Capstone Project: Independent Brand Study of Southwest Airlines


On brand, a small bag of honey roasted peanuts was provided to the judges to have some fun during the pitch. 

On brand, a small bag of honey roasted peanuts was provided to the judges to have some fun during the pitch. 

At the culmination of my Brand Management graduate studies rests the Independent Brand Study. A brand is one of an organization's most valuable assets. However, an increasing body of opinion in both business and academic circles holds that management education has not paid sufficient attention to the creative management of brands. To address this challenge and allow students to apply concepts to real brand situations, this year-long thesis focuses on the important branding decisions

The one and only LUV brand was my client.

The challenge: a brand/marketing plan to overcome barriers preventing business travelers from flying on Southwest with a focus on factors within marketing’s control while maintaining the familiar 
and beloved brand values.


  • Performed competitive analysis to understand who was succeeding with the business traveler and why. It didn’t take much digging to discover Delta had the biggest share of the pie. This was indicated by having more than double the revenues than competition and consistently high ranking from the Business Travel Association.
  • Conducted a target segmentation of the business traveler and discovered its not as siloed as it currently exisits in the market. *show chart The legacy airlines reach for the premium or as I identify them, the “corporate traveler”, but where there is no one speaking to the “budget business traveler; and this is the opportunity for Southwest
  • True to Brand: What the segmentation revealed in addition to the opportunity for a new budget business traveler, but that the corporate traveler is misaligned with Southwest’s quirky brand. Their brand is too valuable, proven by its consistently high NPS rankings, to change for a target.
  • Profiled budget business traveler: Qualitative research indicated that our target cannot be defined by demographics, but psychographics. Our target had street smarts, was realistic about traveling, low expectations for their experience, price sensitive, and because of their constant traveling are numb to the experience. More importantly, it was evident they are in a different state of mind when traveling for business than when traveling for leisure. This revealed the insight.

Insight: Because their business travel is frequently invading into personal time for our target, the insight is their personal time becomes way more valuable when they’re traveling for business.

Strategy: Transform the business travelers experience to feel more like leisure. We are utilizing our greatest resource: our employees.

Positioning Statement: To the budget business traveler, Southwest Airlines is a pleasant surprise.