If branding were left to engineers

As someone who has flown on Fiji Airways a few times and knows how important this airline is for the region,  I am delighted to learn that the company is moving into profit  – from a $2.6 million loss in 2010-2011 to an operating profit of $11.5 million in 2012. I am also delighted that the company has chosen to re-invest its good fortune in a new fleet of planes to express and celebrate its re-branding as Fiji Airways in 2013.

But I urge you to read this post from Skift from whom I have shared some pictures….


While I was initially dazzled by the sleek, super clean (almost antiseptic interiors); excited by the prospect of a modern HD entertainment system;  and slightly charmed by the use of Fijian design motives on the wings, tail and underbody; my emotional reaction wasn’t the one the carrier intended.

My feeling resembled those experienced staying at the faceless, equally sterile enclave  of four and five  star resorts that appeal to so many visitors: sadness; a sense of disappointment,  sort of like being cheated.

  • Where’s the soul, the spirit of the Pacific?
  • Where is the crew, the “hosts and hostesses” with their spontaneous, infectious smiles as warm and inviting as the blue waters over which they fly?
  • Why did they select utterly drab and impersonal soulless music to accompany their hymn to modern engineering when the melodies of the Pacific simultaneously relax you will filling you with joy?
  • Why didn’t any of these pictures show passengers – real human beings who will generate next years’s profits. Perhaps because real people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; some pretty; others not so and their inclusion would have interrupted the stream of cool efficiency
  • Why no indication of the food that might be served that could provide  visitors with some pre-taste of a Pacific culinary experience?
  • Why was there no reference to Fiji (other than the clever paint job on the underbelly) – absolutely no reference to place or people?

I originally wrote a post critical of Air Pacific because I experienced this video as the creation of proud engineers and a reflection of an industrial mindset. I am quite happy to see such a worldview applied to the plane – efficiency, safety, cool design all work for me given that they ensure the plane stays airborne when it’s supposed to. But I or my fellow passengers are not freight. If we were, then a more efficient way to transport us would be to anaesthetise us, wrap us in cellophane and pack in crates. We’re living, breathing, organic, sometimes smelly, sweaty human beings expressing a huge range of emotions and reasons for making our trip – excitement, anticipation, dread, fear, indifference, boredom…and we’re either going home or visiting. Either way, we’re going to amazingly beautiful place located among a staggeringly diverse set of islands populated by people whose identity expresses their specific place in the most colourful and exotic of ways.

But fortunately, this is only part of the story. The company does “get it” as shown on an earlier video released when they announced the name change. View this second  video launched earlier in August to announce and promote the new name. Compare  your  emotional reaction with how you felt when watching the video launching the new fleet. Which one would make you wish to travel to Fiji?

Aircraft, airports, hotels don’t make a tourism economy thrive. It’s the people who express the essence of a place that do.

Airlines exist to make a profit – that’s true – but they can only do that by serving the community on which they depend and exchanging value with other members of the tourism system of which they are a part. Michael Porter calls this piece of common sense “creating shared value.”

There are two huge connecting forces in our world that have changed the physical, social and psychological landscape of the entire planet: travel and information technology. Information Technology isn’t really about the platforms, software and networks but the people who use this infrastructure to create messages, applications and information. Tourism isn’t about products but the people who host other people when visiting places.

So it will be interesting to see which of these two videos is used in the New Year to launch the new brand  – hopefully a creative blend of the two.

Shiny new aircraft can help the firm lift off and take its profits sky high but only if the airline remembers it will always need to come down to ground, to sea level in this case, and to the shores of the Pacific Ocean where its passengers live and thrive and create the living cultures and vibrant landscapes that visitors wish to experience.

Fiji Airways – you’ve come a long way and have a right to be proud of your history. Now let’s see where you are going to go!

6 Responses to “If branding were left to engineers”

  1. I seldom leave a response, but after looking at through some of the responses on this page If
    branding were left to engineers | Conscious.Travel. I do
    have a few questions for you if it’s okay. Is it just me or
    does it look like like a few of these comments appear like they are left by
    brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional sites, I would like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post.
    Would you make a list of every one of all your social pages like your Facebook
    page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  2. Good story but please don’t blame the engineers!
    MARKETING is a science in itself. … the engineers just concentrate on the technical side, that’s why their images will be clinical.
    The marketing guru’s should have had full control of the PR images released.
    If there was no brief or budget to get marketing oriented Computer Generated Images done, then who’s responsibility is that.
    As an reDesign Engineer of Market leading products, I can only say that it’s tough enough meeting technical briefs & timescales. Often Marketing are very late in getting involved & adding to product launch pressure.
    Please don’t forget that Technical & Engineering brilliance make the successful brands.

  3. You nailed it. Marketers have an impulse to “dazzle” us — and sometimes, it’s appropriate they do, such as when showing off the resort’s infinity pool or spa and wellness offerings. But in those moments when we are mid-journey, mid-flight, mid-meal — we are looking for connection, because the emotions are flying (no pun intended). Dazzlement can be distancing — I hope Fiji Airways chooses a campaign that gets us closer.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Place is back – how did we ever lose it? | Conscious.Travel - November 28, 2012

    […] Separate product development (engineering) from marketing (see an earlier post on Branding – If branding were left to […]

  2. Forget branding – let people, place & personality shine through | Conscious.Travel - November 16, 2012

    […] If branding were left to  engineers […]

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