Southwest Airlines Co. has been nothing less than a marvel of marketing, an upstart company that faced down giant competitors and has grown to be one of the most recognized names in air travel.
A testament to its marketing savvy was the way the company rebounded after the Sept. 11 attacks. In October, Southwest flew approximately the same revenue passenger miles as it did in October 2000 and is on track to be the only major airline to turn a profit for the year. Meanwhile, its larger competitors are struggling to stay solvent.
Evidently, Southwestâs position as a no-frills, no-hassles carrier appealed to those who still
needed to flyâprimarily business travelersâbut saw other airlines mired in chaos.
It didnât hurt that Southwest was also quick to change its marketing messages within a week of the attacks. It suspended use of its "Symbol of freedom" tagline in deference to the U.S. flag. And some of its fun-loving ways were downplayed.
Joyce Rogge, Southwestâs senior VP-marketing, said the airlineâs irreverent image would eventually return.
"You find the humor comes back as America is ready for it," said Rogge, the married mother of three who leads all media for the 35,000-employee airline. "The focus has been: When you are ready to fly, we are here."
More than 20 years experience working with the same advertising agency, GSDN, Austin, helped Southwest to quickly adjust marketing to the events of Sept. 11, she said. "Our history together allows us to work quickly and in sync," Rogge said.
Rogge joined Southwest in 1988 from an agency job at Janklow Bender, New York, where she managed such brands as Wigwam, Jansport, LeTigre Menswear and the licensing account of Walt Disney Co.
Under her direction, Southwest has built national brand status, in large part through sponsorship deals with professional football, hockey and baseball, a strategy that began in earnest after Rogge joined the company. By reaching the corporate set via sports and other venues, and with business travel evolving from a jet-set lifestyle accessory to a more perfunctory, mundane necessity, Southwest has become a force to be reckoned with in the b-to-b world. Especially now, thatâs a fact chipping away at the chinks in the armor of United, American and all those who didnât think that Southwest could pull it off.