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Guest Thinkers

Lobbbying as a Marketing Activity

This weekend I flew to lovely Pasco, WA to officiate a friend’s wedding — it was an amazing event and was truly enjoyable. On my way back, I had an idea for Amazon’s marketing team that I wanted to share with you all.

I own the Amazon Kindle, and absolutely love it for travel. It’s a fantastic reading device and is definitely my first gadget pick for vacation. The only downside is that most airlines still require you to turn the kindle off during takeoff and landing. However, the kindle uses very little power and causes very little interference, which means that you could safely use it under 10,000 feet during what the FAA calls “Sterile Cockpit Conditions.”

Why do airlines restrict Kindles?

The FAA requires that each airline certify that approved devices don’t interfere with their planes and then set their own guidelines about when you can use devices. The FAA strongly suggests that this occur above 10,000 feet.  (Here’s the guidelines, see section 6.e and 6.f)

So, there’s no incentive for Airlines to allow you to use anything under 10k ft. — they fear the FAA and the cost of expensive tests far more then they care about the small subset of customers who want to use a Kindle.

The opportunity for Amazon

But there is one person who cares enough about being able to use a Kindle during takeoff and has the resources to do something about it. Amazon.

Amazon could easily approach the major airlines and cut a deal with them that subsidized the cost of testing that verified that kindles didn’t interfere with airplane operations and gave the airlines monetary incentive to clear kindles for use below 10k. As long as Amazon could de-risk any potential blowback from the FAA (perhaps through insurance coverage or sign-off from the organization?) they could offer airlines several million dollars per year contingent on changing the pre-flight routine to specifically approve the use of Amazon Kindles. 

“Please now turn off all electronic devices, once we are above 10,000 feet you may use approved electronic devices. The only device approved for use during takeoff is the Amazon Kindle.”

If Amazon were able to accomplish this, the advertising value would be significantly better than almost any channel they could hope for – frequent travelers would adopt the kindle en masse and over 600 million people a year in the USA would be exposed to fantastic brand marketing for Amazon. The press around it would massively improve that.

It would involve Lobbying, Corporate Development, and a lot of efforts not normally associated with Marketing. It definitely be hard, but if successful, it might just be the most efficient marketing budget ever spent by a consumer electronic company.


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