• Transform magazine
  • May 18, 2022

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Five minutes with David Recchia

David Recchia

David Recchia, creative director of The Team, the design agency behind Heathrow Airport's anniversary branding, speaks to Transform magazine about how anniversaries help increase brand awareness, how the anniversary campaign helped refocus Heathrow’s core values and what heritage brands need to think about when looking to the future.

Heathrow recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. How do anniversaries help increase brand awareness?

Anniversaries are a great opportunity for brands to remind their customers, employees and stakeholders why they exist. And for those brands who hit significant milestones, the 75-year marker and beyond for example, it is testament to their ability to remain relevant in a world where change is constant.

An anniversary is often seen to be the opportune moment to rewind the clock and wax lyrical about all the great achievements of the past. Though, time does not stand still, customer needs are forever evolving and technology continuously disrupting sectors. An anniversary provides the platform for brands to demonstrate their progressive ambition and affirm their commitment through proof points from their past. This will do more than increase brand awareness, but rather enhance a brands position in market.

Your work with Heathrow has come at a difficult point in the industry’s history, how does the anniversary campaign navigate this?

Since its inception as London’s civil airport in 1946, where passenger terminals were ex-military marquees, the Heathrow brand has stood for progress. The Covid Pandemic has undoubtedly affected the travel sector significantly. Though, for Heathrow, whilst it could appear to be seen as an unfortunate moment in time to have reached a 75th anniversary, they see a promising platform to reinforce the value of Heathrow to all partners: for the nation as well as passengers, colleagues, airlines, suppliers and other stakeholders.

With the UK Government’s COVID -19 recovery roadmap in place to begin to open the country and wider economic activity in 2021, the opportunity exists to amplify Heathrow's role in this positive pathway.

Key to this was the sense of building upon the past whilst keeping a firm eye on the future - a time where we will be once again reunited with the rest of the world, via Heathrow. We developed the campaign idea, ‘Looking forward’ as an active, aspirational and positive catalyst for rebounding from a period that has restricted people, movement, choices and economic activity. Headlines for the campaign reflected this strongly in four central statements: "more connections", "more memories", "more adventures" and "more time together". These are Heathrow's promises to their customers, in their 75th year and beyond, and capture a renewed sense of hope, camaraderie and possibility with the anniversary celebrations.

Whether we travel for business or leisure, to be reunited with family, friends or colleagues across the world, this campaign reminds us how Heathrow enables us to do so – and will continue to for many years to come.

Instead of dwelling on the difficulty of the past year, the focus was on looking to new places and experiences, time with people we love and the opportunities to grow and evolve.

You work a lot with both customer and employee engagement, what do brands need to think about to sustain and grow a loyal base?

Ultimately a brand is a promise. And the experiences it creates for its customers are the proof points of the promise. When these two constituents of the brand align and seamlessly deliver time and time again, trust builds amongst customers and stakeholders. Brand trust is the holy grail and maintaining trust is one of the biggest challenges for brands. Years of hard graft can erode in the blink of an eye when promise and experience fail to deliver for customers.

Brands often live through people. Customers lie at the heart of every successful business, whilst employees are the engine of the business. Building a loyal base starts from within. Your brand can only be successful when every employee buys into, why, how and what you do.

Obviously, there’s more to it, a clear and believable set of values and behaviours are what your employees see and hear; they guide consistent actions which ultimately deliver on the brand promise and experience. Growing and sustaining a loyal base also requires an employer brand designed to attract and retain talent. As my colleague Cliff Ettridge (Employee Experience Lead) succinctly puts it, “The employer brand attracts the talent that a business needs; it retains it and fuels it. It’s an invisible oxygen for the business.”

How has the anniversary campaign helped refocus Heathrow’s core values?

Looking ahead is not new for Heathrow as a brand: it is absolutely at their core and vital to their brand identity. In their 75 years, and all those succeeding them, what shines through is their commitment to the journeys and connections (literal and metaphorical) of the future, across all customer and employee touchpoints.

Heathrow has a clear vision, to give all passengers the best airport experience in the world. As one of the busiest airports in Europe, previously offering 90 airlines travelling to over 180 destinations, brand clarity is a necessity. To deliver on their ambitious vision, a set of brand pillars provide the necessary guard rails. Ensuring a pioneering spirit informs all their actions, creating magic in the moment for all passengers and a fulfilling experience for customers and colleagues are the tenets of their core values. 

What do heritage brands need to think about when looking to the future?

Today’s markets are hotly contested. Understanding where heritage brands sit in a crowded marketplace is key to determining where and how the brand can be distinctive, because relying on heritage alone is not enough. It’s a blend of innovation and tradition which can create those memorable moments of difference for a heritage brand.

Heritage brands know they need to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. It’s something most are good at, which is why they’ve continued to stand the test of time. What resides at the heart of their continued existence is their affinity with customers, understanding their motivations and barriers. Knowing what customers want, not what you think they need is integral to remaining relevant and delivering value.

Trust and credibility are often amassed over time with a loyal customer base. Often an advantage heritage brands hold over their competition. The win for any heritage brand is turning their loyal customer base into brand advocates who pass the brand on to the next generation.

The fuel to keeping a heritage brand alite in the minds of existing and future customers is the story of the brand. All stories evolve over time and a great brand story connects the past to the present with a nod to the future. When these components of the story are brought together, there resides the potential to ignite and maintain engagement for the young and old.