Polaris isn't the brand, United is. The folks upfront might spend the most per mile and their loyalty is important to any airline but filling the rest of the plane is what actually pays the bills. Being "friendly approachable" is one sure way (but certainly not the only way) to pull those customers away from the likes of WN and B6. The new livery might be a bit boring but it is also fresh, bright and clean which is an image United could use in spades after years of missteps. Other than matching the basic color palette Polaris probably had very little to do with this new livery. Having a solid premium product is critical and the fact that UA seems to be investing heavily in it is great to see but, at the end of the day, the airline still needs to be seen as approachable by the general public who are looking for an affordable seat.
I never said “Polaris is the brand” all Polaris is, is a branded Class of Service, from UNITED. (vs UNITED Alpha)
I believe that on purely a brand strategy level that United has identified a new clear, different brand position that will help differentiate it in a category that is notoriously undifferentiated (Except to us!) Everything they are doing from top to bottom (nose to tail) is going in a very premium direction for a US major international airline.
It’s very, very difficult to see and feel change when it comes to an airline the size of United. Bits as pieces are rolled out over a long stretch of time. As of now, United has one foot (in its fairly recent messy past) and another foot FIRMLY planted in its future. But because of the mix of old and new it will take at least another year and a half to get the average consumer: economy flier, families, wealthy and big ticket business people to get the FULL NEW UNITED BRAND EXPERIENCE...then the work never stops as they will always be working to be a step ahead (if they are successful in their very strongly stated goal)
United was the HAPPY airline, and I loved United for it. In the 1970’s and the decades before, ad agencies were the brand stewards, and Leo Burnett applied their very special craft at the time (LB was one of the best at identifying a consumer insight, developing a big idea that tapped that insight, which in turn drove a brand’s business. Leo Burnett developed one (among many) of the most powerful brand ideas in the history of advertising (in 1959) based off tapping into a male consumer insight: Marlboro Country, and Marlboro cowboy.
Saul Bass’ livery fit hand in glove with Leo Burnett’s “Fly the Friendly Skies” and ALSO gave UA the best example of “sonic branding” ever with Rhapsody in Blue. Basically, it was a crystal clear brand idea that really tugged at America’s heartstrings at a time when flying was possible for everyone. It was really powerful.
My issue with the livery is its disconnect to the NEW United brand direction: which is far more premium than anything before.
I only used “Polaris” (along with many other examples) because of the “halo effect” it has had on the master-brand “United” whether you fly in Polaris or not (and the fact they branded their premium product with a different and unique name was very, very intentional as it is unique, and speaks directly to the big ticket business flier. Polaris also being the North Star perfectly speaks to their mission- for both the external audience as to where they are heading, and a rally cry for the internal audience.
But it is NOT just Polaris. Almost EVERY consumer touch-point, that’s been rolled out, at every level has been more sophisticated and contemporary. The UA biz model is all about the “buy-up”. The “new” UC’s are beautiful and cool. Just flying E+ on a newly refurbished (used) A319 you can see that there’s a new, strongly branded premium proprietary look and feel that’s a light year over the “ordinariness” of the past. (Which is still what passengers see mostly today) - but there is a s***load more to do!
Ask anyone who’s just come off a refurbished 777, 767, 78X and you will hear “wow, that was United!” Front to back (Except for the 10 abreast on a 777)
Frankly I cant wait for everything to be done, and frankly I think there is a lot to fix (like transcontinental and food etc).
I have some good friends who are FA’s on United and they are busting their butts to live the new brand promise.
And, so I do think they missed an opportunity with the new livery. I think the big, bold UNITED is unapologetic and proud, I just think the rest looked cheap when I saw it live vs everything else. Though probably better than the gold. But I’d love to see if they did Quant research!