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Southwest's In-Flight Advertising to a Captive Audience
By: Cindy Wendland
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Our girls’ trip started in the early morning. It began with a sunny-side-up egg-topped breakfast pizza, which looked appealing but never passed these lips. We boarded our Southwest flight at 6:30 a.m. to leave to a warmer climate. Southwest had us as a captive audience for several hours. How did they do?

My traveling companion ordered tea. Written on the cup was “Improve the world sip by sip. For every 1 lb of LIFT coffee brewed on board, Southwest proudly donates to green energy projects in Peru.” We didn’t know that. This was our first flight on Southwest in a long time. What a great cause and a great way to let people know. My friend didn’t notice the cup’s writing, but it was a good effort on Southwest’s part. 

A little more on their donation: Southwest donates funds through Light Up the World (LUTW), a nonprofit Canadian organization, to implement green energy projects in Peruvian villages. Through the same organization, Southwest also supports solar PV projects in Guatemala. Very nice! The flight attendants also informed people they recycle as they were picking up trash from passengers.

The flight attendants were cheery, positive, engaging, professional, and polished. Two on our flight had been with the company for 26 years. Their level of experience was displayed in everything they did. It was nice being serviced by them.

Southwest initiated a major rebranding effort in 2014 to emphasize the heart and hospitality of the company's employees. It was apparent in their employees and a small amount in their inflight marketing. Their napkins could have reinforced the message that was on their cups. Small unobtrusive flyers or notices could have been placed in the backseat pouch or mentioned by the flight attendants. It’s a fine line when tooting your own horn about philanthropic efforts, but it would have been OK for Southwest to tell us just a little bit more.

As a captive audience, passengers would not want to be bombarded with marketing and advertising on the flight. To sum it up, the Southwest experience was positive. They could increase their subdued messaging, since we had to search more than expected to learn all this information. 

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About the Author
Cindy Wendland has a background in marketing and finance. She is the creative director for an online men's health magazine, BrainBrawnBody.com, and she gets to write their leisure/travel blog. She is also a web designer helping her clients with online community engagement, websitesbywendland.com. Prior to her web years, she worked in pharmacy consulting.
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