Playful Innovation at Southwest Airline

Playful Innovation at Southwest Airlines Southwest Airline is the most desired brand among American men and women over all other brands based on a quantitative study recently released in Forbes. Both sexes are drawn to different brands for different reasons, but on this they agree that the top accolade goes to Southwest Airline.

One of the most significant differences about Southwest and Jet Blue is they know they are in the people business.  Not so for other airlines that seem to be in the transportation business, which means people and luggage, are treated pretty much the same way.  Southwest’s combination of a fun and friendly atmosphere, open seating policies, and refusal to join their peers in painful additional charges for luggage, are having an effect on both men and women to have rated them above brands like Google and Apple in this study.

There are lessons for innovators and marketers to consider from the way they create a more meaningful and enjoyable relationship with customers. Here are two additional examples from Southwest Airline that contribute to greater consumer desire:

 Playful Innovation at Southwest Airlines

1. Nuts about Southwest is a community and an easy on the eyes blog that connects you to everyday people who are “nuts about the brand”. While many brands have blogs, this one is telling real stories by real people in engaging ways that deepen the connection to their employees and other travelers as well as inside stories about the company. Even their videos capture airport stories in interesting ways, which is not usually the most exciting setting for a good story.

2. Southwest’s Rapids Rewards Program promises you will fly free faster. The rewards program is easy to find and very simple to navigate. Contrast this with the experience of reading the fine print on other airlines’ sites to find the tab that will eventually connect to their frequent flier program. Southwest wants to you fly just to get the points.

These may seem like incremental innovations, but the point is that every touch point of Southwest says, “We’re happy to meet you”. They are bold and colorful and work hard to make people smile. Customers lean in to brands that show empathy and connect on a deeper emotional level. Think about how you can improve the experience around your product or service to be more desirable and make your customers smile; it will fuel brand desire.


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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive

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