southwest_airlines_logoSometimes I think marketing is a pretty easy business. Do right by your customers and they’ll do right by you – follow the Golden Rule.

One company that makes a hard business look easy and that rocks my marketing world is Southwest Airlines. Since 1999, Southwest’s domestic market share has increased by 48%, while the five network carriers have seen their combined passenger base shrink 20%. This year, Southwest will fly about 28 million more people than it did in 1999, while its rivals will fly a total of 62 million fewer passengers!

Southwest is a leader – pure and simple. They’ve been zigging while the Big 5 have been sagging for years. They start by being friendly and have built their brand around LUV.

Southwest is gaining valuable market share, even as it reduces its overall flying, by exploiting a competitive weakness at other airlines. The universal competitive weakness among all of Southwest’s competitors is the perception that they are out to “nickel and dime” passengers with fees for services that were once part of the base airfare.

southwest airlines bags fly freeSouthwest’s ‘bags fly free’ marketing strategy is pure genius and is proving to be another major success for them. Check out this story from the Chicago Tribune, Southwest landing flyers with its ‘bags fly free’ strategy.

Do like it when companies ding you for every little thing?

Do you ding people with your pricing?

Recently, I flew Southwest to Florida for a little golf vacation with my brothers and even my golf bag was checked in for free. Plus, the smiling, friendly faces and natural customer rapport they provide was pervasive throughout my experience – from service counter to stewards to pilots. It was a great experience.

BP 1.00 airAnd, as I thought about this Blog post and my favorable Southwest customer experience of saving at least $100 with their ‘bags fly free‘ policy, I thought about my BP gas station experience earlier in the day. BP charged me $1.00 to put air in my tires (see copy in bottom right corner)! Make that two tires – my dollar didn’t last long enough to top off the air for all four tires.

So, here’s the $24,000 question.

Do you ever hear of anyone raving about their recent experience at a BP gas station?

Didn’t think so!

P.S.: Check out how well Southwest’s stock price has outperformed BP’s stock price over the last 10 years! It’s obvious Southwest is a marketing rock star!