WHAT THE MEDIA SAY: 'Britishness' back to fore in BA rethink

Organisation: British Airways

Issue: 'British' rebranding/end of World Image designs



Although many former British state-run businesses have permanently

dispensed with their 'Britishness' and recast themselves as global

concerns, British Airways (BA) has announced the axing of its 'World

Image' tailfin designs in an attempt to reassert the traditional British

associations with quality and reliability.



BA's reversal of its 1997 global rebranding exercise flies in the face

of current trends as organisations such as British Aerospace, Scottish

Telecom and British Steel weaken their links to national identity with

their new names BAE Systems, Thus and Corus.



The original decision to 'go global' was taken by former BA chief

executive Bob Ayling, who thought that the company should dispense with

the old 'stuffy' BA colours (airwise.com, 11/5) and adopt the World

Image designs.



This was both an attempt to reflect BA's diverse customer base - 60 per

cent of which is non-British - and to reposition the company as a

cosmopolitan 'corporate citizen of the world' (ft.com, 12/5).



However, although the 'ethnic' tailfins attracted praise for their

colour and originality, the rebranding remained controversial. Some

critics claimed the designs made BA look like a 'Third World' airline,

and the company 'never really recovered from the PR disaster ... when

Lady Thatcher placed a napkin over a model BA plane so decorated'

(itn.co.uk, 12/5).



BA justified the reversal of the pounds 60m World Image branding by

admitting that it had been a mistake to abandon its traditional

'Britishness', 'which would now be treated as a virtue rather than an

embarrassment' (biz.yahoo.com, 11/5).



A senior BA executive said: 'We are a global carrier, but we are British

and proud of it ... Rod (Eddington) wants BA to be associated with

Britain in the same way that BMW is associated with Germany, symbolising

quality in a way that is understood worldwide' (telegraph.co.uk,

11/5).



Although BA research found ample support for a return to a Union

Jack-based livery among customers and staff, the press were quick to

highlight the irony that it took its latest CEO, Australian Rod

Eddington, to reverse 'the earlier dilution of BA's national identity'

and 'fly the flag again' (ft.com, 12/5).



Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found

at: www.echoResearch.com.



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