September 29, 2014

Brand visibility – up close and from a distance

I’ve been talking a lot about brand visibility recently, and thought this would be the perfect time to revisit the airline industry. Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines have both been making headlines about their livery, which refers to the airplanes’ colors, logos and other unique branding attributes.

As I discussed back in December, brand visibility has been a differentiating factor for Southwest Airlines. Sitting on my deck, I can spot a Southwest Airlines jet from 10,000 feet. With the acquisition of AirTran, Southwest recently unveiled a new tri-color heart logo and color scheme on its planes. In a press release, Southwest had this to say about research conducted prior to rebranding:

“The airline heard that it was important to remain unique and to retain its personality; for these reasons, Southwest continues to use the vibrant color palate and striped tail that has long identified the carrier, while adding a modern touch, proudly displaying the Southwest name on the side of the fuselage and presenting the Heart on the aircraft belly. Southwest has had several different liveries and logos throughout its 43-year history; remaining current and relevant is critical to the sustainability and future growth of the brand.”

Southwest Heart One

Source: Southwest Image Library

At Frontier Airlines, the rebranding is less dramatic. The tagline focuses on its pricing structure: “Low Fares Done Right.” The new logo has an italicized font featuring a stylized F. The fuselage remains mostly white, so I’ll still have no idea when Frontier is flying over my deck. The popular “talking” animals displayed on each plane’s tail will be even larger after planes are repainted. I’ve seen children in the airport point to Frontier Airlines’ planes taxying to a gate, jumping up and down when they realized they’d be flying with Griswold the grizzly bear or Stu the rabbit. While Frontier’s brand visibility might be limited from 10,000 feet, brand awareness at the gate can be palpable.

Brand visibility for a single branded asset comes at a premium in the airline industry, with costs for painting planes estimated between $30,000 and $150,000 per plane. Airlines also have a lot of other branded assets to consider. In terms of airport-based vehicles impacting brand visibility, airlines have luggage carts and service trucks for catering and maintenance. Inside the airport, wheelchairs and electric carts to assist disabled or elderly travelers also contribute to brand visibility.

Signage inside the airport, found at ticket counters, gate areas and throughout the terminal, also play a role in brand visibility. The same is true of uniforms and ID badges. The stronger and more distinctive the brand identity, the easier it is for travelers.

The next time you’re at the airport, think about how the color schemes and logos of different airlines impact you. What words come to mind? Unique? Low cost? When it comes time to rebrand your own company, let us help increase your brand visibility to make sure your customers immediately get your message. Contact us.