This month Lufthansa did something it had not done in the last 30 years: It announced a complete corporate rebranding – represented by a visible change of colours, materials and the famous tailfin colours (First image above shows the new colours).
The announcement coincides with the airline celebrating 100 years since the invention of it’s brand logo – the abstract crane – and it’s celebrated rating as a 5-star airline, something that insiders tell me the airline was struggling to achieve for a while now.
Established in 1955, Lufthansa is one of the leading airlines in Europe and the world. Based in Germany, with HQ in Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa flies to more than 200 destinations in over 70 countries with an impressive fleet of close to 350 planes and is the largest European operator of the Airbus A380. And until very recently, this fleet sported a familiar and comforting “egg yolk” yellow on its rudder.
I must say that I grew up with this egg yolk and the airline and spent many childhood flights on short and long-haul flights, when my father reached senator status in the 1980s. This was the highest tier status back then and meant that I had my own Senator status card well until the year 2000. I could use up all the collected miles and spontaneously book flights to any place in the world – from Seattle to Cairo – with absolute trust towards the airline. Afterall, I was sent on longhaul flights by myself from the age of 9 and never had one bad experience.
The visuals of the Lufthansa brand will be changed completely over the next 7 to 8 years to reflect their “premium” character. For faithful PAX (that’s passengers in aviation terminology) or SLF (that’s self-loading-freight in derogatory aviation jargon) this is a move not easily digested. Personally, the “premium” feeling has been there for me all along, but perhaps I am not the typical target customer to understand the new corporate identity? Lets look at some brand psychology to see if it all makes sense:
Why change the corporate identity?
Marieke de Mooij (2011) explains that “like the self, identity in individualistic cultures is supposed to be unique and consistent, as opposed to a collectivist’s identity, which can change according to varying social positions and situations.”
Thus the “corporate identity” is defined by a Western identity concept. It is concerned with the impressions, the image and personality which a company projects. (Interestingly, there is no adequate understanding of individualistic identity in collectivist cultures and languages, such as China and Japan.)
Ideally brands have clearly defined images created by advertising, packaging and other positioning elements, and theory believes that these images are congruent with consumers’ self images.
If you have a look below, you can see two mood boards of the Lufthansa as it was known in the last 30 years and its new visual identity. Has the self image of the Lufthansa customer changed over the decades and will it morph in the near future?
Old corporate identity mood board with lots of the egg-yolk-yellow in many customer-facing interfaces.
Are premium travelers expressing themselves through choosing a premium branded airline?
“The concept of brand personality refers to the human-like attributes associated with brands. For example, Apple is cool, Hermes is elegant, and the Volkswagen Golf is understated.
Much like in humans, brands develop their personality with time, as they mature.
In some cases, this results from deliberate attempts to translate the vision of designers and marketers into a product that can help consumers express key emotions. Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas (2015).
What’s in a colour and shape?
How people describe colour greatly depends on the linguistic terms of a culture’s language. Adult polyglots show different associations with the same colours.
“In marketing and branding, colours can have powerful effects.”
“Colors can alter the meanings of the objects or situations with which they are associated and color preferences can predict consumers’ behaviour. Color is an integral element of marketing communications. (…) It helps to differentiate from the competition, evokes strong product associations and category images. Color communicates corporate position.”
Marieke de Mooij (2011) Consumer Behavior and Culture. Sage
A 2013 study published in Psychological Science shows that logos and branding can have a profound influence on decision-making. Authors Marios Philiastides (University of Nottingham) and Roger Ratcliff (The Ohio State University) found that visible logos and branding on clothing items carried significant value – ultimately biasing decision-making processes in favor of preferred brands.
“It is not sufficient for companies to try to attract consumers with price promotions, good customer support, or product-specific technical requirements (e.g., updates),” they concluded. “Instead, companies should place special emphasis on brand design and awareness and strive to promote strong affective associations with their brand among customers to develop and maintain a competitive advantage.”
So there we are: Lufthansa has clearly a specific understanding how their customer thinks and acts, what he or she finds attractive and what will bind that person to the brand over many decades. Martin et Karczinski have apparently spent an awful lot of time working out the new identity, as you can see here.
But it is not all that positive within the German media space:
Aviation writer Enrique Perrella described the new brand identity it as “bland and pointless”, while industrial designer Clemens Weisshaar told Dezeen it was a “design belly flop.“ Weisshaar also compared the new livery to that of a “dodgy insurance company” or “a failed bank”.
I wonder if I will grow to like it as much as I did the egg-yolk-colours and will report on the effect in the near future. However, it might also be the case of what happened to Japan Airlines: During some tumultuous business years, the airline changed its logo several times, only to revert back to a beloved retro-branding (the “tsuru” or Japanese crane) a few years ago. The retro-feel of the tail fin was still a symbol to PAX young and old and really worked well. So, Lufthansa, what will it be?
I invite you to comment on the Lufthansa rebrandig and share your thoughts!