Here one of the latest posts on the Southwest Airlines blog site. There is an interesting opportunity here that I thought I would highlight. David, a Southwest pilot, is posting essentially a review about a restaurant at the Sheraton hotel in San Diego. He is using the post with a clever, but probaby non-actionable, hook to take a Southwest flight. Really, how many of us are going to fly just to eat at a restaurant and take in a view? I need more than that to deal with an airport and security.
I think the interesting thing here is the intersection of the pilot’s life and Southwest’s brand.
The pilot sees many hotels and eats at many restaurants. This makes him a valuable resource as a reviewer of these services. Now, as a Southwest pilot, he also is a key service provider for a company and brand that stands for outstanding customer service.
These two attributes make him a potentially credible reference for restaurants and hotels, among other things I’m sure.
What does this have to do with Southwest? Well, it’s not to immediately take a flight to see this restaurant. It is however an extension of Southwest’s brand of outstanding customer service. If the pilot does a credible and honest job of reviewing these hotels and restaurants in his blog entries with the Southwest customer service quality filter, he builds further trusts with the Southwest customer base.
The results of that? Some include: (1) increase in brand equity for Southwest which leads to loyalty, (2) increased interaction with the Southwest customer base to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and values, (3) referrals to others to check out Southwest – these people may then decide to become customers.
So, now the pilot can extend his ability to grow the Southwest brand and increase sales, all while providing valuable free content to existing customers.
I’m curious to see how long it takes Starwood / Sheraton to identify David’s post and engage in the conversation. Robert French and John Cass have recently pointed out Starwood’s challenges in their current blog approach.
David may even be able to lower Southwest’s costs by getting free hotel stays just in the event he may review the hotel!