Social That Worked: How Southwest Airlines Got Its New Heart Off the Ground
Social media is a channel that punishes random, piecemeal marketing. To be successful, it's essential to use marketing and public relations in tandem to manage the conversation and turn the prevailing buzz — even negative buzz — to your advantage. Southwest Airlines did exactly that with the release of its new airplane livery and heart logo in 2014.
Southwest's manager, marketing communications, Michael Anne Wade, and social business adviser Brooks Thomas helped design and execute the program. Both of them were on hand at the Dreamforce '15 to discuss how they did it during the session "Real-Time Social Marketing on The Fly with Southwest Airlines."
The Double Standard
Southwest had two things going on at once. First, the Wright Amendment, which for decades had prevented Southwest from flying from its home airport in Dallas directly out of the state of Texas, was about to be repealed. That would have a huge impact on all of its customers in or flying through Texas. In addition, Southwest was launching a new look, with an updated paint job for its planes (a new "livery") dubbed "Heart" that included a new heart logo on the belly of the plane.
According to Wade and Thomas, the goal of the social program for both of these events was to create positive sentiment toward Southwest on social media, but the program involved channels and tactics beyond that.
First, Southwest developed a stable of content, including videos and photos of the heart livery unveiling, and created a plan to continue collecting assets after the planes entered service.