It's the kind of publicity no brand marketer wants: front-page headlines in national newspapers reading "banned" slapped over photographs of Gatorade, Edge shaving gel, Coppertone, Crest and even venerable old Jell-O. But the exclusion of liquids and gels from airplanes, following a foiled terror plot, may yet spawn opportunity for smart cosmetics, package-goods and beverage marketers.
The ban is a personal bane for business travelers, many in the marketing community among them. And it sure didn't look good from a short-term brand standpoint either -- though luck was with PepsiCo, whose commercial featuring comedienne Kathy Griffin as an airport security guard who pretends a passenger's Sierra Mist is setting off her security wand had just finished its rotation the week before.
Yet others are already seeing the potential for an uptick in sales of cosmetics and package goods at airports. "I fly more than 100,000 miles a year, and I only check luggage if I've got golf bags," said Joe Zubi, chief operating officer of Zubi Advertising, Miami, who caught an early-morning flight Thursday from Fort Lauderdale to visit his biggest client, Ford Motor Co., in Detroit. "So I'll be buying toothpaste and deodorant twice a week wherever I land."
Carrie Mellage, industry manager for consumer products at beauty-research firm Kline & Co., believes there's fertile ground there for marketers. "Some [fliers] might not bring things with them, so they might buy [products] when they land and just use [them] for a short while, which could help grow sales."
Scott Danheiser, branch sales manager for packaging distributor Tricor Braun, said no one has placed big orders for travel-size packaging, but one idea would be for airlines to strike deals with health and beauty marketers to assemble in-flight packs. Of course, just like food these days, they'd have to charge for them.
Hotel respond quickly
Hotels were quick to rush to the rescue of business travelers like Antoinette Zel, senior exec VP-network strategy, Telemundo, who was forced to dump her expensive Narcisco Rodriquez perfume while returning to Miami from Advertising Age's Women to Watch luncheon in New York last week.
"How that hurt! The guard let me use it one last time!" she wrote in an e-mail. "There were some mighty fine hand lotions in the trash" at LAX last week, said Joe Shands, co-creative director of TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, who was traveling to Nashville.
"Our hotels have stocked up on amenities we don't typically offer guests, like hair gel, hair spray, deodorant, etc., anticipating that guests may have had to abandon toiletries at the airport," said a spokeswoman for Starwood Hotels. "At the moment, we are not charging guests for amenities."
Omni Hotels policy
Neither is Omni Hotels, which announced it would replenish all forms of liquid and gel basics for its guests as well. "We want to do whatever it takes to make their travel experiences less stressful," said Mike Deitemeyer, president of the 40-unit hotel and resort chain.
The ban could also be a short-term boon for airport beverage sales, said Bob Goldin, exec VP at Technomic. With consumers not able to eat or drink on the planes and with extra time in terminals to accommodate protracted check-ins, airport restaurants have profited handsomely, he said.
Conventional wisdom after Sept. 11 was that airport restaurants would suffer along with air travel, Mr. Goldin said. "Boy, were they wrong."
There's one unexpected sector that could see a bump thanks to frequent travelers who won't check their bags: shipping.
Bill Cella, chairman-CEO of Magna Global Worldwide, tried to be forward-thinking about his 90-minute delay on an Aug. 11 flight from Los Angeles to New York. "I Fed Ex'd my dop bag," he said in an e-mail, "but they confiscated my $50 Polo cologne! Bummer."