A new American

A new American

Tamara Crawford

I want to like it.

We flew American Airlines when I was young. I remember staring expectantly through terminal windows at the shine of the unpainted fuselage. I still have a little metal souvenir they gave me as a child. I flew American through college. They solidly shuttled me from SF to the East Coast and back. I grew up with the brand. It was a good time to fly.

Then something happened.

The planes rattled. They became dingy and dirty inside, the service robotic and rude. Their rewards plan became increasingly complex and unfriendly. With no idea why it all changed, I switched my allegiance and haven’t flown them in years.

American Airlines just unveiled a rebrand. It made me hopeful to hear of it. I empathize with the team behind the rebrand too, because the buy-in and development process of a rebrand of this scale is designed for an endurance athlete. But here’s the thing…

Visit their site. Watch the video that pops up. In it, their CEO talks about the brand’s change. The video starts with the expected historical flashback, highlights a new fleet of planes (good move), awkwardly mentions a vague merger (strange move) and then says the attendants and pilots will have iPads (shouldn’t the pilots be flying the plane?). The words “modernize” and “modern” are used frequently. Many gratuitous plane shots ensue. Finally, the CEO goes for the big reveal…the new logo and paint job.

Stop.

Is it me, or is it decidedly myopic and old-fashioned to place so much rebrand attention on a logo? If you step back to the reasons my relationship with AA broke apart they went much deeper than the paint job. Yet much of the rebrand PR focuses on the superficial look of it all. There’s weak attention paid to service or innovative customer experiences—the aspects of travel that make people rant and rave about a brand.

If you dig further you’ll find a few snippets of insight. They are re-training their flight attendants. And the “iPads” gain some context: “Galaxy Note™ tabs will give our flight attendants immediate access to your connecting gate information, loyalty status, special preferences and more.”

Inevitably, the new AA identity system was a popular topic of debate at the office. Some people really like the new logo. For me, the fact that the iconic eagle looks like a peeling piece of fuselage doesn’t erase my earlier associations with their planes. Nearly everyone agrees the design on the airplane’s tail is “hyperpatriotic” and as one person put it “the brand equivalent of American flag sweatpants.”

Symbols of American patriotism sell. As far as rebrands go, this is one to watch to see if its over-the-top flag waving livery design has an impact on AA’s’ struggles. It’s also one to monitor to see if their changes go deep into the brand to alter the sentiment and experience of their passengers. The airline says “For more than two years, we’ve been building toward a time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we’ve made on the inside.” They sound like they get it. Let’s see if they succeed. Next time I see a smiling family come off one of their flights, I’ll know they’re on their way.

I want to like it.

We flew American Airlines when I was young. I remember staring expectantly through terminal windows at the shine of the unpainted fuselage. I still have a little metal souvenir they gave me as a child. I flew American through college. They solidly shuttled me from SF to the East Coast and back. I grew up with the brand. It was a good time to fly.

Then something happened.

The planes rattled. They became dingy and dirty inside, the service robotic and rude. Their rewards plan became increasingly complex and unfriendly. With no idea why it all changed, I switched my allegiance and haven’t flown them in years.

American Airlines just unveiled a rebrand. It made me hopeful to hear of it. I empathize with the team behind the rebrand too, because the buy-in and development process of a rebrand of this scale is designed for an endurance athlete. But here’s the thing…

Visit their site. Watch the video that pops up. In it, their CEO talks about the brand’s change. The video starts with the expected historical flashback, highlights a new fleet of planes (good move), awkwardly mentions a vague merger (strange move) and then says the attendants and pilots will have iPads (shouldn’t the pilots be flying the plane?). The words “modernize” and “modern” are used frequently. Many gratuitous plane shots ensue. Finally, the CEO goes for the big reveal…the new logo and paint job.

Stop.

Is it me, or is it decidedly myopic and old-fashioned to place so much rebrand attention on a logo? If you step back to the reasons my relationship with AA broke apart they went much deeper than the paint job. Yet much of the rebrand PR focuses on the superficial look of it all. There’s weak attention paid to service or innovative customer experiences—the aspects of travel that make people rant and rave about a brand.

If you dig further you’ll find a few snippets of insight. They are re-training their flight attendants. And the “iPads” gain some context: “Galaxy Note™ tabs will give our flight attendants immediate access to your connecting gate information, loyalty status, special preferences and more.”

Inevitably, the new AA identity system was a popular topic of debate at the office. Some people really like the new logo. For me, the fact that the iconic eagle looks like a peeling piece of fuselage doesn’t erase my earlier associations with their planes. Nearly everyone agrees the design on the airplane’s tail is “hyperpatriotic” and as one person put it “the brand equivalent of American flag sweatpants.”

Symbols of American patriotism sell. As far as rebrands go, this is one to watch to see if its over-the-top flag waving livery design has an impact on AA’s’ struggles. It’s also one to monitor to see if their changes go deep into the brand to alter the sentiment and experience of their passengers. The airline says “For more than two years, we’ve been building toward a time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we’ve made on the inside.” They sound like they get it. Let’s see if they succeed. Next time I see a smiling family come off one of their flights, I’ll know they’re on their way.

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