No one is saying airlines gain or lose passengers because of their livery.

Except, well…. It’s not an excuse!

It’s really not. Branding is one of the few ways a company engages with a customer in anything that can be called non-transactional. Companies, in antiquity, used to spend billions on brand strategy. Brands beget mindshare; mindshare begets preference; preference leads to purchase. It’s a fairly standard marketing pipeline.

The basics of Marketing

Liveries, boxes, billboards, all of them are a form of attention tactic. That is to say, a strategic investment to get your attention as a customer and build awareness.

It’s the reason detergent boxes are always so garish. You can’t look away. That’s not a bad thing. Someone says “Tide,” you think orange. Or, well, you do if you’re not a millennial. For them, someone says “Tide”, and they think “snack.” Oh well. We’ll get to why it’s their fault in this area later.

Or, right now. This is pretty much the thesis of this article.

To take a Garbage lyric out of context “There’s no going back on this one.”

Bland liveries are the result of an industry over consolidation, and the fact that future generations have no money to pay for differentiation.

I remember the millions of years ago when I was studying marketing at University. I posed a question along the lines of: “If someone is the only game in town, do they need a nice logo?”

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Nope. The answer was one word. The why was a little longer. You don’t have to compete for mindshare if you are the only game in town.

Comintern had a bloody awful logo. In fact, beyond the iconic Red Star, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff’s Special Forces departments logos, and Aeroflot; the USSR was miserable at logo design.

The historic Aeroflot logo

They didn’t have any competition. So why bother? It’s a needless expense.

But Bernie, Bell had a great logo designed by Saul Bass.

Free market monopolies were allowed to spend money on “nice to haves” before Wall Street (or its foreign equivalents) dictated every single move a corporation made in all its lifecycles.

Marketing in Aviation

Global Airlines have consolidated to the point where there aren’t that many. Only the strong survived, too. So their name was usually etched into the minds of consumers—there was no need to educate with flashy colors. The only concern is shareholder return, not even customer value.

You could easily fly an airline with nothing beyond the regulation mandated inscriptions. Not even a name. It’d be cheap. We’re heading that way. Or will be once Boeing stops providing three free paint colors.

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After all, it’s what is on the inside that count. Even though due to market standardization and the commoditization of Air Travel almost all cabins are more or less the same. It’s a choice of which dull hue makes the majority of the economy seats. So, no memory share being built there.

It’s almost like the product being the price for the vast majority of flyers has had a massively deleterious effect on more than just comfort—but I do go on. That can’t be it. Nope.

Okay, how is that the fault of millennials?

They’re the most skittish, easily polarized people you will ever meet. They have given up on personal individuality as corporations around them combine to form monoliths.  Nice safe monoliths that both tell them what to do and when they have stepped out of line.

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

They are the indecision color Prius of people.

Their helicopter parents and education have made them afraid to confront design norms or push any boundary.

They short-circuit at the sight of anything created outside the corporate realm.

Corporations would be fools to waste money pushing the envelope when the response would likely be “I don’t know about that, yellow makes me feel unsafe.” They want beige. They want to be connected to everyone and have relationships with brands, but they don’t want ever to leave a little bubble of comfort.

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That’s what liveries are now. They’re safe. It’s the opposite of a poison dart frog.

“Come here; we won’t offend you with ideas in any way!”

I wish there were a way to make subtext small, yet legible so that I could put this in a footer. “Well, beyond the ideas corporations have already given you and told you to live your life by.”

Bland Will Be The Norm For Airlines

It’s the same with Joon. There’s nothing confrontational about Joon’s branding beyond their aggressive mediocrity.

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You can’t sit back and say, “it’s bad design” directly. All you can say is, “it’s a modern livery design”, like Lufthansa, or Air Canada, or LATAM, or Iberia…

These liveries are not designed to evoke anything. They’re designed pretty much to be descriptive but create no opinion.


That’s precisely what they do. That’s the problem. When you design for nothing, rather than having the desired result, you get outrage.

It’s only going to get worse.