Security lines that are a bit too long and bags of pretzels that are a bit too small always come to mind when I think of air travel. However, my weekend trip to Columbus via Southwest brought my attention to the importance of brand personality when fighting competitors for ticket sales.
Southwest understands this, and makes sure that their brand personality is present in every aspect of what they do.
I noticed this right away when getting on my first flight, the attendants and pilots made many jokes over the loud speaker and spoke in a very casual way. This included directions like, “please pretend you’re paying attention as we demonstrate safety features.”
The napkins that came with our drinks also had fun taglines like “Here’s to You” and the stirring stick in my coffee was shaped like a heart at the top, true to their brand imagery. When it was time for us to get off the plane, the pilot chimed in, “We are on time, so be sure to tell all of your family and friends, because we know you tell them when we’re late. Okay now get out of here and have a great day!”
Out of context, these details and interactions make the airline sound unprofessional. However, since they incorporated this as part of their brand personality, it can be expected of the company regardless of where you are flying from or what crew you are with.
This is reinforced by their advertisements. One of which I saw in the skyway when boarding had a picture of a staffer, and it said, “Everyone has attitudes, our employees just have the right kind.” Another ad states, “We’d like to match their new fares, but we’d have to raise ours.” This recognizes the airline competition and allows consumers to associate Southwest with low prices and their distinct brand personality.
The most important piece when it comes to brand personality is remaining consistent. If it weren’t for the advertisements, napkins, and pilot’s dialogue, I may have thought I just had rude attendants. However, because their personality is so well represented and widespread, consumers understand their intention. It sets them apart as an organization who has employees that love their job, are loyal to the company, and enjoy serving their passengers.
This approach to brand personality is also in line with their relaxed practices, as you choose your own seat and boarding is grouped into A-B-C rather than dictated by seat number. However, having a strong brand personality can also backfire if a passenger doesn’t fully engage with the brand. For example, had I not taken Southwest both ways on my flight, had I not read the brand messages on their products, or seen the advertisements, I may have not understood that this was intentional.
Luckily for Southwest, brand personality is my favorite aspect of strategic communications, so I will remember them more fondly as a result of their effective brand representation.