New budget airline to boldly Go

Go is the latest ‘value’ airline to take off, Clare Dowdy looks at how its rivals are branded.

The UK’s established “value” airlines are bracing themselves for the impact of the new kid on the block, courtesy of Wolff Olins. Set up by British Airways as a separate company, Go will fly under its green, black and white livery from Stansted Airport.

It is up against some established players in the sector such as Virgin Express, Ryanair, Debonair and EasyJet. Most of these have been operating since the mid or late 1980s, each with a clear message.

“I envisaged the airline as suave, elegant, crisp and sharp,” says Debonair chairman Franco Mancassola, whose wife came up with the name. Unlike the budget image of EasyJet, Debonair is positioned as “comfortable”. Debonair took off in June 1996 with a corporate identity designed two years previously by the then Foster, Stevens, Secunda. Virgin Express took off in 1996 under branding by Rodney Fitch Design Consultants.

Many of these “no frills” carriers are the brainchild of an individual, who often has a hands-on approach to branding. None more so than EasyJet’s founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

Kevin O’Toole, business editor at Flight International magazine, says: “EasyJet was a gut feeling and very aggressive. Not very high design values but brash.”

Ian Wood, director of consultancy for corporate branding at Landor Associates, describes this approach as anti branding: “Branding is a way of making a promise in people’s minds. EasyJet is successful because it sets that anticipation [at the right level]. If EasyJet were to brand with mainstream execution you could be disappointed with the experience,” he says.

One man’s vision results in a direct message, he adds. “Stelios had a single-minded approach. With an increase of budget airlines, clarity and straightforward simplicity become increasingly important.” Landor created Air 2000’s new identity.

Deregulation of the industry exacerbates the need for a clear image. “Effective design and branding will make the offer unique,” says Paul Haftke, marketing director of Davies Baron which is working on LanChile and SAS. It is about positioning services among the right segment, he says.

Wood sees Go’s branding as clean and simple. “With designers involved you get a pureness of expression,” he says.

However, Mancassola is less complimentary: “Go is a word without meaning. The first delay will find them being called No Go,” he says. He expects the phrases Go Away and Go To Hell to become linked to the airline.

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