It was a couple of years ago that I began to suspect things were changing at Southwest. The esprit de corps was missing. No singing during landing or jokes on take-off. Uniforms replaced shorts and golf shirts. Southwest didn’t feel like Southwest. With the introduction of their latest ad campaign, my suspicions have been confirmed. The bean counters have taken over.
A sure sign that the marketing people have lost control of the ship is when the advertising starts to focus on the company instead of the customer. Sadly, it has happened at Southwest Airlines. The great ads that used to feel my pain when I really needed to “get away” have been replaced with images of employees talking about how much they care. They have “heart”. You can tell, it’s painted on the bottom of the planes.
When you are really good at something, you don’t have to tell anyone. Everyone who matters knows. Can Peyton Manning throw a football? Can Eric Clapton tear up a guitar? The day Adam Levine puts his face on a poster with the caption “I can sing and I’m a really good songwriter, too” is the day he starts playing casinos in the midwest. Of course it applies to great companies, too.
Customer-focused innovation separates great companies from the competition. When the bean counters take over, the focus moves to the company and the bottom line. Short term, short-sighted thinking. The real Bottom line. This new campaign does not pass the “So what?” test. “Our people have a lot of heart. We love to fly. We really care about flying around the country.”
Here’s some insight: We, the customers, fly because we have to. Not because we want to or because it is fun. We like(d) Southwest because you made it fun, or at least tolerable. If you’re going to make it boring, we might as well take the bus.
They start off all quirky and fun. Ready to take risks, to be themselves without taking themselves too seriously. Then, all of a sudden (it seems) they hit the big time and they get all serious and busyness-like. Before you know it, you hardly know them at all and you start to drift apart.
Please tell me, Mr. and Mrs. Southwest Airlines, that you won’t let this happen to you.
I remember my first Southwest experience. I’ll bet you do, too. The people were genuinely nice. Genuinely “genuine”. They sang. They told stupid jokes and very punny puns. It was so weird. I loved it. I’ve noticed recently, though, that the quirkiness is gone. Along with the perkiness. Even their advertising has taken a more serious tone.
I asked a flight attendant “Why don’t you sing anymore?” She said,”You need to write to management. They want us to stop that kind of thing. I miss it.”