“Build Something Better”: Boeing’s “Rule of Three” tagline.

Was the Boeing 737 Max 8 built better?

Wonder if the folks in Indonesia and Ethiopia, agree?

We know now the European Union, China, Canada … and just today, the USA … do not concur.

Two 100 percent fatal crashes for 346 passengers on two Boeing 737 Max 8 in just five months have placed the venerable aircraft manufacturer into an immediate damage control mode.

In dollars and cents terms, Boeing (NYSE: BA) has already shed $26 billion in market capitalization (share price x total number of shares), taking two consecutive nose dives (pardon the unintended pun) in as many days.

The stock is still under pressure. The same is true for Boeing’s management … and its pivotal customer, Southwest Airlines, which flies more than 700 Boeing 737s …including 34 Boeing 737 Max 8s.

For Almost DailyBrett, who has been a frequent flyer of Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) for both vacation and business, the airline has been a great model for the definition of … business strategy.

Southwest, the self-proclaimed and branded The Low-Fare Airline, knows what it wants to do and conversely what it does not want to do with its fleet, pilots, resources, time etc.

For example, the airline’s management in Dallas does not use a maddening hub-and-spoke system, offer assigned seats, serve lousy meals or charge for bags (e.g., “Bags Fly Free).

Southwest is famous for its low fares, direct point-to-point flights, peanuts and pretzels, fun atmosphere (“There are 50 ways to leave your lover, but only six ways off this plane”) and … the airline only flies one plane, the Boeing 737.

Almost DailyBrett can only think of one company, which blazons its supplier’s main product on its logo: Southwest and the Boeing 737. Call it a co-branded logo.

Southwest made the strategic decision to buy American, solidify its relationship to its main supplier Boeing (LUV does not purchase any planes from Airbus), and to signal to its flying public that it flies only one plane, and therefore it knows this plane from the nose-to-the-tail.

Previously, Almost DailyBrett was concerned about what would happen if Southwest and Boeing went to divorce court. Supplier-customer relationships are not always the best (see Qualcomm and Apple patent case for amplification of this point).

Now, the supplier is in deep trouble. And Southwest is tied to the hip with Boeing. Not only does Southwest only fly one airplane, the Boeing 737 is now responsible for more than 300 deaths.

Are more deaths in the offing, including passengers flying Southwest?

Heaven forbid. The Southwest pilots have urged caution when it comes to making conclusions. The same appears to be the case with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Almost DailyBrett can only imagine how difficult it is for Southwest’s management, marketers and PR teams to sleep at night. Everyone at Boeing already has insomnia.

Should Companies Share Their Precious Branding With Their Suppliers?

Almost DailyBrett knows from more than a decade of corporate public relations experience the care and nurturing of your own brand is a 24/7/365 responsibility. Why a company would want to directly tether itself to another brand obviously multiplies the chances that something serious could go wrong.

Think of it this way: Their crisis becomes your crisis.

Their damage control becomes your damage control.

Their inevitable plaintiff bar lawsuits can easily become your plaintiff bar lawsuits.

Their congressional subpoenas can become your congressional subpoenas.

Their tenuous relationships with key stakeholders (e.g., employees, passengers, investors) become your tenuous relationships with key stakeholders (e.g., employees, passengers, investors).

Some may be tempted to point to über-successful Intel Inside™ campaign, and conclude that these pairings are usually good for business. Southwest/Boeing and Intel/PC manufacturer are not apples to apples, oranges to oranges comparisons.

Intel’s marketing strategy pays PC makers to include the Intel Inside right beside the key pad. The difference is that Intel is teaming with its customers, not its suppliers. More importantly, no one died when Intel’s Pentium processor came up with wrong calculations in 1994.

Here’s the point: Almost DailyBrett now does not believe it’s a good long-term business strategy for corporations to tie a hard-earned, enduring and respected brand management to another company, regardless of whether it is a supplier, partner or customer relationship.

Quite frankly, there are just too many “things” that can go wrong.

As we can now see clearly, it was Just Not Plane Smart for Southwest to marry itself to Boeing, particularly with its brand logo.

Hopefully, the issues with the Boeing Max 8 will be resolved, and safety will reign.

Rest in peace to all of the passengers, who flew Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302.