Herb Kelleher on Advertising

Definitely a different kind of CEO

The first thing you notice when you board a Southwest Airlines flight is the friendliness of the flight attendants. Most of them actually appear to be having fun.

Spending so much time in radio stations, the concept of having fun while you work was new to me. Ok, that was a cheap shot, true or not.

Still, listen to the CEO of Southwest, Herb Kelleher, and see if you can take away a lesson or two for your station.

For starters, he doesn’t believe the customer is always right. “You can’t honor your own people if you allow them to be abused.

Kelleher’s credo is that employees always come first.

And he has an unshakable commitment to marketing.

In Southwest Airline’s first year, the company spent 10% of its total capital on advertising, and in recession years, they raise their budget, “…because when do you need advertising the most? When times are bad!” *

In an age when almost every airline loses money, not to mention your luggage, and seems to go out of its way to make your actual flight as unpleasant as humanly possible, it’s refreshing to see a maverick like Herb Kelleher.

How is it that an industry that produces returns of 30%  to 50% — I’m talking about Radio, folks — can’t seem to find a way to market itself?

Why is an industry that supposedly counts “its people” as its biggest asset so eager to shove them out the door at the first hint of a downturn in advertising?

Hey, as long as those few guys at the very top keep hitting their multi-million dollar bonuses, that stock will keep rising.

Radio needs a maverick like Kelleher, and if we ever get one, the best talent will be knocking each other down to be first in the door.




*All quotes from Advertising Age, May 2, 2011