Something (not so) special in the air

For decades, American Airlines’ iconic “Silver Bird” identity has been one of the industry’s most familiar and respected. But in 2011, the airline started a two-year rebranding process. According to AdWeek, executives felt that the rebranding was justified because A) American had recently emerged from bankruptcy, B) it had hundreds of new planes on order, C) a proposed merger with US Airways was in the works, and D) it was the only legacy airline that had not evolved its brand in the past decade.

Big-time agency FutureBrand conducted interviews with 2,500 travelers and 500 employees before moving American far away from its crisp Helvetica font and mid-century eagle. It was a noble effort, but the new identity was met with near universal derision. “Why do airlines think a new paint job makes up for crappy service [and] operating model deficiencies?” Tweeted one customer.

Our take? American’s new identity is among the blandest of among U.S. airlines. Pull an AA plane alongside one from Delta or Unitedits two largest competitorsand there is nothing that makes it stand out. It’s actually the least inspired of the three.

Compare the new AA identity to that of competitor JetBlue. Everything about the JetBlue brand kicks ass, from consistent use of color palette, to Mullen’s unforgettable advertising, to the airline’s Terminal T5 at JFK.

According to the airline, the JetBlue brand is built on five key attributes: nice, fresh, smart, stylish, and witty, and the airline carries them into every part of its marketing and operations. And it warms our brand police hearts to see that JetBlue almost never deviates from its core messaging or visual ID.

Plus, the flight attendants are nice, the TV is free, and they offer nonstop flights to 54 cities from 43K’s hometown hub of Boston.

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