• Transform magazine
  • May 25, 2019

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United Airlines engages in gradual rebrand

United Graphic.jpg

A company will often engage in a full-scale rebrand when it wants to reposition its audiences’ perceptions. For example, American Airlines rebranded in 2013 as it was emerging from bankruptcy and Frontier Airlines rebranded a year later after transforming into an ultra-low-cost carrier. United Airlines, another powerhouse in the air travel industry, has opted against the full-scale rebrand model in favour of a more gradual change.

United CEO Oscar Munoz says the evolutionary approach is intentional. The sheer amount of time and effort required to commit to a full-scale rebrand also helps to explain why United chose a slower route, as United flies to hundreds of locations, all of which would have had to simultaneously change its signage in the wake of a rebrand. Other necessities of a full rebrand include brand marks as well as anything featuring the brand logo within the plane, such as cups and napkins.

The gradual rebrand includes a new livery across United’s fleet, featuring a predominantly blue colour scheme. In fact, the livery uses so much blue that United has dubbed each of the shades used ‘Rhapsody Blue,’ ‘United Blue’ and ‘Sky Blue’ in increasing order of lightness. The livery borrows heavily from the first design of Continental Airlines’ planes in 1991, which is explained by United’s 2010 merger with Continental. As a compromise from the partnership, United retained its name and Chicago headquarters, while Continental kept control of the logo and paint job.

A noticeably absent Continental staple from the rebrand is gold, which has been slowly phased out of United’s branding over the last several years and most recently is no longer present on the livery’s globe logo, which is instead Sky Blue. Additional changes to the livery are larger ‘United’ lettering painted in Rhapsody Blue, United Blue engines and the airline’s tagline, ‘Connecting people. Uniting the world’ near the nose.

As it usually takes an airline five years to repaint its entire fleet, flyers can expect to see the old Continental design for years to come. By 2024, however, United aims to have all of its passengers flying with a Sky Blue globe logo at their backs.