American Airlines’ new logo and paint jobs are yet another example of the wasted time and money we spend on the nonsensical side of branding.  As my friend Randy Gage pointed out, it’s Lipstick on a Pig.

Based on my work with turnarounds, rebrands usually happen when we have a problem we can’t solve. So we turn to the corporate comfort food of colors and logos to distract us from the overwhelming issues that most likely stem from being stuck in our status quo.

This behavior has always been wasteful. In today’s digitally connected world it's ridiculous; we spend tons of money, time and resources re-coloring that logo, recreating our materials, changing the website and revamping the building (or our planes). As if that’s going to solve the bottom line problem we’re facing.

What if we spent those resources on a compelling and engaging social media strategy and created engaging conversations with our buyers? Isn’t that more likely to drive revenue than that new color and logo?

Why Do We Run for Color? 

Sometimes it’s a new CEOs ego putting his stamp on his new turf. Sometimes it’s a return to the comfort of a safe action-–no one gets fired for a new color or logo after all. Sometimes it’s a lame attempt to distract our markets from something we’ve done that’s bad. 

We change our colors like a chameleon, shape shift our company in the hope that our customers and prospects will forget.

  • Do we really believe that the new logo and colors will restore our flagging bottom line?
  • Do we think customers will throng to our doors just because we changed our name?
  • Do we really believe anyone cares what colors we use on our website???? Seriously? Sure, there are subliminal meanings to color but that’s not whats rebranding is about.

In almost every one of my turnaround clients, the cry for rebranding was so loud it was deafening.  Early in my career I went along with it. It was the way we’d always done things.  But then I saw the light.

Rebranding is expensive. It’s wasteful. And it’s rarely the solution to the problem the business is facing. 

  • Do you have a bad rap about a faulty product or company incident? Step up and address it head on. Tell the truth, put your cards on the table and move on.  People will forgive if you handle it correctly.  Changing your name and logo doesn’t change what people know…although it can make you look pretty untrustworthy.  Take a lesson from Toyota and fess up. Customers respect that. It’s a lot cheaper than all that new paint, print, design and effort. You’ll humanize your brand and that’s turn a negative into a positive.  
  • Have your revenues flat-lined and your whole industry knows it? Changing that color scheme doesn’t change your reality. Instead of spending the resources on the rebranding – spend them on revenue focused actions, like that social media commitment, on retraining sales folks, perhaps a new distribution strategy or a much needed upgrade to your offering. Those actions will have a much better chance of improving your situation than that new purple logo with the dancing widget on your fancy new website. Southwest Airlines ushered in a successful new way to think about and manage airline travel. JetBlue and others have followed with their own innovations. So why is a traditional behemoth airline like American (or United/Continental too) repainting and rebranding as they continue with business as usual? I smell the status quo.
  • Are you moving into a new market opportunity, expanding or shifting your focus as a revamp of your business?  Don’t dump your history.  There’s tons of value in that brand you created in the other space, even if you had some issues. Bring it with you instead of starting over.  A new or modified brand takes a long time and lotsa dollars to establish – spend those resources on the new market and not cosmetics.  

Branding experts claim a new logo energizes the company, that there’s nothing like a new brand, a shiny new logo or bright colors to help get a bit of excitement in the troops.  Don’t kid yourself.  That same brand will cause grumbling when folks are stretched then, the company is in a tight spot and everyone is wondering why the dollars are going to rebranding instead of hard-hitting revenue generation. Or investing to make their jobs easier or more productive. 

The Bottom Line

That new brand will not solve your problems. So when you’re stuck in a pinch or struggling to adapt, forget the new colors, logo and pretty paint jobs.

Settle down and focus on delivering compelling value to your market – in a new way or to a new audience.  Ditch the status quo that probably caused the problem in te first place and think differently. Instead of  doing the kneejerk change to your logo – consciously adapt your business to create new Advantage. That’s the path to re-establishing your business success. 

Leave the lipstick for the pig.