Early release for Aviation Daily....
United To Unveil New Livery, Branding; Analyst Calls Effort 'Uninspiring'
United today in San Francisco is expected to unveil its first new aircraft livery in a decade as part of a larger branding campaign that aims to create a new image for the company as it emerges from bankruptcy protection, but one analyst believes the effort falls short.
According to a preview photo obtained by The DAILY, United has dropped the dark-blue and grey livery designed by CKS Partners in 1993 in favor of a much lighter scheme developed by Pentagram, erasing the influence of former CEO Stephen Wolf. CEO Glenn Tilton and his team have chosen a design that will make the top half of the fuselage white and the bottom half blue, divided by the three horizontal blue lines.
The tail features an oversized white United "tulip" logo on a blue background, almost identical to the tail design on Ted aircraft. The engine nacelles and aircraft underbelly are also blue, and the word United appears in black near the front of the fuselage. At the San Francisco event today, United plans to display one mainline aircraft along with a Canadair Regional Jet in the new United Express livery, sources said.
It will take several years to repaint hundreds of United planes currently flying throughout the world. A United spokesman would not comment on the plans and only confirmed there would be an event in San Francisco.
Airline executives also will discuss the carrier's new branding campaign. United this week started running a new magazine advertisement with the tagline "It's Time To Fly." Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt, who previously worked at CKS Partners and on the branding campaigns of several airlines, called the new livery and tagline "uninspiring and unimaginative."
He said the "It's time to fly" slogan "means nothing and falls flat." The tagline is risky if the airline's on-time performance falters whether it's the carrier's fault or not. He added that much of the public does not want to fly because of frustration with the mode of travel. "They are setting themselves up for ridicule and parody," he said.
Harteveldt believes the smarter move would have been to bring back the "Fly the Friendly Skies" campaign. A recent Forrester study showed that 41% of United customers said they would pay more for quality product or service, and most people are drawn to airlines where they receive friendly service.
While Harteveldt believes the new livery was long overdue at United, he described the new design as "not inspiring, not dynamic and not forward-thinking." The new livery "may get rid of the gray, but it does nothing to really distinguish the airline," he added. United won't lose any customers over the new identity, "but it won't help change people's perceptions."
He faulted United for cutting off part of the signature tulip logo on the tail. One of the most important aspects of a new livery is a consistent logo or design on the tail, which is the first thing many people see on an aircraft. "The logo is sacred," he said. "Why would you want to cut off the logo on the tail?" While the new United tail is better than Delta's "wavy gravy" design, he said it falls flat, compared with the "classic" designs of Air France or American. -SL