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Southwest “Seat Number” ad campaign: A signal?

Southwest “Seat Number” ad campaign: A signal?

Old Oct 30, 17, 11:07 am
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Southwest “Seat Number” ad campaign: A signal?

Perhaps you’ve noticed Southwest’s new “Behind Every Seat Is a Story” ads. If you recall one thing about the ads, it’s seeing people with a seat numbers (like “14c”) floating beside their heads. From a visual standpoint, that’s the dominating element: Seat numbers.

Seat numbers, seat numbers, seat numbers.

Doesn’t that seem like a curious choice for the airline that’s famous for not assigning seats—where seat numbers aren’t even part of the vocabulary? Or is this the first step in a much larger plan to make seat numbers relevant to Southwest passengers?

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Old Oct 30, 17, 11:17 am
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"Choose your seat, choose your story" I should be in marketing.

I think business class seats are going to happen before seat assignments and I don't think that's all too likely.
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Old Oct 30, 17, 11:31 am
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Originally Posted by briantroutman View Post
Perhaps you’ve noticed Southwest’s new “Behind Every Seat Is a Story” ads. If you recall one thing about the ads, it’s seeing people with a seat numbers (like “14c”) floating beside their heads. From a visual standpoint, that’s the dominating element: Seat numbers.

Seat numbers, seat numbers, seat numbers.

Doesn’t that seem like a curious choice for the airline that’s famous for not assigning seats—where seat numbers aren’t even part of the vocabulary? Or is this the first step in a much larger plan to make seat numbers relevant to Southwest passengers?

I bet she ran off the plane at the destination... She was on the SW miracle flight!
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Old Oct 30, 17, 1:04 pm
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Originally Posted by briantroutman View Post
Perhaps you’ve noticed Southwest’s new “Behind Every Seat Is a Story” ads. If you recall one thing about the ads, it’s seeing people with a seat numbers (like “14c”) floating beside their heads. From a visual standpoint, that’s the dominating element: Seat numbers.

Seat numbers, seat numbers, seat numbers.

Doesn’t that seem like a curious choice for the airline that’s famous for not assigning seats—where seat numbers aren’t even part of the vocabulary? Or is this the first step in a much larger plan to make seat numbers relevant to Southwest passengers?

I think you are reading way too much into it. Like when Southwest stopped the bags fly free campaign and everyone though they would start charging to bags.
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Old Oct 30, 17, 3:05 pm
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Originally Posted by briantroutman View Post
Perhaps you’ve noticed Southwest’s new “Behind Every Seat Is a Story” ads. If you recall one thing about the ads, it’s seeing people with a seat numbers (like “14c”) floating beside their heads. From a visual standpoint, that’s the dominating element: Seat numbers.

Seat numbers, seat numbers, seat numbers.

Doesn’t that seem like a curious choice for the airline that’s famous for not assigning seats—where seat numbers aren’t even part of the vocabulary? Or is this the first step in a much larger plan to make seat numbers relevant to Southwest passengers?


Doubtful. But I would still love WN to go to assigned seating!
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Old Oct 30, 17, 5:29 pm
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Originally Posted by briantroutman View Post
Perhaps you’ve noticed Southwest’s new “Behind Every Seat Is a Story” ads. If you recall one thing about the ads, it’s seeing people with a seat numbers (like “14c”) floating beside their heads. From a visual standpoint, that’s the dominating element: Seat numbers.

Seat numbers, seat numbers, seat numbers.

Doesn’t that seem like a curious choice for the airline that’s famous for not assigning seats—where seat numbers aren’t even part of the vocabulary? Or is this the first step in a much larger plan to make seat numbers relevant to Southwest passengers?
You're reading too much into this. Seat numbers exist, assigned seating does not. Simple as that.
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Old Oct 30, 17, 6:20 pm
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I believe this was discussed in another thread when the campaign first launched.

My thinking is that GSD&M (their agency of record), after something like three decades, has simply run the well dry on relevant new ways to market Southwest.*

Yes, this is very odd -- highlight seat numbers at an airline where they don't use seat numbers -- but "tell the customer's story" is about as basic an ad concept as it gets. Most strange is that "Every Seat Has a Story" doesn't even need to include the seat numbers at all -- it would absolutely work without them. In fact, including them somewhat works against concept, in that it takes the idea of a unique customer and their individual story and essentially reduces that to a number.

I'm doubtful this represents any kind of intentional foreshadowing on the part of GSD&M, regardless of how seriously Southwest may be internally considering assigned seating. Southwest has never previously shown that kind of marketing intelligence when it comes to sharing strategy and/or planning ahead.

*Arguably, "Transfarency" is a strong campaign, helping to effectively differentiate Southwest from other carriers, even as the very things that make them different dwindle away.
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Old Oct 31, 17, 6:27 am
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I'm sure if we go back in time, people started thinking Southwest would start assigning seats about 3 hours after its very first flight, and have looked for little signs and thought up conspiracy theories ever since.

Maybe they're going to replace the seats with wheelchairs, so once you entire the airport you never get up again. You sit down in a wheelchair at the checkin terminal, and they just wheel you thru security onto the plane and lock you in place. That's probably the real subliminal message behind this ad.
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Old Oct 31, 17, 2:29 pm
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Wheelchair passenger in row 2? I had a bulkhead seat (row 1) and was told I may have to give it up if a wheelchair passenger needed it.

