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ettore s. Ettore S.

American Airlines rebranding

Posted by admin on March 29, 2013

American Airlines (AA) is making headlines since its rebranding exercise earlier this year. It is not clear to what extent AA’s expensive re-designed brand experience and its new livery will manage to change existing perceptions and make the emotional connection expected by the carrier.

1967 Massimo Vignelli’s American Airlines identity has come to an end. AA recently unveiled to the world its new spirit and commitment to innovation. More than rebranding itself, AA has renewed the image of the whole country. Some experts think there was no question that the airline had to refresh its image in order to face the future of travel. To achieve what we see today AA spent over 2 years considering every aspect of its image with global agency FutureBrand. It is believed the global airline pushed for a powerful visual image that carried national attributes and reflected the future of technology, entertainment and progress.

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AA kept the eagle but transformed it into a flight symbol, a bird and a wing. Research showed that the American flag was a ”must keep” personality symbol, however the agency chose to turn it into a more powerful and meaningful flying icon, an striped abstraction of the flag with a motion effect spelling change and modernity. The updated version of AA favored a new optimistic blue, “bringing the sky down to the grown, so the symbol, the eagle, could actually fly”. The interior design captured the country’s ”seamless tech” look-and-feel based on technology and conform.

Behind the curtains, long term creator Vignelli was expectant to pronounce himself: ”the brand new identity has no sense of permanence as AA is one of the few logos worldwide that needs no change”. Despite some negative feedback, most branding experts recognize there was a need for some change. AA was desperate to signal the inevitable imminent changes that would forever change the airline: a new delivered fleet, its service, cabins but most importantly a ”marriage of convenience” with a second American carrier.

Challenges
The combination of AA’s traditional classic assets and the new modern spirit. The word “airline” has been dropped of their aircrafts to emphasize the “American” word and personality. Passion for progress! To what extent do AA customers care? Are they concerned of branding, or about more practical things such as price, service, facilities and membership advantages? AA frequent fliers do not judge how the airline looks but rather on the treatment received at every customer care point of contact.

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Our personal analysis
Being a strong advocate of change, we believe in the need for any company to adapt its corporate image to the more modern environment where it operates. If a rebranding exercise is done taking into consideration all internal and external drivers that affect its image while managing stakeholder perceptions, the company is more likely to minimize the chances of failure. Although rebranding always invites criticism, change means reinventing ourselves and changing habits that we are not always willing to modify. AA was aware of the differing opinions among brand influencers and customers as well as the negative publicity that this branding exercise would bring on, however the desire and passion for a fresh new start was stronger. The “Status Quo” was no longer an option as it was perceived as a failure to catch up with reality, a bright reality fueled by ambitious plans for fleet increase and merger deals. Having said that, in my opinion the proposed minimalist brand identity is weak at-first-sight considering the big responsibility to represent the new America and its citizens. From my point of view it fails to visually connect with the spectator straightaway and does not succeed at communicate its distinctive culture & values.

American Airlines has certainly got the country divided. New York based Film Director Joey Mhz is very satisfied with the result commenting that not only the new logo looks better now, but it also reflects the unique character of modern and forward thinking America as well as the values of its citizens. UAE resident and German Neuroscience Center Counseling Psychologist Christina Burmeister also agrees and takes it further adding that although the new brand identity has managed to make a good initial impact on her, most expectations are now put on the knock-off effect of the new image, the main one being the customer service revamp. Despite the initial positive feedback, both of them believe that it is too early to embark on serious analysis. Joey says that it will take some time for people to get used to or even understand what they are looking at, Burmeister adds that AA and its publics need to go through a process of adaptation before they can draw conclusions.

Is AA challenging customer brand recognition and investing resources unnecessarily? To what extent do you think the new identity succeeds in portraying that fresher cleaner modern and dynamic travel experience of modern America? Do you think Vignelli has a point or do you feel the change was very much a must? I guess time will tell who is right and who’s wrong! We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog are the personal opinion of the contributor and it might not always reflect the views of the company.

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