Do You Have a United Image?

I flew into Chicago recently, which is a hub for United Airlines. There were loads and loads of United planes there, of every size and shape…the ideal place for a unified, “united” brand image.

But that wasn’t the case. Because the planes also were of every branding scheme.

Once upon a time, when you saw United airplanes, they all looked like this:

Then, they went through a re-branding some years back, keeping some elements of the “U” logo, but making major color changes:

So far, so good. As always, it takes a while to re-paint planes, but soon, there were very few of the older design left flying.

For reasons that escape me, they then decided a few years back to re-brand AGAIN, plus introduce the low-cost TED sub-airline which has other colors but still with a derivative of the “U” logo. Then, of course, there is United Express, whose planes also reflect two parallel designs, with some minor variations.

There are now 3 major branding approaches and color schemes competing for your visual attention when you come into United’s home port.

The lesson for the small business marketer? Don’t! Settle on one, unified branding approach. And if you’re going to change it, as much as is possible, change it all at once. United feels like a fragmented, not united, brand.

Learn from the big guys – sometimes, learn what doesn’t work, and avoid it!

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Author: Steve Woodruff (19 Articles)

Steve Woodruff launched his consulting practice (Impactiviti LLC) in 2006, working with clients to create branding that sticks. StickyFigure, a division of Impactiviti, specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses that are seeking to make greater impact in their marketplace, but do not have the internal resources to brand themselves effectively. We also partner with larger organizations that need to borrow a fresh creative perspective. Steve also actively consults in the training/communications field, with a particular focus on healthcare and pharmaceuticals; and he serves as VP Communications on the Board of a local ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) chapter in NJ. LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/swoodruff