21 July 2007

QANTAS needs more than a logo makeover.

Reports that Qantas is considering plans to "kill off" the bid red kangaroo logo, serves merely to sensationalise and simplify the debate on the process of rebranding.

Here at DIFFUSION, rebranding is more than just a tweak of the logo or change in the colour palette and if Qantas' latest remodelling of both its first and business class service is anything to go by, brand management is something that Qantas is not good at.

DIFFUSION recently flew business class to Los Angeles (at last on points) and was interested to see if the much lauded makeover by Australian designer Mark Newson has really made an impact.

Now Qantas business class is widely regarded as one of the world's best and sure, the flat seats were Newson's design as was the new Noritake crockery and the Alessi cutlery (even the plastic Alessi knife). But branding is in the detail and this seemed to lack.

The much vaunted Marc Newson designed amenities kit was merely a grey plastic shell box with Newson's signature embossed on the front with some in-flight men's cosmetics thrown in. All of this was in a grey cloth bag that also contained socks, a mask and a toothbrush - none of which fitted in the Mark Newson amenties box.

Nor was there any sign of the also announced Peter Morrissey pyjamas with the smart flying kangaroo logo on the front featured in the full colour campaign the airline had been running.. No, these were for "available on selected routes*" and the Sydney/LA route was obviously not one of them, despite the announcement by Qantas Executive General Manager John Borghetti that the collection would be offered to First and Business customers travelling on Qantas international services from 25 March.

So here goes the lesson. International business is an important part of the company's business and more particularly on the protected and coveted US route.

So with Qantas controlling more than two-thirds of the capacity on direct flights to the United States and now under threat from a new Virgin yet unnamed Australia/US carrier (for which DIFFUSION puts it's hand up to work on), so much so that the airline announced this month it would also be creating a premium economy section to sit alongside the revamped business class and to match Virgin's offering.

It would seem of some import that any brand decisions the airline makes, however small, will have a significant impact on future revenues. Those per kilometre revenues, according to Qantas' last Australian Stock Exchange announcement, rose by 1.6% on international routes this year against a 4.7% increase in revenues per seat.

And for Mark Newson, the company's unofficial "creative director", there are some salient lessons. Either manage the process well enough to know everything a customer wants will go into the amenities kit or make sure that Qantas delivers on the design experience you envisaged. Execution is always core of any re-branding exercise.

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