Branding and business sense: Delta Air Lines

It’s good to hear that Delta Air Lines has emerged from bankruptcy.  I’ve flown a lot of miles and many of those have been on Delta (I was a management consultant based out of Atlanta).  As part of their re-birth, they’re making some branding changes…which they shouldn’t.

I see the importance of making a new start, psychologically.  I also see the importance of operating a fiscally fit business and some of the rebranding just doesn’t make sense to me.  First of all, hiring a consultancy to design the money wasn’t free.  Or cheap.

The cost of repainting the planes comes in to play.  Delta will save costs by phasing this in over four years – more than enough time for the excitement of the brand’s relaunch to die off.  Other airlines like American don’t even paint most of the plane which helps them save in an even more critical area – fuel costs.

There’s also the need to extend the brand identity across operations:  uniforms, airport signage, stationery, vehicles.  If you’ve ever run the numbers on an M&A deal (I have), you know that these are non-trivial expenses.  (see more concepts here)

And ironically, Delta is using more red in their color schemes.  As a company emerging from bankruptcy, I’d think they want to use more black.  Maybe they do have some customer empathy, or just a sense of humor, reflecting the emotion of their customers for so much of the recent past.  Nowhere in their bankruptcy exit statement does Delta say, "we listened to customers."

Beyond all the money spent on imagery, I’m hoping that two things change:  pricing (lower) and service (better).  Otherwise, it’s just a question of when, not whether, Delta comes back to this stage of airline industry samsara.