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Former Southwest Airlines CEO Speaks to Power of Brand Identity at IIABA Convention & InfoXchange

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sept. 30 - The best brands take time to build, requiring patience and perseverance by dedicated owners and employees, said the former CEO of Southwest Airlines in keynote remarks at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s (IIABA) Convention & InfoXchange in Las Vegas last week.


At a time when big airlines were scoffing at the idea of a start-up, low-cost competitor, Howard Putnam guided Southwest through critical hurdles during the ’70s and ’80s and was the first airline CEO to successfully pull a major carrier out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Today, Putnam is an entrepreneur and is chairman and co-founder of Aircraft Interior Resources.


“Branding, to me today, is an absolute necessity to build market share,” Putnam said. “Branding is not advertising; branding is building trust over a long period of time. And Trusted ChoiceSM is a brand that can be developed over time and across the country.”


Trusted ChoiceSM is a consumer marketing brand developed jointly by IIABA and several insurance companies. Currently, more than 3,000 agents and brokers are participating along with 25 insurance company partners.


In well-managed companies small or large, Putnam told attendees, “The culture, the vision, the values, the mission—they are all very clear to your employees. Now your brand can grow out of that. Over time, the Trusted ChoiceSM brand will grow. And over time, more and more of you will participate. And you’ll see the value of it. And it takes time to do that.”


Putnam added that good brands also “create some opportunities for people to develop and grow.


“How do you get younger people involved in the industry?” he asked. “I think you’ve got to sell a vision or an experience, not just a product.”


Putnam also cited IIABA’s research that led to the creation of the Trusted ChoiceSM brand, noting that 85 percent of consumers said professional service standards are important as they choose where to buy insurance. All good brands offer a consistently good service, he said.


The Convention & InfoXchange is IIABA’s showcase meeting that took place in Las Vegas from Sept. 21 to 24. The event featured a compelling company CEO roundtable; several prominent guest speakers and panelists; innovative continuing-education (CE) classes and other cutting-edge workshops; the largest exhibit hall in the insurance industry; numerous networking opportunities; and many other exciting events.


Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address:



​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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