value a product has to an individual is slightly pre-determined by that person, advertising can play an important role in determining how a consumer evaluates the costs of a product versus the benefits. Most importantly, driving awareness and education around the product is key to helping them evaluate the benefits. Especially in this upfront portion of the consumer & product life-cycle less emphasis should be placed on action & conversion metrics (click, download, purchase) and more should be placed on determining how messaging is affecting consumers views of the product (message association, brand favorability).
So what lies ahead in the next ten to twenty years? Many believe it’s space tourism and commercial space flights. Unlike the first flight out of St. Petersburg we can only hope there are more amenities on these scheduled space flights, but we do know the price won’t be cheap. It has been reported that some of the first commercial flights to the moon have cost each passenger upwards of twenty million dollars. That’s quite a hike compared to the $3,600 but don’t expect there to be a shortage of people signing up due to the flight’s high perceived value in the eyes of many.
The bottom line? As the speed and roll out of product innovations takes place advertisers must be able to clearly define the value in which they want consumers to perceive from their products and develop messaging and tactics that work to deliver that message.