Too often the lens through which companies view the branding of a new merger overemphasizes the launch. In the case of Latin American air carriers Avianca and TACA, their opportunity called for charting a much longer-term course, one that Lippincott embraced and expanded.
The three-year journey started not with the objective of creating a new identity, but rather with the question: What strategic combination of the operations, cultures and customer experiences of the two carriers makes the most compelling story and creates the greatest value?
Flying to the greatest destination — the future.
From a business perspective, Avianca, the flagship carrier of Colombia and the oldest continuously operating airline in the Western hemisphere, strongly complemented TACA, the leading airline in Central America. But, their respective customer experiences and cultures were understandably disparate. Lippincott counseled that the most credible, rewarding and unified brand would require a harmonized customer experience. It was a point of view guided by a key insight: The greatest potential for the new airline brand wouldn’t be at launch, but rather some 36 months out. In other words, the hard work of building a credible and powerful brand would not be completed at the merger but would commence there, with the new brand and identity to follow a fully realized integration. The actions taken during this time frame would yield invaluable knowledge.
Numerous roles to meet various needs.
Brand benchmarking, cross-functional employee work sessions and in-depth customer ethnographies provided the foundation for the brand strategy. Through our research, we uncovered a new customer growth segment, the “Latino Moderno.” It was a segment the airline would seek to attract in addition to its traditional customers. A sophisticated, stylish and tech-savvy frequent flyer, the Latino Moderno is accustomed to, and willing to pay for, a distinct experience.
Lippincott led the development and rollout of a shared vision, mission and set of values along with a customer experience map, which would become the guide for unifying and upgrading the entire passenger experience. This included the union of key touchpoints across airlines; branding for “LifeMiles,” the frequent flyer program; a new focus on service; and a common purpose of delivering “Latin Excellence” to passengers around the world.
Because the name Avianca held a rich heritage in key Latin American markets, we also recommended adopting the single brand name for the merged entity. To activate the brand verbally, we developed brand messaging, positioning, tone of voice and brand sponsorship guidelines, as well as communications tools that could be leveraged across markets.
For the visual identity, it was important to balance the heritage and legacy of both Avianca and TACA with the new, pan-Latin American airline. This work included a new logo, brand architecture system, livery and visual system. The new identity was built on the symbolic power of the Condor, a symbol long associated with Avianca. Its modern form links South, Central and North America. Additional design elements included aircraft interiors, various mood lighting schemes and other experiential details that brought the new brand life.
Finally, Lippincott advised on the launch strategy, celebrating the original plan to take the time to align internal cultures and transform the external customer experience first before the new brand was revealed to the world.
A fully realized brand at the moment of takeoff.
The merged airline debuted on the Colombian stock market to unprecedented results. In the first months of the official mainline brand launch, Avianca reported a record 9.7 percent jump in passenger demand and the brand was credited as one of the key contributors. Today, Avianca makes over 5700 weekly flights to 107 destinations. The airline boasts 7 million LifeMiles members and is a vital part of the Star Alliance. It is now a more powerful brand thanks to patience and insight.
“In Lippincott we found a true, trusted advisor who partnered with us on this complex journey. Beyond developing an inspired new identity, they helped us identify new customer targets, harmonize the overall passenger experience and counsel us on when it was the right time to launch.”
— Fabio Villegas, CEO, Avianca
Identity Design, 2014
Corporate Rebrand Following Merger, 2014