NEW YORK: Southwest Airlines, the air carrier, is making sure that its "heart" – both as a logo and a far wider ethos – remains central to the brand as it expands internationally.

Dr. Isaac Munoz, Senior Business Consultant/Customer Intelligence, discussed this topic at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) Re:Think 2016 conference.

"My job is to make sure that I can provide insights across the company," he said. (For more, including further strategic tips, read Warc's exclusive report: Customer centricity keeps Southwest Airlines on course.)

"I help with our international expansion. I help with diversity and inclusion. And I help with advertising."

As part of its expansion program, Southwest now flies to various overseas destinations – a list including Belize, Costa Rica, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

That group can be compared with a total of no foreign routes in mid-2014. And, in developing this opportunity, the firm sought to make sure that it considered the opinions of numerous stakeholders.

"We tested over 60-plus branding items; we have 23 platforms; we've talked to over 6,000 people plus our employees," said Munoz.

"We have 450 slides to share with our executives and … and each one of them had a lot of data. And we visited a couple of countries."

A key expression that the brand repeatedly heard during this process was "love", giving the airline a core area on which to focus its efforts.

"We landed on our 'heart'. We wanted to make sure that our heart logo was prominent. And when we landed on this heart, it was going to be at the belly of our plane," said Munoz.

A new tricolour heart thus became emblematic of its holistic brand promise, right down to appearing on the bottom of planes so people could see it if a flight was passing overhead.

"That was a huge change. Without a heart, it's just a machine. And, when you think of other airlines, who else really claim that?" said Munoz.

Data sourced from Warc