Thoughts on United Continental Branding?

Posted by Shirley Brady on August 17, 2010 11:00 AM

Just as Continental Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek prepares to be deposed Friday as part of a lawsuit aiming to block Continental's union with United, the branding for the merged airlines is raising hackles in some quarters. The Jaunted blog comments, "We can't decide if we like it or not. The font of 'United' is obviously a modern update, and they've switched to capitalize all letters, but the Continental tail just looks off. Also, it's very white." The Consumerist blog chimes in, "I wonder if Continental feels like the kid whose mom forces him to take his stepdad's last name." Take a closer look after the jump and let us know what you think.

When the merger was announced on May 3rd, the companies declared that the name of the merged airline will be United Airlines and that "the marketing brand will be a combination of the brands of both companies. Aircraft will have the Continental livery, logo and colors with the United name, and the announcement campaign slogan will be 'Let’s Fly Together.'"

The logo for the Continental-United merger, which would create the world's largest carrier, was originally supposed to look like this:

Last week, they unveiled a tweaked visual brand identity to support their positioning as an "enhanced global competitor."

The new logo (below), as the companies explained in a press release, "displays the combined company’s brand name in capital letters (UNITED) in a custom sans-serif font, joined with the global mark which has represented Continental’s brand image since 1991.

A corresponding update of the combined airline’s aircraft livery will adopt Continental’s livery, colors and design, including its blue-gold-white globe image on the tail, combined with the new-style UNITED name on the fuselage.

Both airlines have earned strong brand recognition in one of the world’s most visible and highly competitive businesses. The new visual identity builds upon the significant value of each airline’s current brand, while advancing the combined airline’s future brand image."

The Brand New blog gives this iteration of the look "18 months" - what say you?


Brian Phipps United States says:

It's perfectly clear: if you fly first or business class, you're in United. If you fly economy, you're back in Continental.

August 17, 2010 11:59 AM #

Carl United States says:

I really like the "tulip" U which United has on the tails of its planes - it's pretty and of course it evokes the U which is the name of the combined airline.

I wish they would take the Continetal colors - blue and gold - and the United tulip U

I have the feeling that the current logo is based more on the message they are trying to send to Continental employees, that they are not being taken over by United, given that United's name is the combined name. However it is already clear that Continental's management is taking over, so why not pick the logo that's best for customers?

I do like either this sans serif font better than the Continental serif font - though United's previous custom font which had angles on the T was also pretty. I might make the word United bigger on the plane

August 17, 2010 12:30 PM #

Gunter Soydanbay Canada says:

I would much prefer a modern rendering of the globe. What Interbrand did for At&T would work wonderfully for this brand.

August 17, 2010 02:32 PM #

Gary Swindell United Kingdom says:

The "democratic" approach of these mergers, whether it's an airline or a bank brand, never work. Do something new!

August 17, 2010 05:15 PM #

Howard United States says:

It would look even better if they added the three blue stripes from the new white United plane color to the bottom of the image with the CO tail.  All white belly is so - so -so PLAIN.[quote]

August 17, 2010 07:07 PM #

mark United States says:

the belly is gray.

August 20, 2010 04:36 AM #

Patrick Gauthier Canada says:

If I hadn't read this article, I would not have noticed the merger by looking at the visual identity. It is very familiar. Like it has been around forever. I can’t say that I don’t like it or that it is not well done. However, it will not turn any heads. It certainly doesn't feel like the mark of a new global leader. It feels more like the mark of 2 past giants that decided to merge. Once you are aware of the merger and you look at the planes visual signature, the merger is too obvious... You can see clearly the 2 merging identities, not one new strong identity... I guess it is a reflection of the present difficult economic times and the prudent mentality that a lot for leaders seem to be leading with today. If the intention was to be safe and to have the merger not be noticed, then the new visual identity is very well done. It feels very familiar. Like it has always been around. However, it is not what I would expect from a new global leading brand. Personally, I would have preferred to see a design that is more reflective of the brighter future that awaits this new brand... A strong, unique and vibrant visual identity that would set new standards. Today, we so desperately need new, bright and colorful symbols in our skies to unite us...

August 17, 2010 09:32 PM #

Maria Ross United States says:

As a brand strategist, I actually like this streamlined combo of the two brands. While, yes, it's not something new, it is consistent with the position of this being a marriage if leaders and a promise to customers who are loyal to both brands that things are moving the next level but not changing all together. Yes, a company does have to consider the existing customer (and employee) base when making a rebranding decision due to a merger. There are lots of sensitivites involved and to deny that is to not understand the nature of mergers and acquisitions.

I think they actually blended the two very well. And the "white"? With today's crazily painted planes and too muc stimuli with branding at the airport these days anyway, I kind of dig it. It evokes clean, modern, cutting edge - an almost Scandinavian/IKEA type of vibe. Now, they need to carry this brand theme across all their customer touchpoints: signage, cabin decor, ads.  Ensuring the brand is conveyed through every touchpoint is a common theme in my new branding book, Branding Basics for Small Business (http://www.brandingbasics.info)

Looking at the plane, I feel like I should have more leg room and not feel so cramped: let's hope they can deliver on that brand promise all the way through the experience!

August 18, 2010 12:39 PM #

Herb Meyers United States says:

Re: The identity system for the merger of Continental and United airlines, it's obvious that management's priority here was to make it look like a true 50/50 merger and conceal as to who took over whom. The result is a poorly conceived branding mishmash. Getting a good brand identity design office to come up with alternatives would benefit their public relations with both their customers and their employees.

August 22, 2010 03:31 PM #

Brian Phipps United States says:

Agree. Every "compromise brand" invariably compromises the brand.

August 22, 2010 05:00 PM #

Dan United States says:

In the end, everyone has a favorite carrier that they prefer, but I think most opt for the cheaper option when purchasing a ticket. I think the plane colors look great, except that tail just looks out of place. Need a more stylized globe. Just looks like a mutant kid with this tail. Like when you cross a zebra with a horse. It would be much better I think if they finally started using the surface of the plane for advertising, to offset the cost of tickets. Paint it like an Oscar Meyer wiener, or a coke bottle, and have those guys foot the bill for part of the ticket cost Smile .

August 23, 2010 09:47 AM #

Comments are closed

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