Let Me Sum Up
AA's new look is a good first step, but the airline still has a lot of work to do. Plus: Old people!
It’s all about expectations. When you’re American Airlines, any sign of progress is hailed as good news, even if that sign is that your latest backward step was so much smaller than previous backward steps.
So the news that AA lost only $130 million is hailed as good news. Fine. I’m inclined to agree with that, given American’s recent large-scale problems.
Then, this morning, AA unveiled a new logo and livery. This is important for two reasons: One, it taught us all the word “livery” (the paint scheme of an aircraft); two, it is symbolic of a new American Airlines, one divorced of its past mistakes.
Rebranding efforts like this are often mocked, but they can serve an important purpose. The value is in getting employees to think about fundamental questions.
That the new look wasn’t roundly mocked in social media is a sign that it wasn’t objectively terrible, which is sort of what we all expected, right? Of course, Frontburner meh’ed it, but if you bet on that happening, it was the easiest money you’ll make all week. (I think it’s a solid, modern look. Actually, I kinda love the logo.)
Rebranding efforts like this are often mocked, but they can serve an important purpose. When I was at D, the company spent a large sum of cash to have the Richards Group hold a couple of dinners, get a bunch of “influencers” drunk on wine and tell us what the “D brand” meant to them. This is patently ridiculous to outsiders, and it’s way too much money, and on and on and on.
But the value is not in the takeaways or the action items or whatever buzzword is current. The value is in getting employees to think about fundamental questions. What value do we bring? What differentiates us from our competition? And how do we communicate that to others?
This is what these “rebranding” exercises are about: taking time to ask important, fundamental questions. Not asking how much money you make or don’t make, or how many Dreamliners you have on order, or what your merger plans are or about the status of your pilot contracts, but asking what it is that American Airlines should strive to do every day.
For me, that used to be clear: AA began and ended your travels with the most professional experience you could find.
My grandfather worked there for nearly three decades, and he was immensely proud of that. When I moved here in the late ’80s, American was the Google of DFW. When you met someone who didn’t choose to fly American, you looked at him like he was insane.
When I first worked at its in-flight magazine in 1989 (I still freelance for it, and I also consult for a Southwest Airlines online content provider), I beamed every time I walked in the doors, feeling as though I’d somehow duped one of the country’s greatest companies into letting me work there. Sure, it was corporate and boring, but it felt important.
That’s not how it is perceived now. Everyone reading this has a story of an AA employee who made her travels a nightmare. A friend just recounted one such incident from last week that makes you bang your head on your desk. I don’t know how AA got to that point, and it will be hard to become known as a place you look forward to flying with. But it can be done, and it’s good for Dallas if AA can pull it off.
It starts, though, with figuring out the answers to those core questions, with everyone speaking to each other and outsiders with the same voice, clear in the company’s mission, emboldened with the challenge. Here’s hoping the redesign is a first step toward that.
Also, it will slide into the sea.
Hell yes we are, you little brat.
Old people are good at doing stuff, says old people-funded UT-Dallas study: bit.ly/13HPJKC— Dallas_Observer (@Dallas_Observer) January 17, 2013