SkyMall & the Worker as Traveler.

Posted by jlubans on December 26, 2012

Caption: For the weary road warrior, heading for Hawaii, an inflatable pillow.

I’ve long wondered about the buyers of stuff from the SkyMall catalog found in every seat pocket on every commercial airplane in the country. It’s there, peeking out at you, dog-eared - from its elasticized seat pocket right there under the seat-back tray table - the poor man’s Neiman Marcus’ Christmas Book.
For the bored-to-tears traveler without a book, smart-phone, Kindle or iPad, SkyMall is the ultimate diversion when circling the airport for a long-delayed landing or when parked for hours in the no-man’s land between the terminal and the runway. Knowing a little bit about advertising – having been exposed to it all my life! – I have to wonder what the stuff offered up on SkyMall’s slick pages says about its targeted market, its audience of buyers? I assume advertisers look at the numbers for passenger age, income, gender, and other socio-economic indicators to justify spending huge sums on print runs in hopes of catching more than a few eyeballs with a credit card. One study claims that workers account for 36% of the travel market. So, I assume that is one of the top targeted groups.
I have a hypothesis that we can glimpse something about the traveler; at least we can tell what advertisers think about the traveler! I sampled a recent issue.* What did it tell me?
For one thing, life is tough out there, for the businessperson, while traveling, or at home or in the office.
Health-wise, one ad offers shoes that “defy gravity”. With these steel-spring-in-the-heel-shoes, the wearer will experience a “return of his energy” when running to catch a connecting flight after landing 30 minutes late at DFW.
A full-page ad for Lipidryl weight-loss offers a 200% guarantee and claims that there could be, according to their research, “a 933% increase in weight loss without any necessary change in eating habits!” Another page from my scientific sample suggest things might not be all that happy work or home: “Discreetly monitor home or office with this hidden video camera.” (Disguised as a motion detector).
Contiguous to that ad is one of several self-help books: “The Best Advice Ever” by Ari Neptunia, “sharp advice on how to avoid mistakes …become happy, wealthy, and healthy.” “(It) provides out of the box ideas.”
If the book does not work, then try the “Migraine Magic Plus” eye mask. “Massaging magnets increase blood circulation” Also "helps relieve sinus pain, double vision and dry eyes.” (Ailments acquired on that last trip to Fargo , maybe?)
Pets, especially cats and dogs, take up many SkyMall pages. My sample found “The Neater Feeder”, raised feeding bowls so there’s less slopover, maybe? And, there’s something for you to show your dog who’s boss: “Pull Stop and Jump Stop” harnesses for misbehaving dogs. And, if you have two dogs, you can walk both on a specially designed tangle-free leash. (Can you use the Pull Stop on one and the Jump Stop on the other?) Finally, for the guilty, absentee-pet-owner-road-warrior who is not there to let the pup out to do his business, “your dog (can have) a yard of his own. Great for apartments and condos:” The weather proof Porch Potty, a slab of astro-turf. Premium version includes sprinklers to rinse grass area clean. There’s even a scented (red plastic) fire hydrant!
Being prepared is an oft-repeated theme intrinsic to SkyMall:
“Fix a stopped toilet” (For when you come home, or maybe take it with you for your trips to less than four-star hotels? Not sure.) “No-mess plunger easily clears toilets…. it sits atop your toilet bowl and pushes compressed air through the water toward the clog to clear …The plunger (you may be thankful) never touches water, keeping germs in the toilet bow. “Folds easily for storage” (and travel?)
Along with the perennial collectible artififacts from the Hobbit and Harry Potter industrial complexes, SkyMall offers sports memorabilia, including paving bricks and seats from the old Yankee stadium and autographed jerseys and photographs from sports greats to adorn corporate or home office walls. Also on offer is the Brandon Steiner book: “You Gotta Have Balls” about how he, personally, “created a Sports-marketing Empire”.
Another full-page ad, with a dash of ambiguity, turns out to be something you might want to hide from your boss or co-workers: (The) “Great Gift Wrap Up!” in Las Vegas. Apparently this is for frequent habitués of Sin City who have earned “gift points” which can be “redeemed for fabulous gifts during two week-long shopping events.” Of course, we know you got all those “Gift Points” while entertaining corporate clients.
Now something for the stranded traveler who works from the airport waiting-lounge or hotel bed: A laptop “lap table” with (two US-powered cooling fans). Or, there’s a cooling and adjustable laptop cart or a multimedia cooling laptop stand (with a cooling fan) or an ergonomic white laptop stand with built in keyboard (no cooling fan included).
While we are on technology, there is a silver helmet with ear phones guaranteed for you to “Get thicker, fuller looking hair in weeks – guaranteed.” An “advanced laser hair rejuvenation system.” (Alas, no cooling fan included.)
Finally, there is the “Genuine Navy Seal” watch. For those boring meetings or tipping-point moments, when no one’s in charge, take a gander at what’s on your wrist and IMAGINE how you would handle it if only they would let you.
Marketing assumptions to follow.

*SkyMall Holiday 2012 184 pages. (Delta Airlines). I screened each 9th and 10th page for a total sample size of 17 pages, front and back.

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