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View from the street: Is the customer always right?

Airplane flying

Rochelle Blakeman

Is the customer always right?


Apparently, I’m a materialistic hoarder. According to Ryanair, that is.

The airline appears to have had enough of its customer’s many grumbles – including about paying extra for larger suitcases – and is suggesting we look inward, not outward, for culpability and solutions.

“Ask yourself this question” posits a computerised voice as an airplane descends over a montage of world destinations: “do you really need a 20kg bag to travel the world? Is it Ryanair’s fault you’re a materialistic hoarder? No, it’s yours.”

“Not everyone needs add-ons, you know”.

Scrolling through Ryanair’s Twitter or Instagram, it’s hard to ascertain what I like best about its new social media campaign, which doubles as a real-life tribute to Come Fly With Me. The comedic disregard for customer service and diplomacy. The self-proclaimed sass and sarcastic deployment of the nail painting emoji 💅 – a nod and wink to a generation who know this symbolises not really giving a (flying 🦆).

Not everyone is amused, though, by Ryanair’s tongue-in-cheek. “Laddish banter” is the ambivalent verdict of one travel journalist. Some have called for those responsible to be given pay rises immediately, others are outraged at such open goading of customers and their experience of the airline’s service.

Maybe we can all agree that Ryanair’s content stands out because it bucks the default business mode of working hard to appear good, morally upstanding and customer-focused. Pressures that have other communications and marketing departments gripped, as ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance) has become an important tool in reputation management.

Ryanair is instead playing to its reputation as a no-frills provider and hamming it up to great effect. Presumably tired of feedback suggesting the company is “taking the piss” out of its customers with additional charges, the marketing team have chosen to own that reputation and take it a step further by explicitly doing just that. They have subverted the ultimate consumer business maxim of ‘the customer is always right’, inviting observers to consider whether that’s genuinely always the case.

Some commentators have noted that in a “bourgeois” business world, a little bit of sass (💅) has an air of authenticity that normal corporate statements can lack. Think of Greggs publicly teasing Piers Morgan over vegan sausage rolls. “Oh hello, Piers, we’ve been expecting you.” Genius.

Individuals, too, can embody this philosophy. Anna Wintour owns her Devil Wears Prada comparison, embracing perceived ‘flaws’ and turning them into her power.

While not every brand nor every situation calls for a devil-may-care attitude to public engagement, humour is an underrated unifier. Silly memes and touches of satire remind us of the value in self-deprecation and the need for everyone to lighten up, occasionally.

On that note, I’m off to pack my apparently extravagant 20kg bag and be ridiculed by my fellow travellers – and possibly even the company I’m paying to whisk me away. Ciao!


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