Dana Williams, Director of Marketing and Communications for Southwest Airlines, shared her insights with us this past Friday. Williams explained the strategy behind Southwest’s “Bags Fly Free” campaign and shared the company’s innovative approach to marketing in the 21st century. We caught up with Dana after the presentation to get more of her thoughts.
A: Know your Customer and build value for your Customer.
Q: How has that influenced Southwest’s marketing?
A: We are in the Customer service business, we just happen to fly planes! Our mission statement is about Customer Service and says nothing about flying people from point A to point B. I attached mission statement below.
Q: Why do you think Southwest’s brand resonates so well with people?
A: We have great value and we give our people the freedom to have fun and be themselves. Our people are our brand essence at Southwest Airlines, so everything centers on delivering great Customer Service through our people.
Q: How have Southwest’s marketing objectives and approach evolved in recent years? What precipitated those changes?
A: We have gone from brand awareness to strategically creating brand preference. Competition with other airlines was the driving force behind that shift.
Q: What’s the greatest challenge in building a successful marketing campaign? How do you overcome that challenge?
A: Getting everyone on the same page and then keeping the message consistent in all channels. We developed Star teams for integrating all communication.
Q: Southwest takes a different approach to advertising than other airlines, namely humor. Why did you go for this approach?
A: We take our business seriously but not ourselves.
Q: Do you target business travelers through social media? If so, how?
A: Yes, we use targeted media buys.
Q: What has been Southwest’s most unique and successful strategy for increasing its online following? It’s a mixture of several things, not just one thing. We focus on bringing folks to our site only instead of selling our seats on aggregators. With this philosophy, we are able to provide excellent Customer service and a great value for our Customers. We also developed some new tools like "Click and Save," creating a way for our Customers to sign up for the latest sales.
Q: How has Southwest’s social media program helped the company leverage customer loyalty?
A: Our customers carry our message as much as our marketing campaign, so it is very important to provide our Customer fans with as much information as we can as quickly as we can through our various social channels (Twitter; YouTube; Flickr; Facebook; and our blog, Nuts about Southwest).
Check out Southwest Airlines online, and be sure to check back soon for more information about AMA Tampa Bay’s upcoming events!