The loss of ‘Britishness’ may cost BA

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The new BA corporate identity has received acclaim from the design press because it exactly answered the brief from the marketing department at BA, which presumably stated that the airline wanted to be perceived globally and internationally.

Unfortunately, what was solved so well was the wrong brief. Why?

It’s easy to see where this brief came from and why it was so well received, (it’s the kind of concept which is easy to sell at board level because most major companies want to be global). However, human nature may throw a spanner in the works.

It’s no great secret that, in general, the travelling public want reassurance when they entrust their lives to a carrier company. The “flag” of a national identity gives this reassurance and, at the same time, lets passengers enjoy a taste of the country of origin. We like to fly Lufthansa because of German reliability and engineering, Swiss Air for punctuality and precision, and so on.

History witnessed the creation of the Marina car under British Leyland with a brief to produce a car for Europe. When the company was true to its British origins it produced Jaguar and Land Rover – internationally acclaimed vehicles excluding the strong British flavour which has been the reason for their success. Rover, under German management, is now pursuing a policy of Britishness as a selling proposition.

I envisage that within two years, a new brief will emerge: “BA wants to be an international British company.” I am sure that the designer will reinterpret this brief to bring back the Britishness visually. Let’s not forget that the previous BA identity was researched worldwide with a travelling public who expressed a liking for the Britishness of the colours and coat of arms. It’s hard to believe that this public has had such a change of heart after four years.

The gesture of Margaret Thatcher in covering the tail of the BA model painted with a Kalahari tribal pattern goes to the heart of the matter.

As a small footnote to those who welcomed the “innovative” approach of this identity: from a design point of view, painting planes with different images and colours goes back to the 1960 Braniff Airlines livery. Since then, the concept has also been used by small local airlines such as Air Litoral as well as by various tourist companies, so it’s really nothing new.

My own personal footnote is that the only product accepted by the world as truly “global” is washing powder.

Marcello Minale


Minale Tattersfield Design Strategy Group



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