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AdSlogans.com -- Wise Words/9

Chief SloganMaven Timothy R V Foster
How to Protect Your Slogan

Malice in Dallas

2000 Timothy R V Foster

To Right an Alleged Wrong

Advertisers can be very possessive about their precious lines. Predictably, in cases of apparent copying, matters sometimes escalate to lawsuits. But not always. Perhaps the most fascinating anecdote in this area is the one about Stevens Aviation and Southwest Airlines. Stevens, located in Greenville, South Carolina, is an aircraft service and leasing company, and had been using the line "Plane smart" for at least a year, when Southwest Airlines of Dallas unwittingly launched its own slogan -- "Just plane smart".

The CEO of Stevens, Kurt Herwald, contacted Southwest's chairman, Herb Kelleher, to complain about what appeared to be blatant plagiarism.

Nevertheless, apparently having a low opinion of lawyers, he suggested that the two organisations send their top warriors to do battle and thus decide the rights to the line. The winner would get to keep using the line, and the loser would make a donation to a charity of the winner's choice.

The Challenge

Now Southwest Airlines is famous for its contrarian approach, thanks to Herb Kelleher's unconventional management style. He has been featured in many business success stories and personality profiles. He also smokes two packs a day, and has been known to sample a bottle or two of Wild Turkey from time to time. Hence, at the age of 61, he could think of no finer representative of his airline than himself. He challenged 37-year-old weightlifter Herwald to a public arm-wrestling contest -- winner take all.


So one day in March 1992 found the two aviation executives -- "Smokin'" Herb Kelleher and "Kurtsey" Herwald -- ready to do battle for the honour of their company. The location was the somewhat seedy Sportatorium Arena in Dallas, well-known for wrestling bouts. The event was billed as Malice in Dallas. TV crews were there from ABC, NBC and CNN, along with the print media and the trade press in the shape of Commercial Aviation Report and Air Transport Digest. The whistling, jeering and cheering audience was made up of the duelling companies' employees and friends.

The Result

Kelleher made much of his training regime -- chain-smoking and Wild Turkey. One of his aides even wore a bandoleer equipped with little airline bottles of the bourbon in place of the traditional bullets, ready for instant succour.



The details of the bouts do not bear repeating here. We shall not succumb to blood lust. Suffice it to say that Kelleher was dispatched in less than ten seconds. As a result, cheques went out to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Ronald McDonald House. And in a fit of brandiosity, Stevens allowed Southwest to continue using the line.

AdSlogans.com -- Wise Words/9


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