Why change now?
Right after the merger (and really ever since) there have been two camps; "Bring Back The Tulip!" and "Continental Was Better!". The United brand got a strong face lift as the new website and app came around, but people still equate the current brand with Jeff Smisek and the "terrible" merger. The current logo and livery reflect two distinct brands being crammed together without care about the parities associated with each brand.
Let's look at two different mergers. American Airlines rebranded hours before their merger announcement with US Airways. The rebranding allowed for a whole new airline, that almost lost its new tail. On the flip side is the Alaska Airlines / Virgin America merger where we all expect the two different brands to remain.
Oscar Munoz is too late to do either of those preemptive moves, and now needs to separate the New Spirit of United from Jeff's United.
The New Spirit of United is bringing with it the updated United Clubs, a rebranding of United BusinessFirst to United Polaris First, updated (sort of) Crew Uniforms, and new (short term) ways for MileagePlus members to earn miles and status. What's missing? United.com has already seen a number of updates, as well as the apps and most MileagePlus print materials. Hemispheres has a new, cleaner look. Terminals are getting updated. But the planes are still living in the early 1990s.
Oscar can bring United into the 21st century and put a face to the New Spirit of United with one, not-so-easy, move.
I know that a lot you have your guns loaded and are ready to make comments. So let's talk about them. The first thing I expect to hear is that United has invested too much in the current brand. I totally agree, but I don't expect things like type face to change. Further down I'll talk about what it will look like.
Next you will most likely come up with "But it's too expensive". Yes. This would be quite the investment. But so is changing out the BusinessFirst seats, redoing the United Clubs, serving food and wifi on regional aircraft, and retrofitting the domestic United First cabins. Oscar is spending money to make United Flyer Friendly again. The livery has been a point of a lot of contention. I know a lot of Global Services and Premier 1Ks who have left United because of the way Jeff ran things, and Oscar needs to do everything he can to set himself apart.
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What would it look like?
I'm not a super designer, but I feel like there are a few key things that the brand needs as well as some hints that are slowly being dropped. A key thing, in my mind, is that the Globe has to change. Because of its design we often see the globe shoved into a square. It lacks the ability to be use in special ways. Take the new American logo. It can be manipulated in a number of graphic elements.
The color scheme will also need to change. United has stuck to a clear set of colors within their mobile and web platforms. Those were picked much sooner after the merger. They are bright and vivid. However, we're seeing a much more cold set of colors arrive in the new architecture of the terminals, clubs, and cabins. Either way, none of them match the 25 year-old livery that the fleet currently wears. One of the key colors I expect to see go is the gold. The gold has transitioned into a yellow that is found in some key places, Global Services, the walls at Ohare, and legal information. It is a strong accent color that the gold can't hold up with. Even the gold trim in the escalator areas of the Terminalink (or whatever it is called now) at Houston was repainted black a while ago. I fully expect a strong set of blues that help United stand out in a world of bright liveries.
I know that many of you will have strong opinions on this matter, and I don't want this to turn into some wild "bring back the tulip" party, because I don't see that happening. Remember, these are just my thoughts.
But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?
Oh, and I'll just leave this here: