Hard to beat Southwest Airlines for examples of how employees build the brand. Scene: A busy flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas on Sunday morning (11/07/04) The usual snafus: passengers late to the gate because of long lines at security chokepoints, etc.
As the plane doors were closed, a flight steward came on the PA system delivering her chirpy welcome, and reminder about seatbelts and cell phones etc. However she prefaced it with: “I can’t believe we’re on-time!” Passengers laughed. Then, as the plane began to nudge out of the gate, the captain, in an equally cheery voice said “She better believe it! We are always on time! I know because I keep the log book in here!”
In most companies, a lesser mortal saying something not so complimentary about the brand would probably be fired! Not Southwest, where employees –and not just marketing people—manage the brand!
Such exhortations of the airline’s ‘brand voice’ are what differentiate products and services. For frequent fliers for whom short, no-frills, crampy flights are as uneventful as a bus ride, it’s these little things that make a difference. So many marketers forget this and are carried away with cool, predictable (excuse me for using this awful word) ‘touchpoints.’ So yes, I print my boarding pass at home before I leave for my flight, and yes, I subscribe to a customer-retention plan known as Rapid Rewards, but the thing that keeps me flying Southwest is how human and normal the brand is, free of hype, and overblown promises that most marketers adopt.
Imagine an alternative scenario. The flight steward makes an announcement that “It’s 8.30, and, as usual, Southwest is always on time! At Southwest Airlines, we are (extra chirpy voice here)dedicated to the highest quality of customer service and have been consistently known for on-time departures and arrivals. Please sit back, and relax and enjoy the flight…” That, by the way, is a part of the airline’s mission statement, but it rings so hollow, when compared to the real brand voice –those unscripted moments, from the mouth of its employees. Often this is the best PR of all –reaching 200 (captive) customers at a time.
See a similar example of ‘customer loyalty software’ here.