Many hands have shaped the modern travel industry, but it's hard to think of anyone whose perceptions were as sharp, whose influence was as broad and deep, and who had a greater impact on the global travel experience than Stan Plog, who passed away last week.
I had the pleasure of working with Stan many times, most recently when he became Travel Weekly's research director for our annual Travel Industry Survey. But one never hired Stan merely to field research. One also hired him for his marketing savvy. Below is an excerpt from an earlier column that illustrates just one example of his influence:
Plog had been hired by British Airways' predecessor, the British Overseas Airways Corp., to conduct passenger research on the Concorde, which was in development at the time.
"They had a huge mock-up in a hangar," he said. "The exterior looked terrific. They invited a group of high-end travelers to see it. I watched their faces when they entered [the hangar]. Their jaws just dropped in amazement. The plane was so stunning. They loved it at first sight.
"I hurried into the plane so I could see their reactions when they first saw the interior. Their jaws dropped again, but this time in horror. The overhead bins had no covers; they were like [those] in a train or a bus. The ceiling was [less than 6 feet high]."
BOAC didn't see how special and different the Concorde was. "To them, it was just transportation," Plog said. "They thought that in a few years there would be dozens of supersonic planes.
"I convinced them to cover the overhead bins, raise the roof and, most importantly, understand that they needed to market the experience of the Concorde as well as its ability to get someone from one point on Earth to another quickly.
"The machmeter in the cabin is the suggestion I'm most proud of. When you're on the plane, you can't really feel the acceleration. I imagined that everyone would want to know the precise moment when the plane broke the sound barrier."
BOAC began to understand what he was saying, but in other regards remained clueless. "They were going to use Bakelite knives, forks and plates. They were very concerned about weight, and Bakelite was considerably lighter than china and silver." Plog convinced them they were making a mistake.
The Concorde might incidentally have been transportation, but it'll likely be remembered as a masterpiece of design, engineering ... and marketing.
Email Arnie Weissmann at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter.