by UFSocial contributor Cindy Goodman
Many travelers tend to fly Southwest instead of its competitors whenever possible because of the promise Southwest makes to customers as a brand.
Southwest promises flexibility, minimal hassles and employees who care about the customer’s flying experience. Southwest’s branding uses the symbol of a heart to exemplify that promise to customers and as a constant reminder to employees of the role they play in the brand’s promise.
Branding Southwest as a company with a heart starts with Southwest’s policies and comparable flight costs; passengers can change their flight without a huge fee. If someone needs to cancel a flight, the airline gives a credit toward a future flight. Also, travelers can take two suitcases and a carry on without an extra charge. Once people check in, they can choose whatever seat they want, anywhere on the plane that’s available. If someone wants to pay $12.50 for early bird check-in he can be among the first to board – and get first choice. If not, they board shortly after and choose their seat.
It feels like a fair system. Because passengers can check two bags at no charge, people aren’t trying to shove oversized bags into the bin above your seat as often as they are on other airlines.
While there are always some hassles involved in flying because of mechanical issues and weather delays, Southwest is an overall better flying experience.
Southwest does a good job of branding itself as an airline with a heart. Most people are well aware of the colorful red, yellow and blue Southwest logo and the heart that is part of it. As Forbes acknowledges, “Great brands don’t just bombard the eyes and the ears. They understand true advocacy begins only once you reach the heart of your customer. The heart has always been central to Southwest. One may point to the fact that airline was founded at Love Field in Dallas or that its stock ticker symbol is NYSE:LUV.”
To brand itself, Southwest also puts a heart on the underbelly of every plane:
It has even incorporated #SouthwestHeart into its social marketing plan and launched a social media listening center to engage with its customers.
Southwest also makes it known that it carefully hires to ensure employees show the right attitude of caring to the customer. The airline tries to convey its brand message at every touchpoint from the design of plane’s exterior, the in-flight materials, the in-airport look, the logo and the website.
While Southwest’s branding is worthy of compliments, it could improve its branding by better conveying its great policies to millennials who book a lot of last-minute flights. Many still don’t realize that Southwest is the only airline with a no change fee.
Incorporating that concept into its branding as a company with heart would go a long way toward increasing the loyalty of the next generation of travelers.