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
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'
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,
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