American Airlines jettisoned its old "AA" tail-wing signature logo and unveiled its new logo this week. It's the first time they've had a new logo in 40 years, so they're really emotional about it. It's an updated eagle inside a blue and red stripe. It's a nice enough logo, and, apparently, it comes surrounded by a whole lot of rational explanations.
American, just emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, had ordered a whole lot of new planes, so they decided to reassess their look. Fair enough. But then they took more than 2 years with IPG's Futurebrand to end up with their new logo, which might seem a long time for a nearly-bankrupt airline to spend (not to mention the money) on a logo, and according to reports, it all started with a question.
If your first thought was that the question was, "how can we improve the overall flying experience on American?" wow, would you have been wrong! No it was "what are the things that are relevant from all over the world about America?" No really. That was the question. The answer they came up with: "Technology. Entertainment. Progress" according to Futurebrand's Chief Creative Officer, who said, "We didn't make this up. It's from people all over the world." As brand strategists of many years experience, we can assure you, you really can't make this stuff up! So they ended up with an eagle in a blue and white stripe. Get it? Technology, entertainment, and progress. Well, maybe there'll be a pamphlet in the seat pocket in front of you explaining it all.
They have a new commercial too. After all, what's the use of having a new logo if you don't have a new commercial to show it off? McCann Worldgroup (also part of IPG) did the advertising that broke this week. It's a 60-second commercial voice-overed by Jon Hamm with people doing stuff and then stopping to look skyward as a new American plane flies over with its brand new logo. The Global Chief Strategy Officer at McCann was quoted as noting, "The idea of it was to bring back the wonder of travel. We're so oblivious to the fact that we can get on a plane and go anywhere in the world, anytime we want. We wanted to bring that amazement, that wow factor." Well, we're wowed! Get on a plane and go anywhere!? What will they think of next? And a commercial pointing it out to all of you who were oblivious to the fact. See, they're right. You can't make this stuff up. Nearly-bankrupt companies rely on ad agencies and design shops for that.
There was also a lot of nattering about how the old logo was slanted toward a more powerful "ugly American" image – referring to the flying eagle with talons drawn in warlike readiness – so now it's a bird and a wing, which is supposed to shift your perceptions away from a bird of prey to, one can only suppose a bird at play, as you avail yourself of the fact that 'you can get on a plane and go anywhere in the world anytime' you want. (Sorry to repeat that quote, but it's so dense light actually ends around it!)
But in fairness, that reasoning is really more from a highly paid designer's perspective, and not a passenger. Be honest. There are lots of AA flyers out there, most of you hoping AA wouldn't go bankrupt before you cashed in your gabillion AA air miles. Did you ever, ever really think the original eagle was a sign of a war-mongering America? Or did you look out at the plane from the terminal and think, 'yeech, another crappy American flight'?
Yeah, we're guessing the latter. Actually not so much guessing as looking at some marginals from our 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index where:
1) American is rated last in the Airline Category, and
2) an airline's logo counts for 0.001 percent-contribution to passenger engagement, or about 5,000 times less than a bag of free peanuts!
A spokesperson for American said, "The new look, including our new fleet, is a strategic investment that is needed to improve our customers' overall experience…" because a new paint job and a snappy logo is always the highest-contributing aspect of a passenger's experience.
Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride for the AA brand!