The Web customer is not a fool. The specific reason they are on the Web is to compare and evaluate. Give them the facts.Some airlines have an incredibly underhanded approach to pricing. Aer Lingus is an airline I fly with almost once a week. It is dramatically better than it was five years ago, but it still has a second-hand car salesman approach to pricing.
It now has a graphic on its pages stating "Total price includes taxes and charges." But that's not quite true. The first price you see when booking does not include taxes and charges. Nor does it include the handling fees. It doesn't include the fuel surcharge either. And, for good measure, an insurance charge is added, which you then have to deselect.
So, when you begin booking a flight with Aer Lingus you know the fare you start off with will be a lot higher by the time you actually have to pay. Why do Aer Lingus do that? Do they think that it's clever marketing? I find it deceptive and totally underhanded. I feel the website is behaving like a pickpocket. All these hidden fees in no way make me fly more, and make me associate the Aer Lingus brand with dishonesty.
Aer Lingus is not alone, of course. A great many airlines price like this. British Midland has a nice graphic on their pages stating: "All prices include taxes, fees and other charges." However, then they go and charge you an extra €5 for using a Visa credit card.
"To help us improve the service we offer to our customers, please let us know the reasons for your journey," British Midland states. You won't believe this. They won't let me book my flight unless I tell them the reason I'm flying. So I deliberately give false information. Just who do they think they are?
Airlines like to treat their customers as fools. The type of customer that's on the Web is no fool. The very reason we go to the Web is to be better informed, to get a better deal. We customers are mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!
The Web shifts the balance of power away from the organization and towards the customer. It is the customer who searches. It is the customer who compares. It is the customer who evaluates. It is the customer who is highly impatient, with their finger always on the Back button.
Too much marketing and advertising is about deception. I presume it must still work offline, at least to some degree. Treating us like Pavlov's Dogs and ringing that sweet bell of association, then expecting us to salivate for that juicy product; all very clever.
The Web sounds the death knell of the age of the mindless consumer who is led to the store with a collar and chain of ads. The Web is about empowerment, enablement and active, engaged thinking.
Web marketing is not about finding fools. It is rather about serving searchers. We go to the Web because we have a question and we want an answer. Please answer the question, Mr. Marketer.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.