Wednesday, October 6

Merging United and Continental

This week the first plane took off from the now merged United and Continental airlines, making this new airline the largest one in the world. It's been interesting to watch the ups and downs of the airline industry. The start-ups, the failures, the mergers, and the eventual erosion of customer service. It's just no longer fun to fly, but that's another story. Witnessing the coming together of these two giant brand names is another chapter in marketing history.

These are giant mega-brands that have policies and frequent flyer programs and infrastructures that now have to be merged. They also have iconic logos that have to be dealt with. What's a combined brand to do?

There's no perfect answer -- but it looks like the two brands are simply sliding together. The name will be United Airlines, but the logo will look more like Continental. Hmmmm, I'm honestly just not sure. I think I would have preferred to see something more interesting, more evolutionary, perhaps even more innovative -- a fresher approach to a revised brand name and identity. But that's just me.

The funny thing about brand names and logos is that they always seem a little awkward at first, until we get used to them. The more we see them in the marketplace, then the more we get comfortable and then suddenly they lose their awkwardness. They get familiar and start to mean something to us.

Good examples are Tylenol, Verizon, Banana Republic -- brands who at first seemed hard to digest but overtime have come to have meaning and now their name/logo fit comfortably in our lives.

I'm sure the same will eventually become true of the United/Continental merger and logo.

What's your experience? Jim.


  1. The United Logo, designed by Saul Bass, is a lot cleaner. More dynamic. Going places. His mark actually seems to represent flight. Very sorry to see it go. This one looks like part of a cage. btw. Mr Bass also designed a better logo for Continental. Who knows why they didn't use it?

  2. From a strategic impact perspective, this one doesn't fly. Or does it? I like two things about this logo that have nothing to do with it being "new" or "powerful". First, the color scheme and logo clearly speak to the loyal fliers of Continental, even if the name is parked forever in the aviation graveyard. Second, it may not be the right time to launch a splashy new logo or costly marketing campaign into the headwinds of merger-driven restructuring, layoffs and union disputes. Add to this your customers who are still reeling from a recession, and you might find that simple and straightforward works best.

  3. There are certainly two sides to the debate, and many a brand have gone into these kinds of things slowly. I just like the dramatic effect of change, that's all. A friends posted on my Facebook wall that they've actually refined the logo a bit further, which is hard to figure out because I'm not sure what's gone public and what hasn't. Oh well, stay tuned. Here's the other logo:

  4. I suspect concern/respect for the feelings of the Continental employees drove the creation of this logo compromise, not creativity or marketing. While it's described a merger, UAL corp has a controlling 55% of the business, the new airline takes the United Airlines name and the corporate home is in Chicago, United's home town. So a logo where the name is new but the icon is the same, gives the Continental folks some small reassurance of consistency/familiarity in an otherwise chaotic time. Not very inventive, but probably wise politically.