02 September 2010

Airline image

An article I just read - the Yin and Yang of Airline Identity, at Ask the Pilot:

Part 1
Part 2

Sarah takes a huge pride in working for United Airlines, but it's always good to ask how effective the airline's branding is in portraying the history and service of the airline and projecting that pride. The author is not too convinced about the current United branding, except for the tulip, which had been a generic design to start but has come to be the definitive symbol of United (and shaped like a U, does represent the airline's name).

The author is also very enamored of United's longtime slogan, "Fly the Friendly Skies," even though it was officially retired in 1997. But the slogan was so effective that unofficially it is still used by some flight attendants in their announcements. Of course, I am more likely to utter it as "Fly the LESBIAN-friendly skies" in a nod to Sarah's lesbian pride and all the lesbian vibe I had gotten on United flights over the years (especially on the otherwise dreadful trip to Amsterdam in 1999).

The article also argues that other simple yet effective airline branding include the Pan Am globe (1950s to the airline's folding in 1991), the Japan Airlines crane (1960-2002), the Lufthansa crane (1910s to current), and the Aeroflot hammer and sickle (1940s to today). It is also partial to the 1989-2002 Northwest logo (pointing northwest, and simultaneously an N and a W) as well. Also good are airline names that incorporate a quirkiness of its home base; one example cited is Royal Dutch Airlines, or Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij - shortened to KLM. The article's favorite current tagline appears to be "Excellence in Flight" used by Korean Air.

Of course there are plenty of bad branding examples out there, cited in the article as well.

Considering that air travel has the potential to bring distant peoples together, and that I am trying to take that mentality straight into Sarah and her work, looking into how various airlines actually convey that spirit in their branding and public image is a very important part of the process.


The Wandering Gentile said...

Hi. I stopped in for a visit and I like the idea. May it be humbly suggested that you "invent" an airline, to give yourself the latitude to tailor Sarah's narrative? (I suspect the not-so-subtle name "Lambda" could be used.)

This could leverage operational knowledge of existing industry practices, without forcing dependence upon one corporate culture and unchanging history.

It would also allow service to an area which an existing carrier does not serve, and offer the chance to put a glass wall between industry and story to connect a reader more strongly with Sarah.

My 2 bits...like I said, I love the idea.

Rachel said...

Hello Gil :)

Excellent idea! I actually thought about it. But in the end I decided that it was more trouble than I'd like.

I'm sticking to United, its lesbian-friendly moments, and its financial struggles in 2000-2006. In fact the whole concept of Sarah started off from her being laid off from United in 2004 and contemplating suicide.

Of course, I have to take some liberties here and there, and my portrayal of United will not be 100% accurate, but some liberty-taking is to be expected.

Thanks for your interest!