“How do you follow Genghis Khan? And I mean that positively,” said Micheal Boyd, who heads an aviation consulting and research firm in Colorado. “Gary did. You still had Genghis, the guy who’d taken over most of the world, just down the hall – Mr. Kelleher. To fill those shoes is pretty hard to do. Have you seen any problems at Southwest lately? I haven’t.”
And so it goes for Southwest Airlines and their CEO Gary Kelly as he continues to lead his airline into another banner year. Well that’s great that a company is making money in this economy, you’re probably thinking to yourself. But why does this matter to me?
While this news may not directly help your bottom line, its important to understand the WHY that Southwest Airlines continues to thrive while others are struggling. Is it those funny commercials where the employees talk to your luggage? Is it the singing on the planes by the flight attendants (which by the way is a riot!)? Is it that they won’t ‘nickel and dime’ you for every little thing that use to be included in the cost of the ticket?
I’d like to say that it’s all of that and more combined with the one thing that sets Southwest Airlines apart from the other airlines … their brand comes straight from the top, their CEO Gary Kelly. His offbeat sense of humor and nurturing spirit has trickled down into everything that Southwest Airlines is and will continue to grow into. Kelly in the literal sense has become the expression ‘You are your brand.’
I’m not here to sell Southwest Airlines but to make one of my many infamous marketing points that I tell my clients. Before you spend your money buying more radio ads or use your time to develop your Facebook fan page promotion, ask yourself this question – what does your brand say about you to your customers? By your brand I mean specifically – who you are and what you do.
When you meet someone, you share an image of yourself as something more then just a CEO or a small business owner. You leave an imprint with that person that leaves them with more then just your company’s name. Are you a pet store owner who is into green products? Or the CEO of a major medical facility with a passion for golf? Either way, your personal ethics and morals will determine how you will run your company. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-man show or have several thousand employees. You are your brand.
So, how do you figure out what your brand is? Just ask yourself, ‘What is it about me and my product/service that’s different from everyone else?’ And then do what I call ‘twitterize’ your answer. Give your answer in 120 characters and read it out loud to yourself. Read it to your staff, friends, anyone who will listen. If they can’t understand what it means, well then you’ve got yourself a branding problem.
If you need some help to develop your brand, then take some time to truthfully answer these questions:
- What have you done personally to make yourself stand out from your competitors or your colleagues?
- What would your customers say is your greatest strength?
- What characteristics do you possess that make you distinctive from your competition?
- Are you an expert at something that provides real value to your customers?
Once you’ve discovered your answers and ‘twitterized’ your brand message, try it out on everyone again until they understand. Your brand isn’t just the way that people will remember you and your business. Its the foundation of the story – YOUR story – about who you are and why you get up every morning to do what is that you do every day.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeremylim/4708857204/