Airline Branding for Dummies


Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the Delta corporate headquarters, someone is working on “branding” the “new” Northwest-Delta Airline. But it may take up to three years to wipe out the Northwest Airlines name, and even longer to integrate cultures. A pilot friend told me today that there’s still angst at the soon-to-be-former Northwest that stems from the different cultures of Northwest Orient and Republic airlines.

In the end, though, it’s all about the perception — the message — that a Delta name (as opposed to an NWA name) gives to fliers.

I talked this afternoon with Barbara Schenck, an expert on branding, and the author of Small Business Marketing for Dummies, Business Plans Kit for Dummies, and Branding for Dummies, about the marketing challenges companies face when merging.

Here’s the full interview (mp3). I’ll add the Cliff Notes versions over the next few minutes.

  • How does Delta keep whatever favorable message the Northwest brand brings while wiping out the Northwest logo and identity? (Listen)
  • Is there a lot at stake to wipe out the Northwest name as quickly as possible? Yes. (Listen)
  • The logo is the face of the brand. The brand is the promise that lives in a consumer’s mind. (Listen)
  • The message of the airline doesn’t matter as much as what the consumer experiences. Take American Airlines, for example. (Listen)
    • MR

      If you look carefully (and sometimes not so carefully) there is still a bunch of America West stuff on USAir planes.

    • Bob Collins

      Don’t quote me, MR, but I’m PRETTY sure there’s still some old paint scheme NWA planes (DC-9s, I think) still floating around out there. And that started in 2003!

      I’m pretty sure all the Republic logos are gone, however. :*)

    • Sylvia

      I was disappointed when Northwest Orient dropped the “Orient” and the graceful circle with the swoosh. That was a great, classy logo, encompassing a peaceful zen and global feeling.

      The NWA logos have gotten progressively worse, ending up with the ridiculous N/W triangle. No loss there.

      While the Delta arrow is okay for international recognition, it looks harsh. I’d like to see it softened a bit.

    • Joe

      Delta’s history vs. Northwest Airlines…YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING?

      Delta started as a “crop duster’.

      Northwest has been a premier international airline almost from it’s beginning. THERE truly is a world of difference. NWA as the oldest American airline in Asia (the fastest growing region in the world) carries significant weight. Delta is UNHEARD of throughout Asia.

      Massive mistake to assume the Delta name and logo with no incorporation of NW. Clearly, Delta didn’t learn that lesson with Pan Am and almost went belly up.

      Delta logo (thumbs down)