Mel Sokotch

How positioning informs every decision Southwest Airlines makes...

If a positioning program is going to be effective, it must be applied with ruthless discipline, and by everyone who touches the brand.  Here's a great example from Chip and Dan Heath's terrific book, "Made to Stick":

Herb Kelleher, long-time CEO of Southwest Airlines, tells a friend "I can teach you the secret to running the airline in 30 seconds. This is it: We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand that fact, you can make any decision about this company's future as well as I can."

"Here's an example," he said. "Tracy from marketing comes into your office. She says her surveys indicate that passengers might enjoy a light entrĂ©e on the Houston to Vegas flight. All we offer is peanuts, and she thinks a nice chicken Caesar salad would be popular. What do you say?" 

His friend hesitated, so Kelleher responded: "You say, 'Tracy, will adding that chicken Caesar salad make us THE low-fare airline from Houston to Vegas? Because if it doesn't help us become the unchallenged low-fare airline, we're not serving any damn chicken salad'"

Whether Southwest actually has a formal positioning statement, I don't know, but there can be no doubt this brand is rigorously guided by the principles of classic positioning. 

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