Branding At Its Finest—Cult Brand: Southwest Airlines

When Southwest Airlines was founded in Dallas in 1967, it began as a small airline operating only within the state of Texas. As of March 2018, the airline employs more than 57,000 people, oversees more than 4,000 departures a day during peak travel season and operates in 99 destinations across North America and the Caribbean. So how did the once tiny budget airline grow into the cult brand it is today? It’s simple, fostering a great company culture.

When Southwest Airlines first comes to mind, you’ll likely think of the iconic blue, yellow and red planes and catchy, satiric slogans such as “You're Now Free To Move About The Country” or “Without a heart, it’s just a machine.” But where Southwest really sets itself apart is in how they treat both their customers and employees. In fact, in 2016, CEO Gary Kelly revealed that the company has never laid off a single employee. That kind of security is the reason you’ll always be greeted by smiling faces every day because the flight crews actually enjoy coming to work.

01-southwest-cabincrew-southwest.jpg

Although the lack of seating assignments and premium cabins may be a dealbreaker for some frequent flyers, the airline does offer perks such as two free checked bags and no fees for flight changes/cancellations to any and all customers. This is compared to an airline like American which offers only one free checked bag to AAdvantage members and up to a $200 cancellation fee. They may not provide you a complimentary meal or personal TV, but a flight attendant in a good mood might give out a free drink coupon or two on a delayed flight or even waive a substantial difference in fare when changing flights.

Now, the flexibility the airline allows, of course, does not come without its own set of challenges. No seating assignments mean a frenzy at the gate when boarding begins to have the first pick of seats that many have compared to a cattle call. Southwest flights also do not pop up on popular travel search engines such as TriVaGo or Google Flights, which bothers some people who like to shop around for flights. In side-by-side comparisons, Southwest may not always be the lowest fare, but it makes up for the extra cost by superior customer service and the other perks listed above.

At the end of the day, the airline delivers on expectations. Their current motto is “Low Fares. Nothing to Hide.” They believe in a culture of transparency both among their employees and to their customers, and this is one of the many reasons they have been able to retain 45 consecutive years of profitability, something no other major airline is able to boast. Through some of the business practices we’ve discussed above, Southwest has been able to build an army of loyal customers that will ensure they remain at the top of their game for many years to come. At Enrich My Brand, we are always looking to creative and unique strategies like this to inspire us for both our own business practice and our clients’. Check out our corporate site to learn more about our services.