Fiscal Year 2016-17 Audit: Southwest Airlines Online Advertising
The primary sites Southwest Airlines should target are business sites like Market Watch or Business Insider, and vacation sites such as Kayak. The reason the business sites are a great place for display advertising is because a big portion of the Southwest’s target market may come to these sites. Businessmen and women come to these sites often to look at news or information they need for their everyday profession. Along with these many people in the business profession travel. Majorities of people are looking for a comfortable but affordable airline to use for their business needs. Southwest is one of the most affordable and unique in the business. Kayak is another great site for the obvious reason that people who visit are looking to go on vacation. This site gives people a list of the most affordable places to travel to, so it can be inferred that they are looking for the most affordable way to get there as well. For the same reason websites like Business Insider would be good for Southwest to advertise on, I think a social network like LinkedIn would also be a great place to look into. Many business professionals come to this application to network and connect with others in their field. This industry has higher rates of travel than most for people in it, so a place where all of them come together to build their network is a great place to advertise.
The main message Southwest should advertise is the fact that they are one of the most affordable airlines in the industry. Advertising their lowest ticket prices with specific numbers would be very surprising to a lot of consumers and it would give them an incentive to click on an ad. For the most part, everyone wants to save money and travel comfortably. Southwest gives them an opportunity to do this. Business companies that pay for their employee’s airline tickets aren’t usually flying them on first class private airplanes. It would be expensive and unrealistic to do this. Advertising cheaper commercial flights would be advantageous.
It would be most beneficial to send users that click on a Southwest display advertisement to their main website. If they click on one of their ads, it can be assumed they are interested in airline flights. When directed to the main website, there is a spot at the very top where you can search for airline tickets. When plugging in the destination, it gives the consumer a price as well.
Search Engine Marketing:
After some research, the most common plane travel keywords paid by search are phrases like “cheap flights” or “cheap airline tickets” (Ad Gooroo). After searching these, nothing about Southwest Airlines showed up on the first page of the search engine. Southwest is extremely comparable to other airlines, but it is hard to compete with third party sites like Travelocity and Expedia who are able to sell the cheapest tickets from all major airline companies. The best thing to do is to have ad words that depict Southwest Airlines competitive advantages. These main differentiating factors are the fact that this airline has the most competitive domestic flights, they allow up to two free checked bags, and that priority access is easy and cheap. There are many things that consumers are looking for in their airlines besides just “cheap flights.” The key words they should target that correspond with these three categories are as follows:
1.) Affordable flights to (enter destination in the US)
2.) Airline tickets with no baggage fees
3.) Low fare airline priority access fee
These phrases all encompass the distinguishing characteristics that make Southwest one of the best airlines in the world. What makes a company different and the value of their product or is a crucial part in keywords for companies (Neil Patel). Along with these keywords, a crucial part to SEM is the quality of the advertisement that shows up when someone searches these key words. Google rewards companies that have quality ads. Many consumers looking for flights look for the cheapest flights, so companies that specialize in getting the lowest cost tickets always pop up first. Examples of these are Booking.com, Expedia, Kayak, and Priceline. These companies spent $19.6 million to $40.4 million on Google AdWords in 2011 (King of AdWords). Obviously this has gone up since then, but being that Southwest is gaining on them in their advertising campaigns, I believe they should spend a similar number to the industry leaders. The SEM budget should be approximately $50 million per year. This number comes from the success Southwest has had in other marketing categories and how competitive the have become in the last 6 years with the companies mentioned above.
Bags Fly Free
Book a Southwest flight and save money with no fees on your first and second bag.
This picture shows the pieces to a great landing page. It does not take you to the Southwest Airlines homepage that has information about deals and other irrelevant information to the users search. It takes them to a separate tab within the companies website that is specific to the “Bags Fly Free” deal.
Social Media Advertising
This platform is one of the most important to utilize as a business owner. This social media application allows the business/ organization to reach 89% of their target audience (Buffer App). Southwest already does a great job of using Facebook with their homepage, so it is a good idea for them to use Facebook Offers and Boosted Posts to get even more traffic to their website.
Southwest is one of the most successful companies at using Facebook. They have over 5 million likes and do a great job of interacting with people. A raffle Facebook offer is a great plan of action. An example could be that if someone shares advertisements the airline posts, or likes their page; they will be entered in a contest to win a free round trip to a certain destination. With people sharing this it will expands Facebook’s reach even more.
Just as Southwest Airlines uses Facebook to interact and respond to its users, they use Twitter in a lot of the same ways. Consumers tweet at and follow the account to get updates on flight deals along with looking for feedback on things like delayed flights. Other forms of advertising like website clicks and conversions is another great way to advertise on Twitter. For example, Southwest can promote low cost flights and include a link to their website. They would be able to track these clicks and see how this form of promotion generates leads to their website. A target market can be people following accounts that have anything to do with travel.
Southwest has a YouTube page and some great content on it. What they do not use enough is advertisements on other videos. They currently have a campaign running in which people upload an embarrassing video of them and the funniest video gets a trip to an island. Expanding on this from just their YouTube Channel to advertising on other popular videos would be a great idea to expand their reach. The target market here should be any videos that have to do with travel or anything business related because this is a big part of their target market.
Instagram is the best platform to use as an airline. They are able to target people following certain accounts related to airline travel. One account called Beautiful Destinations has over 7 million followers. This is only one account related to travel destinations, there are numerous more with millions of potential flyers. Promoting low fare prices to certain destinations where users have posted being at or follow accounts related to them is a great advertising opportunity.
This application is another great tool for advertising. If Southwest were to reserve premium inventory on this platform, they’d be able to get access to top placements, desired audience targets and creative ad units. Southwest can target pinners (users) with promoted pins about travel fares and unique destinations. People who see promoted pins have a 50% higher purchase intent as well (Business Pinterest).
LinkedIn is another platform Southwest Airlines should utilize. This is a tool people in many professions use to build there network and connect with colleagues. There are many people in a business profession that are on this application. A great advertisement idea is if the airline promoted flights for business trips that are affordable with no charge for bags. This is great for companies who pay for their employees travel fares or individuals that have to pay for their own. This would be a click through to Southwest’s website where they are able to look for affordable plane tickets.
The primary ways to measure if this campaign is successful is to track URL shares, clicks and conversions. From here they will be able to see how long users are staying on their home website, and if they are purchasing plane tickets. A lot of the social media platforms mentioned above are click through to the home website, so it makes sense to measure traffic.
Another metric Southwest can measure to test the campaigns effectiveness is engagement. This would be in the form of retweets, replies, or comments. They already do a great job of getting interactions from people who have used the airline (i.e. users giving feedback on their flight), but with comments on their advertisements they can see how many and how often people are participating.