Cannes Lions

AIRLINES

GSD&M , Austin / SOUTHWEST AIRLINES / 2011

Overview

Entries

Credits

Overview

Description

Airline Fees. They’re all the rage in the U.S. To recoup lost revenue due to rising fuel costs and offset decreased passenger loads, major airlines have profited enormously for the past 2 years off the backs of its customers. But not Southwest. In the midst of the 2009 recession, Southwest faced a significant business decision. Charge bag fees or forego $450MM per year. But CEO Gary Kelly, stayed true to Southwest’s heritage of always doing right by the customer and decided against charging bag fees. So, Marketing had to recoup the lost revenue. Southwest’s strategy? Steal share. Enter Bags Fly Free. This campaign took on the industry and ridiculous fees for travellers everywhere. More than a campaign, it became the rallying cry for the entire organization. Once again, Southwest demonstrated it gives people the freedom to fly and cemented for customers that Southwest is the only airline on their side.

Execution

To inspire the target, “Resignation Nation,” the team knew they needed someone to whom the target could relate — not a pretty face who didn’t have skin in the game, but the ultimate working man’s working man, and the employee with the most skin in this game…the Southwest “Rampers”. These are the men and women who brave the weather, the engine noise and the chaotic runways to load and unload bags that other airlines were now charging for. Launching with television that combined the maverick spirit of old with a new passion and empathy for the traveller, the rampers castigated other airlines, showed their love for the bags and in the end, challenged everyone to “Grab Your Bag” because on Southwest Airlines, your bags fly free.

Outcome

Despite having to take its capacity down 5.1%, Southwest was the only U.S. airline that posted an increase in passenger traffic. The airline’s load factor, or percentage of seats filled, leapt from 71.2% to 76% in a rough economy and in a flat or declining industry. Building on this, Southwest Airlines picked up almost a full 1% gain in market share - from 12.9% to 13.8% between November of 2008 and November of 2009. This gain in market share equalled to $800 million in incremental revenue, almost double what was estimated the airline would leave on the table by not charging bag fees.

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