Gone were the days when companies used to be product-focused, utilizing salespeople to sell their products to the market without any specific goals in mind. The advent of marketing changed all this and has since revolutionized the manner of marketing certain products and services.
This paper shall look into the marketing strategies Southwest Airlines is currently utilizing to gain a good market share amidst a long list of airline companies today.
Southwest Airlines was initially incorporated to serve three cities in Texas as Air Southwest on March 15, 1967, by Rollin King and Herb Kelleher.
Air Southwest changed its name to Southwest Airlines In early 1971 and the first flight was recorded on June 18, 1971. Over the years, Southwest has added improved 737 variants but has stayed within the Boeing 737 family to reduce operating costs. Because this technique simplified training, maintenance, and ground operations, it revolutionized the industry’s approach to building aircraft fleets.
In January 2005 Southwest put to rest its remaining 737-200, the oldest type in its fleet. This event was highlighted with employees wearing pajamas for an early morning flight covering the original Dallas-San Antonio-Houston before returning to Dallas and called this “putting the -200s to bed”.
Southwest is known for putting value to the most important people, the customers and the employees. The success of behind a company’s success is its people who understand the significant contribution of their company. Southwest believes that with unsatisfied employees may be translated to unsatisfied customers.
The company is known for its distinct customer service philosophy. Lovelock and Wirtz (2002, p. 58) made is clear that a good customer service spells a big difference in gaining a good number of customers.
Southwest must see to it that despite the large number of airline companies that exist today, customers must continue to fly their airline. This is no easy task considering the challenge of trying to beat the other airlines who may offer lower fares or provide more valuable services.
Flying on Southwest is quite different from that of most other U.S. airlines such as that tickets are only available and may be purchased from the airline itself. They are not available through travel agents or through common online venues. The tickets may be bought over the phone or via online transactions at the company’s website.
Another thing that sets the company aparts from other airline companies is that reservations can be changed at will without corresponding penalties. To an ordinary customer, this service means so much.
There’s another way Southwest is doing to gain more customers. It offers Rapid Rewards where customers receive one credit per each one-way ticket (http://www.airfleets.net/ageflotte/Southwest%20Airlines.htm). This program was eventually modified to provide a better offer to customers who frequently fly the airline company.
In February 2006, Southwest instituted Capacity Controls to redeeming its free tickets. This means that the airline limits the seats offered to frequent travelers using free certificates on each flight, whereas previously if there was a seat available, you could use the award, provided you were not flying on one of the five blackout dates.
Southwest has added fun in its advertisements such as “just Plane Smart,” The Somebody Else Up There Who Loves You” and “The Low Fare Airline”. This is its way of reaching to its targeted audience in the simplest and easiest way possible.
Since the 1990s, Southwest has come up with television campaigns based on the phrase “Wanna get away?” Their TV commercilas are filled with funny scenes showing how people appear during situations they find themselves while ‘wanting to get away’. What really distinguishes Southwest from other airlines is its sound clip ‘ding which is now being associated with the company.
No amount of enticing marketing strategies will be able to entice the most number of customers if all they get are airline employees who give them the cold shoulder. This is something that Soutwest is being known for and its management is trying to build up among its employees. Southwest employees are generally regarded for their friendliness.
The Economist came up woth a Special report entitled “Low-cost airlines Turbulent Skies” in July 8, 2004 highlighting the present dilemma airline companies are facing. The 9/11 incident actually changed the way people are dealing with airline companies. No one can deny the fact that people have started developing a kind of fear against flying.
Peterson (2004 p.124 ) illustrates the changes which companies like Southwest may undertake to compete with the times by using marketing principles attuned to the times. As Lovelock and Wirtz (2002), there are better ways to deal with certain situations that beset companies like Southwest.
The problem left by the 9/11 incident among airline companies, the best way to sell or encourage more customers to fly Southwest is to offer them more than just low-cost fares. It is important to provide them the best customer service experience no other airline can give.
http://www.airfleets.net/ageflotte/Southwest%20Airlines.htm (Retrieved September 12, 2006)
Lovelock, C., & Wirtz, J. Services Marketing People Technology Strategy. McGraw-Hill/Irwin. July 2002
Low-cost airlines Turbulent Skies. The Economist Special Report. Jul 8th 2004
Peterson, B. Blue Streak: Inside jetBlue, the Upstart that Rocked an Industry. Portfolio Hardcover. 2004