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Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
E-mail, Web Sites & Advertising

Published by
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting

December, 2007
Volume: 22 Number: 12

A product positioning case study -
Southwest Airlines is sitting pretty

Have you ever flown on Southwest Airlines?

They're a terrific, low-cost outfit that has a
marvelous safety record and gets you where you want
to go on time.

In order to keep things simple and offer low
prices, Southwest doesn't provide assigned seating.
You have to arrive at the airport early or print
out a boarding pass, get on line at the gate, and
then board the plane on a first-come, first served
basis. Survival of the fittest.

Very recently, Southwest has started designating
your place on line. However, when boarding starts
and you get on the plane, it's every man, woman,
and child for themselves. On a crowded flight, when
everyone's got carry-on luggage, it can be a bit
like rugby.

So how does Southwest handle the fact that they
don't offer the convenience of reserved seating?

In a brand new TV commercial, they turn it into a

Here's how . . .

The spot starts with Billy being put into a high
chair. His mom tells him where to sit . . . Cut to
Billy in school. His teacher tells him where to sit
.. . . Cut to Bill's first day on the job in an
office. His boss tells him where to sit . . . Cut
to Bill at the airport. The ticket agent, on some
other airline, gives Bill his assigned seat number
and tells him where to sit. That does it for the
poor guy! The announcer tells us, "So Bill switched
to Southwest Airlines. Now Bill sits where Bill
wants. Freedom to choose on Southwest Airlines."

Terrific! By using some powerful advertising Jiu-
Jitsu, Southwest turns a serious disadvantage into
a benefit. The free-for-all scramble for a favorite
seat is transformed into a liberating expression of
individual freedom.

This is an example of the power of positioning - of
how a marketer decides to best "position" their
product or service in the consumer's mind. Of
course, Southwest Airlines, like all companies, can
choose from a huge number of positionings.

For example, Southwest could have positioned
themselves as:

+ The on-time airline
+ The no-frills airline
+ The low-cost airline
+ The safety-conscious airline
+ The friendly airline
+ The we-serve-the-West airline
+ The sexy flight-attendant airline (This is not my
sordid idea. Years ago this was Southwest Airline's
actual advertising positioning. In fact, all
"stewardesses" were required to wear hot pants and
go-go boots!)

The bottom line?

In the TV spot mentioned above, Southwest chose a
"free-to-sit-anywhere" positioning. Why did they go
this route? (No pun intended.) We can only infer
that they felt the need to counter an unpleasant
customer perception - that Southwest's free-for-all
seating policy was a royal pain in the neck.

The point of all this, of course, is not to
investigate airline seating procedures. It's to
demonstrate how a fresh approach to positioning can
be used to build a business.

If you can think in a fresh, new way about YOUR
product or service, and reinvent it through an
innovative repositioning, the world will beat a
path to your door.

How To Get In Touch

Ivan Levison
Direct Response Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive
Greenbrae, CA 94904

Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
E-mail: ivan@levison.com
Web Site: http://www.levison.com

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Copyright 2007, by Ivan Levison, All Rights Reserved.

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