THE LEVISON LETTER
Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
E-mail, Web Sites & Advertising
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting
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
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
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
+ 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
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
Direct Response Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
Web Site: http://www.levison.com
How To Subscribe/Unsubscribe
SUBSCRIBE FREE to The Levison Letter at
UNSUBSCRIBE by sending a Reply to this message with
just the word unsubscribe in the subject line.
IMPORTANT: Your subscription information will NEVER
be traded, sold, or used by anyone else. That's a personal
Copyright 2007, by Ivan Levison, All Rights Reserved.
Recent Back Issues of The
|Click Here to see back issues of The Levison Letter