Southwest Onboards Everyone
Southwest Airlines is one of the best examples of a company that realizes that influencers are everywhere. It’s actually my favorite airline. Other planes may be sexier, sleeker, and have far better seating, but the way Southwest celebrates their story inspires me to want to join in the fun. In fact, I have remained a loyal Southwest celebrator, even when the relationship has not been fun.
On April 18, 2018, tragedy hit Southwest airlines when an accident occurred during a Dallas-bound flight. The engine blew up, fuselage broke a window and a woman was launched out of her seat, partially pulled through the window, and died. It was a horrible story and I felt terribly for this passenger and her family. After this incident, it became very difficult to keep it out of my mind as I took my seat on any flight. However, I kept flying on Southwest. In fact, I never even considered abandoning the airline.
A year later on March of 2019, I was headed home from California on a Southwest flight and my confidence in Southwest was tested again. About halfway through the flight, I was reading my ipad and I received an Apple News alert. It called my attention to a story on the emergency grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.
The aircraft was being grounded because of concerns related to two recent fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 MAX. All of these planes were to be immediately grounded amid safety concerns. The article stated that the only Boeing 737 MAX’s that were not grounded were the planes that they still had up in the air. However, when these planes landed, they too would be immediately grounded. I thought to myself, wow that’s crazy I wonder what kind of plane I’m on?
I reached for the sheet that listed the plane details from the back of the seat in front of me to check what plane I was currently on and there it was, Boeing 737 MAX. Now it was confirmed. The plane I was on was considered to be so unsafe that it needed to be immediately grounded. Wonderful.
The funny thing is that the information didn’t faze me. I had such confidence in Southwest, their team and their leadership, that I was able to keep reading, relaxing and flying comfortably to my destination. That is the power of brand story belief.
I’ll tell you though, if I had been flying on a Spirit Airlines plane and the same thing happened, I would have instantly wanted to get the hell off the plane asap. I also wouldn’t have booked again with Spirit, even if the flight would be $500 cheaper each way. Forget about it, I’d be done.
As ridiculous as this sounds it’s 100% true. Why is that?
It’s because I don’t know or trust Spirit in the same way, not even close. In fact, my experience with this airline has led me to believe that Spirit’s brand is primarily about price.
It’s easy to see the difference when you think about it. Why do I fly Spirit?
In air entertainment?
I fly Spirit because they are the cheapest or quickest flight I can find. It’s not about loyalty. I have never sought them out as a first choice.But that’s not the case with Southwest. I search for them first. Many times I am willing to pay more to fly with them. But what is it? Why do so many people love Southwest?
It’s because Southwest understands the opportunity to take control of the narrative to fuel their story in a comprehensive way. They are one of the best companies in the world when it comes to the way they educate, inspire, and influence. They make it easy for people to clearly see the positive attitude they have as a company, the powerful processes that drive the company, and the purposeful way they deliver the Southwest experience. They look for every opportunity to step up, define themselves, and invite you to their full-blown brand story celebration.
Before Covid-19 the best example and easiest illustration of this could be found in front of you on your Southwest flight. Their award-winning, Southwest The Magazine is a self-contained brand celebration. The magazine has evolved over the years (Ironically it used to be called Spirit Magazine) to become a true example of just how amazing Southwest is at celebrating their comprehensive brand story.
The magazine set up features an A-List customer interview, spotlights a team member, showcases community efforts, highlights customer thank you letters, shares their CEO’s perspective, and so much more. In one piece they seamlessly pull together stories from dozens of perspectives to illustrate that when it comes to the celebration of Southwest’s story – everyone is involved and everyone is appreciated.
They use the magazine to step up, define themselves and very intentionally create a full blown celebration of their story.
- They are celebrating their story as a company
- They are celebrating with every member of their team
- They are celebrating with their customers.
All of the celebration means what? What is the end result?
People are learning about the most inspiring aspects of the company. This education leads them to are value the airline in ways that are unheard of in their industry
Southwest knows that the ability to celebrate their story is the single biggest opportunity today. They aren’t solely relying on price.
They have taken control of the narrative to define themselves beyond personal gain of the customer. They have gone beyond to differentiate themselves from competition, to increase happiness of the team, and to build extraordinary value for their customers. That is how you build long-term success. You build relationships based on REAL meaningful connection. That is the opportunity.
Every functional brand out there has earned the opportunity to do what Southwest has done in the airline industry… In their own industry. All you have to do is EMBRACE the idea of celebrating your story. YOU have to be ALL IN.
That means, that you have to do everything you can to make sure that you get your team to recognize that the sharing of your story – is an opportunity to separate yourselves from the competition. You have to make it a priority, because your team and your marketing is your best way to fuel the development of Brand Celebrators … to create Influence.
Your team has to be IN the game to influence, so need to find ways to bring them into the celebration, by making it easy for them to be a part of the story. THAT is how you will create a stronger brand through the Power of Participation.There are opportunities for brands to educate people all over. It’s not a simple repeatable list of tactics for all brands because the outlets, channels and resources will vary by industry and business type. However, the secret is to know your story, be proud of it and be ready to celebrate it. Once you get there, you’ll see opportunities to influence and inspire everywhere. Southwest has been flying in that direction for a long time now, and more and more people are getting on board.