Brands create identities to stand out, visually represent what they stand for and what they do. Simple brand images are the ones that work best, if we said golden arches, globally everyone would know we’re talking about McDonalds. A bitten apple, Apple. The list may be short, but iconic. Airlines also have to stand out from other operators, from Singapore Airlines Silverkris signature logo, to Qantas’ ‘Roo’, or Lufthansa’s simplistic crane.
These airlines haven’t veered from their logo’s roots in decades, and that’s what makes them iconic. However, Brussels Airlines – that revealed its new identity today – has had a more troubled history, filled with take-overs and rebrands over the years. From Sabena, to SN Brussels, to Brussels Airlines, the airline has also evolved from full service to pseudo-low cost, even to leisure before redefining itself as a sort of ‘legacy lite’ carrier.
Naturally with such a chequered history, it’s important for the airline to reposition itself, establishing itself as a clear defined player with a clear role in the European and African markets where it mainly operates.
“Updated colours, a new logo and aircraft livery are the visual token of the airline’s new chapter, stating its readiness for future challenges and re-emphasising on the importance of the Belgian brand. A chapter with a strong focus on customer experience, reliability and sustainability while keeping a competitive cost-structure,” stated the airlines latest press release.
But how do you define a rebrand as a success. Surely such an answer is subjective? Well, yes and no. Fundamentally the rebrand has to connect with your target audience and clearly answer the main needs, to stand out, and to represent the brand. We can chose to either like or loathe the visual result, but no matter our personal preference, we should be able to understand what the brand is trying to achieve.
“This new brand identity is a very logical step for Brussels Airlines. After years marked by so many changes, it is important to clarify and confirm our position in the market. We are changing into a new company, with new cabin interiors, digitised processes, fleet renewal with A320neo’s on the way, and much more to come. Together with Today Agency, we created a more contemporary branding, one that is fit for our digital age, one that represents a reliable and modern airline.” stated Michel Moriaux, Head of Marketing at Brussels Airlines on the rebrand.
However, we feel that the rebrand is marginal at best. Yes, it’s smart and perfectly acceptable, but the logic behind the rebrand and end result seems weak and flawed. It’s clear that the brand has been created by an agency with little experience in airline branding. Sometimes that thinking can be radical enough to disrupt the market, but usually only when based on a real understanding of the nuances of such a complicated global brand ecosystem.
First, the livery, the main calling card of the airline, mainly white, with dots is the calling card of a few airlines in Europe already. Vueling owns the whole dot monopoly and more importantly Croatia Airlines features a very similar design on their aircraft as well. Even new entrants like Flypop feature a dot-like tail fin, and JetBlue and SpiceJet also use this simplistic graphical treatment.
Within the digital world, the typeface sizing of the word Airlines is too small, and would be illegible on elements like mobile boarding passes and mobile apps. This would mean utilising the 9-dot icon, which in its own right isn’t clearly connected to an airline – it could be misunderstood for a google apps icon.
The website’s favicon has already been updated, which simply features 4 dots, showing there’s already inconsistency in the brand, and it’s had to be compromised at an early stage, something the previous logo didn’t have to face.
While we might not be a fan of the design of the livery – that’s subjective – the reasoning behind the logo adaptation is something we just can’t get behind. Darker navy representing ‘quality and contemporary’ doesn’t really mean anything, and dots being different size to represent that no destinations or people are alike, seems like a weak after-thought to a graphical treatment rather than a clear decisive approach to the brand.
Also, the new campaigns from their launch video format seem obvious, even featuring destinations that are clearly not Brussels Airlines destinations, such as the Maldives and Hong Kong. Also the video mentions that Brussels Airlines new manifesto is to “get rid of having to wake up at 3am to catch your flight”. Being London based (many other destinations will sympathise), does this mean they’re planning on getting rid of their early morning slots? It seems like a weird manifesto promise.
Like many other brands, and airlines, Brussels Airlines has had to reimagine itself, but has it succeeded in standing out and visually representing what it stands for? Sadly, we don’t think so. Hopefully there is a chance for this brand to further evolve and deliver unique visual treatments that make it stand out further, only time will tell.