The other day on a cross-country plane ride my co-passengers and I enjoyed the humor of a very funny flight attendant. We were in stitches as he delivered the safety briefing with the wit and timing of a stand-up comedian, and when we prepared for landing he was just as hilarious.
As enjoyable as the experience was, I’ve come to expect that type of lighthearted humor from Southwest Airlines. As we were taxiing towards the gate, I reflected on my appreciation of their attempts to make traveling just a little less of a hassle. And then I realized something. I was on an American Airlines flight.
Think about that. I made my reservation at the American Airlines website. I checked in at the American Airlines ticket counter. I waited at the American Airlines gate, handed my ticket to the American Airlines agent, stepped on to the American Airlines plane and slumped into an American Airlines seat, with the American Airlines in-flight magazine staring back from the seat-back pocket in front of me. Yet despite all that, the wit and charm of the flight attendant was so consistent with brand Southwest (and, frankly, inconsistent with American) that it actually had me subconsciously thinking that I was on a different airline.
Is it possible that the freedom Southwest has long given its flight attendants to improvise has made the lighthearted safety briefing an asset of its brand? How often when the other guys mimic the approach does it result in an unintentional tip of the hat to Southwest? It’s an interesting question to ponder, and it underscores just how far-reaching integrated brand communications can go.
Whether intended or not, Southwest now owns the funny flight briefing in my mind, and I suspect in the minds of many others. From peanuts to its on-time performance record, Southwest is a brand that understands like few others that everything is marketing.