United was the surviving character in name (if not in manangement or operating certificate), therefore the focus should be on continuing United tradition, not appeasing the smaller Continental pundits.
Bring back the damn Tulip already. Modify it, modernize it, do whatever is necessary, but that logo was intrinsic to UA’s identity just as much as the widget is to DL or Chester is to AS. Letting Smisek change it on account of CO cheapness told the world that UA’s identity didn’t matter to UA, so why should it to the customer? Well, while none of UA’s problems today are related to that livery choice, the divided/indecisive/grotesquely generic image reflects many of those issues that have made UA a less desirable and customer-friendly carrier than even a Parker-run AA. UA is now practically a poster child for poor customer service and apathetic staff and has been since the two cultures failed to blend.
United's "tradition" in the decade or so leading up to the merger included a CEO stating that "United will perish," a protracted bankruptcy, two failed attempts to establish a carrier-within-a-carrier, short-sighted fleet planning, and regularly ranking near the bottom of the industry for customer complaints. Continental was far from perfect, but they had managed to rehabilitate themselves from the disaster they were back in the 1980s and early 1990s into a profitable carrier with a fairly consistent and reasonable, though not spectacular, product.
I'm no fan of $mi$ek, but using the Continental livery & brand identity wasn't about being cheap. It was about reassuring Continental's customers that the product they'd see post-merger would be like the CO they were used to and not the post-Summer-from-Hell/extended-bankruptcy/faded-gray-planes/disgruntled-employee United dumpster fire of the 1999-2009 period. The tulip had some brand value back when United put a good product on the market; they destroyed most of the value in that brand identity all on their own in the Goodwin-Tilton years. $mi$ek & company managed to destroy the current brand identity through an uncanny ability to combine the worst of both carriers.
Virtually no one in the general public gives a damn about the tulip! The only people who care are some legacy-UA employees/retirees and fanboys on websites like this one. The tulip wouldn't drive more business to UA. More important than branding is providing a consistent, reliable product at a competitive price which customers will choose over the competition. They may also price higher if they provide a product for which customers are willing to pay more.
Branding is helpful but that's not what saved Apple from the technology graveyard, and it certainly didn't save Blackberry. Microsoft's brand didn't allow them to extend their dominance from desktop computing to mobile. The branding isn't the problem at United.