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Attention Airlines: A New Paint Job Is Not Rebranding

The airline industry has a strange fascination with repainting its airplanes. Some airlines, like Delta (DAL), change paint jobs more often than toilet paper rolls. Execs somehow think that repainting planes is actually rebranding. It's not. And it's generally a huge waste of time.

Case in point: Japan Air Lines' (JAL) decision to revert back to an old logo. According to JAL's press release:

The JAL Group decided on the use of a graceful crane soaring in the skies as its emblem to represent the airline's new beginning and renewed pledge to provide customers with quality services that reflect Japan's hallmark hospitality from the heart.
Sounds like a bunch of bull, right? Now, JAL has had a heckuva few years. It nearly went bankrupt, it's shrunk dramatically, and it's only now starting to find its footing. So what does it do? It changes its paint job. JAL may want to think of this is a rebirth, but it isn't thinking about it from the public perspective.

What a retro branding job really signals
If you fly JAL, half the time you probably don't even know what the plane looks like from the outside. But if you do notice, what would you take away from an airline that has gone back to its old logo after a tumultuous few years?

You might, like a lot of travelers, think back to the "good old days" which are nearly always seen with rose-colored glasses. Things always seem better than they actually were, so you've already set an awfully high bar for yourself.

So when that passenger boards the plane, what's changed? Nothing. Sure, there was a massive corporate restructuring, but the experience on the airplane hasn't really changed. This isn't a rebranding by any stretch. It's just changing the paint job. All it does is stroke some exec's ego.

A horrible waste
For an airline that's been struggling, this is a horrible waste of money. It not only costs money to paint the airplanes, but a new logo means costs throughout the system to change over. Even the letterhead has to change. That costs money and time. It's a distraction.

And what's the benefit? Does it help get more customers on the airplane? Nope. Does it get people to pay more? Nope.

I don't mean to single out JAL here, because this is a plague that affects the whole industry. But it is a pretty striking case of the disease.


Image via Japan Air Lines
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