Monday, April 8, 2013
Flying into turbulence
Southwest grew because they operated differently, quickly and efficiently.
Southwest grew because their communications were memorable and focused on things that matter to a lot of people: low fares, no baggage fees, no red tape.
Now that they're big, of course, it's time to abandon those things that have made them successful and do this.
Southwest became America's biggest airline by dominating their niche. They had a strict focus and interesting personality. But that personality and focus also limits them. It makes it harder to attract high-margin business travelers for example
So they're attempting to broaden their message and appeal to more people through this effort. What they're really doing, however, is watering it down so it appeals to no one. A lot of great brands have made the same mistake and those who lead Southwest, unfortunately have ignored brand positioning history.
Miller Lite grew to the #2 brand in the category with its clear position and iconic advertising "Great Taste. Less Filling." But #2 wasn't good enough so they decided to reposition themselves from a great tasting light beer, to the best beer for everyone and changed their slogan to "It's it and that's that." Soon after the the long, slow inevitable slide began.
In marketing, business and life, it is better to be everything to someone than something for everyone. I fear that Southwest Airlines is about to learn this lesson the hard way.