Airplane thoughts

On average, I’ve gone out of town every other month since the year began, and all of this has led to some airplane thoughts.

I flew from PDX to Dallas/Fortworth to Austin a week ago for SXSW Interactive and then in reverse order yesterday on the way home. I have to say that I’ve found it a pleasure to fly over Portland, moreso even than the San Francisco Bay Area (where I’m from).

I had three thoughts today as we were preparing to land:

  1. Mount Hood is so gorgeous on a brisk day when its crown of clouds can barely hang on to the incline. It’s beautiful to fly over regardless, but it was even more beautiful today. There were little patches of ashy pine trees, and the reflection of the clouds in the river was a pearly white. I hope I have many more opportunities to see Mount Hood in this light.
  2. I totally want to stand under an airplane’s shadow as it flies over. The shadow’s actually fairly big, but I’m curious about what it would feel like. Given the speed at which a plane flies, does your mind play tricks on you? Can you feel a shadow whooshing by?
  3. Up till yesterday, the only customer service I enjoyed consistently while flying was from Alaska Airlines. They offered complementary Oregon microbrew for one of my flights into Portland, Jones Soda for every flight and a $20 gift certificate to any McCormick & Schmick’s (flagship in Portland). Northwest Airlines has the worst customer service I’ve experienced yet, and I have become wary of flying anything but Alaska. Yesterday, however, I flew American Airlines. This may only have been a signature of our pilot, but it was definitely an attraction in itself. The pilot announced Salt Lake City, UT as the mountains melted into a more urban terrain. When we flew into Portland, he announced Mount Hood on the left-side of the plane and Mount St. Helens to the right. Maybe all airlines should start picking this up. It’s an amazing opportunity to connect to the cool geography you’re floating over.
  4. Has big business ever thought about putting advertisements on the rooftops of those boring industrial buildings huddled around every airport? Dallas was an eyesore to fly over. Fairly faded. And combined with all the recent SXSW Interactive sessions with a marketing undertone (Zappos‘ company policy, Wired Magazine‘s Chris Anderson), what if the newest marketing strategy is free and public service?
    Chris Brogan praised Jameson for engaging Pandora listeners by offering a Jameson play list. Anderson talked about a “freenium” model in which one gives away 99% of products to get 1% in revenue. Online companies can do this because the production cost of that 99% is close to zero. On the other hand, Zappos has put all its advertising revenue into customer service rather than ad campaigns; customer service becomes its advertising.
    If corporations were to sink all their advertising money (save a couple bucks for social media marketing) into putting out to pave past E. 82nd, creating artwork for rooftops (Banksy, commissioned by <insert company>), buying p:ear all its art supplies for one year, donating to the local scouts’ scholarship fund, &c., I don’t think it would be a lost cause. Like every other American, I have seen countless car commercials. But Ford never made a better impression on me than when it sponsored Art Institute of Chicago‘s free Fridays in summer 2006.
    I’m not saying this is new, but a concerted effort toward public service marketing gets more respect than the usual “buy our product” bombardment, especially in the recent recession. It would be effective in eliciting word-of-mouth PR, which is the best sort of advertising any company could get. I have no doubt it would raise the moral standards of many companies now lacking as the public expects more of them. This would be an amazing way to advertise on both national and hyperlocal levels, across socioeconomic borders.

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