Andy Howard

Employee Branding at Southwest Airlines

Employee branding is the process of employees internalising a brand image and their motivation to project the image. It’s a powerful positioning tool and can be used to gain a competitive advantage, educate, motivate and satisfy employees and create an awesome customer experience.

In the United States, Southwest Airlines has, by most measures, been the most successful airline in its industry. This success is largely due to the competitive advantage Southwest has gained by effectively positioning the organisation in customers’ minds. Its organisational position has mainly been achieved through its human resource practices, most of which fall under the rubric of employee branding. The receipt of the 2003 Kozmetsky Award for Branding Excellence and the 2004 Performance Through People Award provides evidence of the effectiveness of Southwest’s positioning and employee branding strategies. - ’Positioning Southwest Airlines through employee branding (pdf)

During September 2001, other US airlines were laying off staff due to decreased passenger traffic. Southwest people were willing to take pay cuts to avoid lay-offs. Despite reduced passenger traffic there were no lay-offs at Southwest. Why? Brand culture. Read about the Southwest Airlines culture on Southwest.com.

Southwest’s company success is well recognised. From customer service accolades to best airline awards, Southwest has achieved strong brand value by internalising the company’s mission and values and living the brand image through employees. Brand image is driven from the top - the stock code for Southwest on NYSE is LUV - and employees are engaged by an innovative and ongoing internal communications strategy. The SWALife Interactive and WNdow Seat employee engagement tactics are featured throughout this 2010 celebration video.

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