Kevin Krone, the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Southwest Airlines, spoke today at the Skift Global Forum.
Krone oversees and provides direction to many facets of the operation within the airline, including brand development, advertising, promotions, online strategy, the Rapid Rewards loyalty program, customer insights and research, as well as product development and revenue generation.
Krone’s discussion with moderator Henry Harteveldt explored the world of airline branding, and Southwest’s own recent rebranding, which included new livery.
Here are are 10 things we learned:
- “Sometimes people want to signal a difference,” Krone said, referring to a basic reason behind why Southwest carried out just the second rebranding of its livery in its history. Other reasons included “visual pride” for employees and customers, and showing the evolution of the airline, including launching international service.
- The previous livery, which first appeared in 2001, was “not a current trend or current style.”
- “For any kind of company you don’t want to be a commodity. We fight every day to stand out.”
- “When you actually use design, it does show that you care.”
- In working on the rebrand, Southwest tested more than 60 branding items, 23 initial platforms, shared 450 slides with leadership, and consumed an estimated 892 cups of coffee.
- A blurry photo of the new livery leaked out the Saturday before the Monday, September 8, launch and the feedback initially was very negative. “The tide switched from 80% negative to 80% positive” after the debut.
- Harteveldt asked Krone why there was no representation of AirTran, which merged with Southwest, in the new color scheme. Krone said such inclusion was discussed, but noted that the AirTran brand will “sunset. We wanted to move forward with all our focus on Southwest.”
- Southwest may not be completely finished with its rebranding as customer feedback indicates that the heart on its fuselage may be too subtle, and Krone said the airline may enlarge it somewhat in future paint jobs. “We are thinking about ways to enhance where it is displayed on the outside of the fuselage.”
- In a bid to keep the costs of the rebranding lower, Southwest will repaint aircraft on a schedule that they would have been repainted anyway in the “natural cycle,” and he added that it may take several years to repaint all of its aircraft.
- Southwest tells employees “we are the same exact airline that we were before. We are not walking away from our DNA.”
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