Author: Matt Silverman, Managing Director-Arizona

About Matt Silverman, Managing Director-Arizona

Matt Silverman is the Managing Director of R&R Partners' Arizona office.

“Bags Fly Free” Gets ‘Em On Board

I was not surprised to see the new report out from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics which shows Southwest Airlines carried more passengers in 2009 than any other airline. And at a time when total passenger count was down 5.3 percent, Southwest only lost 0.6% last year.

Not only does Southwest lead in number of passengers, it also leads in advertising spending in the travel industry.

So over the last few months, whenever the conversation has turned to “advertising, the economy and what now?” I’ve been asking people this question: “Which airline is doing the most advertising right now?”

 Every single person said “Southwest Airlines.” And when I asked “what did the ad talk about?” Most repeated “Bags fly free.”

 I have used that point to talk about savvy companies that seize opportunities and grow market share even in the toughest of times. Southwest’s CEO says his company recently picked-up 1% marketshare while increasing its ad spend for the “Bags fly free” campaign.

As always with companies that excel, their success is multi-layered and marketing is just part of the equation. I’m guessing Southwest was able to hold-off on charging for bags because the airline traditionally has had some of the strongest financials in the industry.

 Of course Southwest continues to keep customers returning with its legendary customer service and low airfares.

 But back to the “Bags fly free” campaign.  Truth is, if you look a little deeper Southwest is finding a way to collect extra fees from its earlybird check-in, a new pet fare, an unaccompanied minor fee and excess and overweight bag fees.

Still Southwest is framing the consumer conversation by absolutely hammering the competition on the “bags fly free” point of differentiation.

 Another airline is finally firing back, as you’ll see in this write-up of how discount airline Airtrans (which ranks 8th on the 2009 passengers carried list) and Southwest are taking potshots at each other. Watch the spots, you’ll get a chuckle.

But in the end “Bags fly free” certainly pushes all the right buttons and passengers are literally lining up to get on board.

Trust and Reputation – Celebrities and Corporate Leaders

There’s a reason Visa chose Morgan Freeman to voice over its TV commercials: He’s one of the most trusted celebrities in America.  


A new survey out from e-poll research  lists the top-10 most trusted celebrities. And there’s more detail about it on

 The list includes James Earl Jones, Tom Hanks, Bill Cosby and even Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs (which is why he’s probably seen hawking Ford products

 America’s largest companies pay those celebs handsomely, hoping the trust they’ve earned in America will rub off and validate their brand too. Most of the actors on the list have spent decades in the public eye, often advocating for causes as well as their movies, while also avoiding public transgressions. Meaning, they earned it from a skeptical America.

 So much of what we do in advertising, public relations and more importantly – in life – is about earning a reputation built on trust and credibility.

 For these spokespeople and the companies it’s a business deal, but in your personal business, where do you stand on trust and credibility?

It’s certainluy an issue Toyota is wrestling with today and so many are watching them closely.

 It’s my firm belief that organizations and their leaders earn reputations every day through their actions, by how they respond to critics, take care of their customers, and how they respond to both opportunity and failure.

 For those companies who can’t afford a celebrity on the A-list (which is most companies) start by making sure your corporate behavior and leaders are worthy of being on your customer’s a-list of trust and admiration.

What Color is Your Brand?

The use of color to denote and reinforce brand is not new but a recent Sprint TV commercial reminds me that this tactic is still strong. Recently, Sprint has been featuring TV spots that obviously play on its yellow and black brand colors. As you’ll see in this TV spot, and other new ones, the actors’ clothes and products are highlighted in yellow and black. Same as the Sprint logo.

Getting consumers to connect your brand through color is one simple way to cut through the clutter and be more visibly identifiable.  With the thousands of messages consumers receive every week, using color is one way to help your brand stick and to get your product, logo, packaging, advertisement to connect in the consumer’s mind.

Not that color alone makes a brand effective. Smarter folks than I have long said that brand is the emotional connection between your product and the consumer.

But the history of strong brands is full of strong color connections.

Coke is arguably the most famous, with the use of what has long been called Coke Red. And UPS took brown (what some may have seen as a negative) and leveraged the color in its “What can Brown do for you?” campaign to signify a long list of positive service attributes.

