If you haven’t seen SAS’s brand new look by Swedish brand agency Bold, then now is a great time to delve deep into a comprehensive look at Scandinavian Airlines multiple branded elements.
“When we started working with SAS in early 2014 they were under tremendous pressure to accommodate changing customer habits and were targeting bargain hunters,” state Bold. This matches the recent trend in legacy airlines shifting their brand positioning to compete with the younger and more profitable low-cost carriers.
“The identity looked like any of other of the low price competitors and the brand was suffering from declining sales, a deteriorating reputation and a lack of direction both internally and externally. Our brief was to provide a more coherent, premium and Scandinavian SAS expression that would create a sense of community for the SAS customers.”
Bold took their brief on very specific data. The brand targeted a very focused and new target group for the airline, SAS’s most frequent travellers who travelled at least five times a year. Interestingly, this very specific group represents only 12% of the market, but are responsible for 70% of the airline’s overall revenue.
This meant that brand recognition needs to be very clear, strong and reflect the values of their most loyal consumers.
“We named our new target group The True Travellers and the primary purpose of the new identity was to attract them, by creating a brand and community they would like to be a part of,” said Bold. The goal was to upgrade every possible part of the passenger experience, and the company worked hard to evolve the brand to be more premium, aspirational and adapted to the digital age.
Launched back in 2014, the brand has already shown results. Since the new brand elements started to roll out, research has shown that their loyal passengers have increased their willingness to pay by 26%, equivalent to a brand value increase of 167 million Euro.
The logo has been removed from its restrictive blue box, allowing the brand to be more fluid in print and digital applications.
The Scandinavian typeface was adjusted and updated for better readability on all digital platforms, and two new weights were created.
There is also a new enhanced palette of blues, which allows for increased complexities in the brand image. While many airlines use blue in their palette, Bold’s direction was to make SAS own the colour blue, working with a blue-on-blue color concept.
The element we really love is the departure from the flat or computer generated gradients that many airlines have adopted such as Brussels Airlines. Instead Bold have employed photographer Erik Wåhlström to create the SAS signature “Sky gradients.” These stunning organic and beautiful prints represent Scandinavian skies at dusk and dawn.
One of the hardest elements of a rebrand, is iconography, however, Bold have managed to create bold, strong and legible icons that work with the strong Sans Serif typeface. Part of the visual palette also includes graphic elements, that reflect the geometric form of the original SAS logo.
These graphic elements work on both strong graphic backgrounds, but also on the range of stereo-typically Scandinavian photographs that have instructed the visual tone of voice for the carrier. The imagery is both sharp, clean, crisp and contemporary.
No element has been overlooked in overhaul. Some of the most playful elements can be found in the food packaging, which was inspired by cyanotype, a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print and leaves an almost ‘X-Ray’ treatment that helps visually state ‘clean ingredients’.
Bold has even had an input on the visual interface of the IFE system. This is perhaps the most important brand real estate to a passengers experience, and is in some instances the first real interaction with an airline’s brand, depending if the ticket was booked on an OTA.
Another element that gains a lot of interaction from passengers, is the Food and Boutique publications that sit in seat-backs. To give these a premium look and feel helps reinforce the positioning of an airline. Bold explains, “The Menu & Store printed materials draws inspiration from the magazine world. Inspirational and organically arranged photographs with a focus on taste, quality, seasons and products in combination with unexpected objects are presented against monochrome backdrops.”
Bold also recently got involved with the refresh of the airline’s uniforms in a collaboration with Swedish designer Ted Bernhardtz. The updated uniforms, which include a polo shirt and poncho among other styles, were created to “make SAS staff more identifiable for travellers navigating busy international airports.”
Bold also commissioned an artist and illustrator to create a scarf inspired by a view from above. Amandah Andersson actually managed to incorporate the SAS letters hidden away in the pattern.
To complete the entire rebrand, Bold actually designed a new livery to celebrate SAS 70th anniversary on one of their 737-800 aircraft. The design features a proud and bold SAS logotype on the front and incorporates the sky gradient that delicately flows out from the tail.
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