American Airlines Rebranding Failure

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

17 November 2016

American Airlines rebranding is an example of all that is wrong with branding.

The American Airlines rebranding initiative earlier this year is an example of what pisses me off with folks pretending to be a rebranding company and the drivel they sell to clients.

It was a total waste of money. Worse still, it was a squandering of an opportunity to lead and grow.

Here is a little background for any of you who don’t follow the airline industry as closely as I do (read a market study on the industry here if you are interested).

American Airlines Rebranding

The old American Airlines logo.

So, with the merger, time to was to revamp everything, right?

The merger

American Airlines merged (or purchased depending on your point of view) with US Airways.

American Airlines rebranding was necessary because the old American Airlines company was having a difficult time staying afloat.

It had to go through reorganization just to continue in the business. US Airways was not in any better shape.

Regulators approved the merger because it was believed that, without the acquisition, American Airlines would not be a viable company anymore. It was believed that having American go belly-up would be a bad thing for consumers (the flying public).

But who cares about you and I? What it really meant was that, as consumers, we would have less competition and fares would increase as a result. Same thing happened when United and Continental merged and when Delta and Northwest did the same.

The flying public is not a consideration in this equation, the viability of a large corporation was.

“It was a total waste of money. Worse still, it was a squandering of an opportunity to lead and grow.”

Here is the real problem with the American Airlines rebranding

The industry needs to rethink its business model and the airlines need to redefine their brands. Public sentiment hates the airlines.

They have become unreasonably difficult to use, are costly and unreliable. The passenger is always on back burner.

If your flight is delayed, they appolgize but it turns out to be only your problem. “Please stay in the gate area” even if the flight is delayed an hour or more.

You are captive to the gate because, if the airline should find another plane to run the route, they might take off before the projected delayed estimate— and if you are late, well screw you.

American Airlines had an opportunity at the time of merger to redefine its brand, change its business model and flip the playing field upon which all the copycat competitors compete.

It SHOULD have rebranded. Instead they went to Futurebrand and got a new logo.

American Airlines Rebranding

Wow. What a change.

What guts!

A new logo is NOT rebranding

Who is to blame for this? American Airlines should bare much of the blame. It was lazy and complacent in looking to redefine the category and the brand.

It is the sort of thinking that got it into financial trouble in the first place. But Futurebrand is complicit too.

Why did it not tell American Airlines the truth?

That American was losing the opportunity to grow its market share beyond the simple fact that it was merging into a larger airline.

It’s because Stealing Share competes in an industry (rebranding) that does not understand the business it is in.

Other brand companies still sell corporate identity changes and pass it off as rebranding. No wonder the art of branding has a bad reputation.

Here is the result of that effort by American Airlines and Futurebrand. A new logo, a new name—The New American Airlines (absolute genius don’t you agree?) and a theme that tells the flying public that they are now the largest airline in the world.

God knows that is why we choose them!


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