 Naturally, brand color needs to be carried consistently through every touch-point and this Smashing magazine article  looks at who’s doing it well online.

 Folks who study color and even music have long discussed how those attributes make long-lasting emotional connections in our minds. And no matter how sophisticated our technology gets, those attributes should never be discarded or underestimated in advertising.

Commercials as Content

The latest example of using paid advertising as part of content was on Fox’s Sunday (1/10/10) pregame show before the Arizona–Green Bay playoff game. As usual, Subway sponsored part of the show with its name plastered on all the screens behind the anchors. But then Subway spokesman Jared showed up in the Fox studio with a table full of Subway sandwiches and he talked all about them. Then he bantered with the anchors and athletes who sat on set for a total of about one minute.

 Advertisers continue to integrate their products with content so viewers don’t ignore them during commercial time or zip through them via their DVRs. That’s not to say Subway didn’t have lots of TV spots during the football game – they did – but it must have been a hell of a package deal. And more and more non-news programming is willing to sell out to advertisers.

 It’s clear the Jared appearance is part of Subways long-term plan to connect Jared and its healthy menu to athletes and celebrities as this clip shows. 


Soon after Jared was featured in-studio, American Idol had a :30 TV spot, which reminded me of A.I.’s deep integration of its sponsors, Ford and Coke. A.I. is one of the originators in integrating advertisers into its content, frequently playing music videos (like this one) during the show featuring Ford products and A.I.’s contestants.

 So what’s next? Jared on American Idol! 

Out of the Woods, Tiger emerges

Tiger Woods finally did come clean today. In a statement posted on his Web site, Tiger doesn’t specifically reference his car accident but he does appear to admit to the extra marital affair that’s been rumored.

As part of a long statement, he writes: “I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”

As I had mentioned in my previous post, Tiger has now stepped into the vacuum of information his silence had created. And while the news reporting will continue, his admission will slow down the feeding frenzy and cause this issue to go away much sooner.

What happens next in his family is between Tiger and his wife, but I do believe this is the beginning of Tiger being able to move forward publicly. And assuming there are no more bombs to drop, this will be a footnote in his storied career.

Tiger, Please Step Into the Vacuum

There’s a basic rule I always tell my clients with public relations challenges and if Tiger Woods would let me, I’d tell him too. It goes like this: The absence of information creates a vacuum – a void that sucks in everything swirling around it: rumors, pontification, half-truths, and one side of the story. And unless you step into that vacuum and set the record straight, you will never be in control of the story being told about you.

Tiger – the superstar of the world’s superstar athletes – is stuck in the worst public relations disaster of his career. And it’s all his doing. His story smells funny. The media knows it and his fans know it. The police would like to know it. And the people who pay him hundreds of millions of dollars to endorse their products would like to know it, too.

By now you know the details of his accident — apparently backing out of his driveway fast enough to knock him unconscious after the crash. Injuries bad enough to keep him locked up at home and forcing him to cancel his upcoming appearance at a golf tournament he hosts. Most likely because he doesn’t want to answer the questions swirling around him. The same questions he doesn’t want to hear from police – who have tried at least three times to interview him.

Tiger did release a statement saying that this was a private matter, but given his enormous public stature, he and his team of advisors should know the media won’t stop questioning – especially with rumors of an extramarital affair fueling speculation about this incident.

And while even the most public of our public figures deserve some privacy, history shows us that there’s only one way to make that happen as fast as possible. Just tell the truth.

It worked for David Letterman. The talk show host took control of his PR nightmare a few months ago by breaking his own news first – admitting on the air that he had sexual relationships with some of his co-workers. He did so because that information was about to be revealed during a legal matter. So Letterman bit the bullet, took control of the story and quickly set the record straight, Yes, he took heat for a couple of weeks, But then it all went away quickly.

No one accused him of covering up the truth or hiding – those are behaviors that really start to damage your credibility and reputation.

Tiger, are you listening?

The truth is Tiger will survive this incident, much like Michael Jordan got through his gambling scandals and leaving basketball to play minor league baseball. Like Jordan, Woods is a once-in-a-century athlete who’s worshipped by millions. He will be forgiven.

But to be forgiven, you have to confess. Just step into the vacuum Tiger, please. This will all end much faster that way.