Class, Please Open Your Books to Chapter Eleven. . .

I’d like to offer my congratulations to the folks over at Delta Airlines, as they have just overcome a bout of the ‘Chapter Elevens’. That’s a nasty ailment for anybody, but especially when you’re seventy-eight years old, the largest U.S. transatlantic carrier and operate the biggest and busiest hub in the world. Kudos Delta, way to get back on that horse!

Normally, I would feel inclined to send my friends over at Delta a ‘get well soon’ card, or flowers, or something snazzy, but they beat me to the punch. Waiting patiently for me in my in-box this morning was a pleasant little note from my airborne friends, just to say that all is well. What a nice touch; a little note from them to me, letting me know it’s alright to spent my money with them again. They even got all gussied up with a revitalized logo and refreshed paint scheme for all those fancy airplanes of theirs. Nifty.

Delta has come a long way from its roots in the late 1920’s as a crop dusting service (Delta Air Service). The name ‘Delta’, references the Mississippi River Delta and not the fancy shape – that didn’t come until later. Speaking of later, the introduction of commercial jets in the 1950’s lead Delta to its first re-branding initiative. The aerodynamic, swept-wings of the new jetliners inspired Delta to introduce the logo we have all come to know and love – amongst company circles, it was affectionately dubbed the ‘widget’.

Delta stepped it up a notch by reinvigorating itself for what was probably the golden age of jet travel in the 1950’s and 1960’s . No longer the 1940’s era, “Airline of the South” Delta tauted to its customers in 1968 that, “Delta is ready when you are” and by 2005, they ensured travelers that, “Good Goes Around”.

Of all the ‘legacy airlines’, Delta carries a hefty dose of brand equity. They’re pushing eight decades in the business, they’ve weathered a nasty little battle with chapter eleven and they’ve even fought off a merger attempt by US Airways Group (with a little help from a employee-based grass roots campaign that is, the “Keep Delta My Delta” campaign rallied employees to save their jobs and their company).

These little things start to add up. In an era when air travel has lost its mystique and passengers are no longer mystified by the miracle of flight, but rather vexed by security protocol, this could in fact help Delta “fly into a new era”, as their friendly note informed me earlier this morning.

New Delta Airlines logoIt is interesting that Delta’s first re-branding came about in an effort to modernize its image to keep up with new aviation technology. This most recent branding effort is a direct response to the changing economic climate, which has seem similar ‘legacy’ airlines in dire straits. Ironically enough, Delta once capitalized on the death of another giant, PanAm, by taking over routes and buying up its German hub.

Delta has come full circle. From crop dusting, to aviation monolith, to its tenuous rebirth only this month; it will take skillful handling and adept brand management to keep Delta in the forefront of travelers minds. People are more interested in cheap fares and convenience, rather than the ‘legacy’ represented by Delta. It will be interesting to see how Delta’s newly invigorated image will resonate with audiences, now that the company is back in the black – although their new paint scheme remains red, white and blue.

Leave a Reply