Branded Content Analysis: Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines routinely ranks in the top 5 best airlines in America. The airline prides itself on its exceptional customer service which is supported by its no-frills, no hassle business model. The company has been profitable for 45 years in a row – even when airlines were struggling in the early 2000s. Obviously, they are doing something right!
This would make a fascinating business case study – how can a low cost, no frills airline remain so competitive and popular in the face of rising costs and declining air travel? But, that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to take a look at the airline’s branded content, specifically, their website www.southwest.com.
What I See
When I visit southwest.com I see a website designed solely around the consumer. Front and center is the flight search and booking feature. Scroll down to see special vacation offers, learn about their points credit card, and the latest news and policy changes. After that, quite frankly by website standards and user engagement, you might loose some interest. You’ll need to head way down to the bottom of the page to find Customer Service topics or learn more about the company.
What I Get
What I get is a website that works. From a consumer standpoint, the website is great. It allows me to search for and book flights right there and even learn more about current special offers – without having to dig for it.
From a marketing standpoint? Kind of simple. It’s almost too no-frills. It really doesn’t tell me anything about Southwest or differentiate them from any other airline’s website or even other travel sites like Travelocity or Expedia. I actually had to double check that I was on Southwest’s actual site and not a different travel website, they look that similar.
I had to scroll all the way down to the bottom and look through the fine type to find the About Southwest section and then head over to Press Room to get anything meaty. Once I get there though, Wow! I was greeted with a big, bright image of a Southwest plane all decked out for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week! That would have been fun to see on the homepage. Further down there are feature stories that get to the heart of Southwest’s customer service philosophy, but you’ve got to do some digging to find them.
What I Think
I think Southwest has designed their website to serve their customers first – as they should. They’re an airline; in the business of getting people from one point to another. Most people are coming to the site to look up flights, not to check out the company’s marketing materials. So, the site works for their intended purpose.
Just for comparison, I checked out their Facebook page and quickly realized that is what I’ve come to expect from Southwest – lots of fun stories about passengers or Southwest employees along with some promotions, policy changes, and even weather/flight advisories. All in all, the Facebook page is a great mix of information that would be useful to passengers as well as anyone who just wanted to learn more about Southwest as a brand and a company.
And that’s a great example of why it’s such a good idea to invest in multiple marketing channels. Your website isn’t always going to be able to provide the full story behind your company. One of the things I love most about social media is the human aspect of it. It’s the best way to connect with your customers in a less rigid, friendly, but still professional, manner – that’s exactly what I see Southwest doing. The website is for business. The social media is for creating connections with consumers.
That brings me to my final thought: How do your website and/or social accounts support your business? Do they serve similar purposes or meet different needs?