Full disclosure - I snagged it on a direct flight where I didn't need to get off the plane and "upgraded" myself on our stop.
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Old Oct 31, 17, 2:54 pm
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Seat pre-assignments seems unlikely, as they will slow down boarding, and allow for additional problems like having to deal with seat poaching, last minute seat changes at the gate or in the plane, erroneous assignment of two people to the same seat, etc..
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Old Oct 31, 17, 4:21 pm
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Originally Posted by tjl View Post
Seat pre-assignments seems unlikely, as they will slow down boarding, and allow for additional problems like having to deal with seat poaching, last minute seat changes at the gate or in the plane, erroneous assignment of two people to the same seat, etc..
Maybe WN should start blocking middle seats in the front to create a European style business class.

Seat assignments don't slow boarding. Small overhead bins do. Your geniality quotient fluctuates by how many connecting passengers there are and how many A listers are queued. Pre-boaders remain an abuse.
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Old Nov 1, 17, 11:38 am
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Originally Posted by ursine1 View Post
I believe this was discussed in another thread when the campaign first launched.

My thinking is that GSD&M (their agency of record), after something like three decades, has simply run the well dry on relevant new ways to market Southwest.*

Yes, this is very odd -- highlight seat numbers at an airline where they don't use seat numbers -- but "tell the customer's story" is about as basic an ad concept as it gets. Most strange is that "Every Seat Has a Story" doesn't even need to include the seat numbers at all -- it would absolutely work without them. In fact, including them somewhat works against concept, in that it takes the idea of a unique customer and their individual story and essentially reduces that to a number.

I'm doubtful this represents any kind of intentional foreshadowing on the part of GSD&M, regardless of how seriously Southwest may be internally considering assigned seating. Southwest has never previously shown that kind of marketing intelligence when it comes to sharing strategy and/or planning ahead.

*Arguably, "Transfarency" is a strong campaign, helping to effectively differentiate Southwest from other carriers, even as the very things that make them different dwindle away.
^

"Every Seat has a Story" flows naturally. "Every Boarding position has a Story" is kinda clunky, so you can see why marketers went with the campaign they did.

That said, WN has the technology to support assigned seating, euro-style biz class, and the like. The only thing I can see causing a move to assigned seats would be a big dropoff in BS or EBCI revenue if/when passengers decide they won't pay extra unless they can guarantee Row 1/12A/exit row/aisle seats/seats together (see the thread about thru pax "poaching" the good seats before BS boards). The US 3 regularly get $20-40 per segment on routes comparable to most WN flights for extra legroom or preferred seats, compared to $15 each way, regardless of connections or stops.
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Old Nov 1, 17, 9:35 pm
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I think it would have been much more in WN's culture to pop up boarding position instead of seat number. A31, B45, C12, etc.
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Old Nov 1, 17, 10:36 pm
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Originally Posted by captaink View Post
^

"Every Seat has a Story" flows naturally. "Every Boarding position has a Story" is kinda clunky, so you can see why marketers went with the campaign they did.
I think maybe you missed my point, that a seat doesn't need to include a seat number.
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Old Nov 1, 17, 11:26 pm
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Originally Posted by ursine1 View Post
Yes, this is very odd -- highlight seat numbers at an airline where they don't use seat numbers
... In fact, including them somewhat works against concept, in that it takes the idea of a unique customer and their individual story and essentially reduces that to a number.
There is that (likely unintended) subtext—Perhaps you’re a person, but to us, you’re 6c.

I happened to be at a party last weekend where a TV was on, and I saw a Southwest ad repeated a few times: A coach rallies his team before a game, saying something along the lines of “I’m so confident that we’re going to win that I didn’t buy us tickets for the flight home...we’re going straight to the championship!” Then, it cuts to everyone moping around the locker room after the game (clearly, the team lost), and now they have seat numbers floating next to their heads. Finally, a voiceover says something about the flexibility Southwest “no change fees” policy.

The ad’s general premise is good, in my opinion: Since Southwest allows you to change a ticket with no penalty, you can book tickets for the championship hoping that you win....then change them, penalty-free, to tickets for the sad trip back home after you lose. It fits perfectly with the Transfarency theme.

But the seat numbers next to their heads...what do they add to the commercial? Nothing—other than to tie into the campaign. So the coach is now “14e”; does that mean he would have been a different seat number if they went to the championship instead? If you know anything about Southwest, you’re aware that even an A-Lister coach doesn’t have any seat number at all until he walks down the jetway and passes all of the rows of preboards and throughs.

And that gets at what I think is the problem with the seat number approach:

Originally Posted by DenverBrian View Post
I think it would have been much more in WN’s culture to pop up boarding position instead of seat number.
To me, it seems like an idea cooked up by someone who has spent a lot of time flying other airlines and is oddly disconnected from Southwest’s culture.

I’m in the advertising business myself, albeit the less-exciting business-to-business sphere. I’ve sat through countless brainstorming sessions and pitch meetings, and the floating seat number approach seems like the kind of idea that would have gotten thrown out after the first round.
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Last edited by briantroutman; Nov 1, 17 at 11:38 pm
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