Kraft tries out cream cheese on JetBlue

The side of a JetBlue airplane

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Airlines passengers are no strangers to being nickel and dimed at 35,000 feet.

Want food with your flight? That'll cost you. More leg room? Yours -- for a fee. Checking a second bag? Just yesterday, United said sure... for $25 each way.

But JetBlue and Kraft Foods have found a way to take advantage of a captive audience for free. For the next month, passengers will be guinea pigs for Kraft's new low-fat cream cheese.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has the skinny.


Jeff Tyler: Kraft is giving away 500,000 breakfasts on JetBlue flights. The company sent along two employees to hand out bagels and talk up Kraft's new Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese.

Tyler Williamson: It's hard to miss a couple guys in white tuxedos talking to you on a plane. It's definitely a conversation starter.

That's Tyler Williamson, a brand manager at Kraft Foods. This week, he's flying all over the country to generate buzz about the low-fat cream cheese.

Williamson: Nine out of ten people are completely skeptical and not willing to accept that a light product can taste just as good as a regular product.

Williamson won't comment on how much, if anything, Kraft paid JetBlue, but he says handing out samples on a flight that offers no meals is a low-cost way to get people to try a new product.

Airports were once a good place to market products to people waiting for flights. Security concerns have put an end to that.

Marketing professor Peter Boatwright at Carnegie Mellon University says targeting potential customers in the air makes sense.

Peter Boatwright: Having a captive audience on an airplane, maybe that audience will feel that they have at least five minutes of disposable time to ponder the new cream cheese flavor and respond to it.

Boatwright says people who help test a product are more likely to buy it and he considers the in-flight marketing to be a good idea, but only if it remains novel.

Boatwright: If we get so many market research firms doing test marketing on airplanes, it'll get mundane pretty soon.

If that happens, consumers will tune out -- no matter how many calories are at stake.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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