Southwest to break out of low-fare positioning

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As Southwest Airlines grows into a more truly national carrier, the airline is trying to brand itself and break away from discount copycats through an estimated $20 million ad effort.

Using actor Jack Palance in a humorous "Symbol of freedom" campaign breaking Oct. 6, Southwest hopes to "more clearly articulate what we stand for beyond low fares," said Joyce Rogge, Southwest VP-advertising and promotions. " `Freedom' is not just low fares but the frequency to go and come in a day."


Mr. Palance raps a cowboy poem in two 30-second TV executions expected to run just through December, though the full campaign from GSD&M, Austin, Texas, will last into 1997 with additional creative.

"As we started our 25th anniversary this year, we had a pretty heavy discussion of `Where do we go next?' " Ms. Rogge said. "It was getting pretty crowded on the low-fare ladder, and we decided we had to go to a new level to differentiate ourselves."

Despite its regional beginnings, the carrier shot up to become the airline that spent the most on U.S. advertising in 1995, totaling $77.6 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Airline media spending among the top eight still-existing carriers has fallen 25% cumulatively since 1992.


Though the budget for the new campaign is partially shifted from the airline's local spending, said Ms. Rogge, Southwest's overall '96 budget is expected to hit approximately $85 million.

Southwest began national promotions for the first time in 1994, buying time on "NFL Monday Night Football"; last year it had a presence on a TV Christmas special.

This fall, Sunday football is added to the schedule.

Southwest's route system is finding growth on the East Coast. The carrier entered Florida in January and launches service from the Northeast through Providence, R.I., at the end of this month.

There is no danger the carrier will cut back significantly on its local spending--60% of its ad budget.

"One of the things we'll always recognize and continue to do is take great pride that we're very focused on hometown, local marketing," Ms. Rogge said.

Copyright October 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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