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Op-Ed: Lufthansa’s Branding is Still a Mistake

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Op-Ed: Lufthansa’s Branding is Still a Mistake

Lufthansa Group

Op-Ed: Lufthansa’s Branding is Still a Mistake
February 08
16:00 2018

I can’t say I expected the Airways poll to end in a simple majority of disdain.

Our social media team ran a Twitter poll. The results were rather surprising.

My first thought was “what’s wrong with you people?”

My second thought was “Do you just not like me?”

Then I noticed the question had nothing to do with my article and I went to the airport to clear my head rather than weep for society.

READ MORE: Op-Ed: Lufthansa’s New Livery Is Everything That’s Wrong With Branding

Responding to the response 


Then I was reminded of a hilarious comment on my last piece.

I fail to see how a trend of brainless millennials (not me though) eating Tide Pods for Youtube fame caused Lufthansa to have a bad livery. Honestly, you put a nail in your aviation/journalism career with this one…Not sure if this is satire or your MAGA hat decide to fuse itself to your brain.

Said a very helpful, obviously millennial, reader. People only get this sad when they make the mistake that everything is political.

READ MORE: Full Review: Lufthansa’s New Livery Unveiling in Frankfurt (+Photos)

Nope. This is not politics.

There’s something legitimately wrong with branding.

Now, in an informal conversation with branding guru Henry Harteveldt, he reminded me that the Soviet Union had excellent branding—which, frankly, I was too scared to say because most people think everything on the internet is political.

This clearly is the case. Airline branding is about as far as politics from possible.

Then there was the fact that my friend Gary Leff said he thought Joon’s branding was worse.

READ MORE: Op Ed: Go Away, Joon! You’re Not Fooling Anyone

Strategically, yes. Joon is perhaps the summation of everything that’s wrong in aviation marketing.

Except, Joon started fresh. Joon’s brand is a failure but it was not throwing an icon in the trash. It’s not a destruction of brand equity because it had none!

Brand equity matters


Lufthansa’s old livery was not amazing. It told a story though—it was an obvious continuation of their previous livery but updated.

The crane remained yellow, the bellies remained painted. The cheatline was gone—but it was recognizable as a company that had a strong history.

Customers remember. At least if they care. The amount of brand recognition any airline has these days is probably the lowest it’s ever been. The product is the price and nothing more.

Loyal customers usually have some sort of status that precludes them from spilling to a more creative competitor (if one exists).

But again, creativity outside often indicates creativity inside.

There isn’t any. Lufthansa, despite being a Skytrax five-star airline is about as creative as…

Wait for it.

This is a public domain image of the previous definition of “bland” a 2012 Toyota Prius.

Yup, an indecision color 2012 Toyota Prius!

Remember, Lufthansa’s new Business Class (a veritable portrait of a modern Mid-Western Mercedes dealership and twice as colorful) isn’t due to arrive for another two years.

The customer has a choice, but the choices all look the same.

Why did things get to the point where your choice is beige, or beige? Why does a brand even matter if the competition is identical in every single way?

Sometimes, this really makes you wonder why anyone bothers chasing status. Oh right, no status—no rebooking.

That’s an entirely different challenge and different issue with this brand-equity destroying quest for mediocrity.

Why maintain equity when no one else has any either?

Standardization only kills creativity


It does. How can you “be different” when to get customer dollars as an airline you must offer the exact same thing the competitor offers at the same price (or lower)? You can’t.

The board will not let you. It’s clear the customer doesn’t even know half the time if they are on Lufthansa or British Airways. They just want to get somewhere for cheap.

This would be great, it’s wonderful more people can fly. There are now disincentives from being different. Tick the box, go home. That’s all the board will allow.

It floors me that airlines would rather spend millions of dollars on becoming more generic in one area they were still allowed some identity.

READ MORE: Op-Ed: The U.S. Airline Industry Is Actually Pretty Great

In other segments, even segments with multiple SKUs to allow price discrimination, the companies want that unique brand.

Coke is not “a sedate C on a white can” Coke is in your face. Coke is a lifestyle.

Nike. Again. Nike caters to customers from all economic backgrounds. Is their board going to say “our brand is too extreme, let’s make plain white boxes that say ‘shoes’?”

Why are customers giving the airline business a free pass to be generic when they are spending so much money with them? It makes no sense.

I would love a behavioral economist to be inspired by my ire! Why have boards and branding directors within legacy airlines given up? Especially because look at that purple plane down here!

copyright Andrew H. Cline 2017

Did WOW Air spend millions of dollars to have consultants and focus groups to come and make them a livery and brand story identical to their competition? Nope.

My bet is one of the founders said: “Let’s make the plane purple.” That was that. And yet, it’s infinitely more creative. They offer the same, standard, economy product Lufthansa does with a wee bit more unbundling.

This, along with their OSM nemeses, presents a serious threat to legacy European Airlines like Lufthansa. They can even be loud about it.

The A320 delivered to Spirit.

Huh, these guys have the ability to be creative too? What is this sorcery!

Is an exciting brand only allowed for (U)LCC?


It seems so.

It makes no sense. ULCCs get their earnings from either being cheap enough to incentivize travel that was not going to be undertaken without an enticing offer, ancillary sales, and offering a product no longer any way dissimilar from a legacy economy product.

They are, by their very structure, the most cost-conscious.

Spirit’s stickers are degraded in random patterns because it was cheaper for them to take and apply them rather than discard ones that failed what most airlines consider conventional quality standards. Yet, they have a big yellow plane.

You know it’s Spirit when you see it. That’s a brand. That builds mindshare.

It’s a simple, cheap, association-building attention tactic.

I see all the ULCCs branding themselves elegantly, uniquely, and inexpensively. It feels like the market has allowed them that freedom.

Someone, please, tell me why all legacy airlines have to look the same? Even their ULCC offshoots are the definition of staid.

Wrapping up


I guess, what I am trying to say to tie this back into the sheer ennui experienced by a mere glance in the direction of a Lufthansa aircraft in its new livery is the following.

Lufthansa’s new brand is the largest failure in a trend of depressing failure. Lufthansa’s livery, after the demise of the cheatline, was never amazing—but it was immediately recognizable.

It wasn’t dated or aggressively mediocre. There was no reason to spend millions of shareholder controlled Euros on something that would not look out of place in an Ingmar Bergman movie.

Lufthansa missed a chance to take a chance and create something revolutionary. I think that’s the problem.

PHOTO: Lufthansa Group.

They went so far in the direction of “sedate” that they trashed their brand of being sedate and predictable. I never thought something that based its entire branding story on being dependable and stogy could go too far in that direction.

Granted, their logo will still be copyright (unlike a certain U.S. legacy).

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Bernie Leighton

Bernie Leighton

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