Fly the Branded Skies


Airline: American Airlines

These are posts from Fly the Branded Skies about American Airlines.


American Airlines Junior Pilot Wings
American Airlines Junior Pilot Wings
American Airlines Junior Stewardess Wings
American Airlines Miss Stewardess Wings
American Airlines Junior Pilot Wings
American Airlines Junior Stewardess Wings
American Airlines Wings
American Airlines Wings
American Airlines Wings
American Airlines Wings (Misprint)
American Airlines Wings
American Airlines Wings
American Airlines Wings
American Airlines Flight Crew Wings

Jingle: American “Doing What We Do Best” (1975)

We're American Airlines. Doing what we do best.

Listen: American Airlines: “Doing What We Do Best”

One of the amazing properties of jingles is how they can become integral parts of their brands over time. For example, Alka-Seltzer first used “plop plop, fizz fizz” in the 1950s — today, they’re still using the tune in their advertising.

By holding on to this branding element, you gain the freedom to vary others. This jingle, “We’re American Airlines. Doing what we do best,” is a perfect example. Campaigns evolved, tastes shifted, the tagline changed, and the account even switched agencies, but this melody — or variations derived from it — were a part of American’s advertising for more than 20 years.

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Tropes: Graduation Day

Every kind of advertising has—well, let’s call them “conventions.” Airline advertising is no different. This is part of a series of posts on the clichés of airline advertising.

This may not be a pervasive trope, but over the years it has popped up often enough to make for some interesting comparisons: stewardesses graduating from training. These four spots, spanning four decades, tell a lot both about how flight attendants are portrayed in advertising and how they’re seen by society at large.

Let’s start in the late 1960s.

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Jingle: National Airlines “Watch Us Shine” (1977)

National Airlines: Watch Us Shine

Listen: National Airlines: “Watch Us Shine”

If there’s one thing airline jingles are selling, it’s pride.

Most jingles, I think, evince a grandeur disproportionate to their subjects. But the songs of airline advertising are not mere jingles. They are anthems worthy of companies that dare slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of God.

Whether this is a good way to sell tickets is another question.

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Taking AAdvantage of Facebook

If you’re on Facebook, chances are you’ve seen your friends liking AAdvantage this week — that is, if you didn’t like it yourself. American is running a promotion in which everyone who likes the Facebook page of its frequent flier program will win between 100 and 100,000 miles.

Unsurprisingly, participation has been high. In a few days, the page has jumped from about 2,500 likes to 227,301. But American is basically buying fans, and that can get expensive. If we are to accept a

All this means it’s too early to call the program a resounding success, notwithstanding its early impressive numbers. AAdvantage has a whole bunch of fairly expensive new Facebook fans now; the question is what they’ll do with them. The challenge is that social media is a little like herding goldfish. People have very short attention spans. There’s nothing to stop them from unliking the page now that they have their miles, or removing its updates from their feeds, or simply ignoring it.

The number I’d really like to see is how many people opened AAdvantage accounts to take advantage (sorry) of the contest. I did; up until now, I’ve collected most of my miles through Delta SkyMiles and Aeroplan. Getting people to click “Like” on Facebook is one thing; getting them to sign up for a frequent flier program is another, probably much more valuable thing.

(And this, incidentally, is why it seems crazy to me that the URLs from the Facebook page to the AAdvantage enrollment page don’t seem to have any sort of token that would allow them to track how many people they’re driving to join. But that’s getting a little technical.)

In any event, clearly American is going big into social media. It should be fascinating to see how it does.


Well, the Big Game is less than a week away and, like everyone else, Fly the Branded Skies is taking advantage of the buzz without all the hassle of paying a few million dollars for a sponsorship. This is an index to airline Super Bowl ads of the past 46 years. It draws extensively on Adland’s extensive archive of Super Bowl spots, with a few added in from YouTube.   Read more

Seven question mark seven

7?7The smart money says Boeing will soon launch a brand new replacement for the 737, starting from a blank sheet of paper, with entry into service by the end of the decade.

But all the debate over re-engining and airline economics is completely missing the most important question:

What are they going to call it?   Read more

Political animals

Last week, American Airlines pulled its flights from Orbitz in a dispute over fees. That means more passengers will have to use the carrier’s Web site to book travel directly. But American’s Web site has long been controversial — just ask interface designer Dustin Curtis.

There. How’s that for a news hook for an 18-month-old story? In fairness, this blog didn’t exist when Curtis launched his attack on American’s Web site in May of 2009. The lessons from that story, however, are timeless.

Before American launched a new Web site in mid-November, their homepage really hadn’t changed in almost a decade. It showed. The site was cluttered. Dated. Ugly. This is the site Curtis arrived at in 2009, and the site he trashed in a subsequent blog post.   Read more

Why safety isn’t safe

Pacific Airlines ad

You’re looking at the stupidest airline ad ever produced.

On April 28, 1967, Pacific Air Lines ran this full page ad in the New York Times. It was created by advertising (and comedy) legend Stan Freberg in a bid to bring some honesty to airline advertising. But while the ad may have been honest, it didn’t do much good for Pacific Air Lines.

It is not true, as is often reported, that the ad drove Pacific Air Lines into bankruptcy two months later. In fact, Pacific merged with two other carriers to form Air West, and the forces that compelled the merger had little to do with advertising. But the ad did, within days, cost the jobs of the airline’s vice president of marketing and its director of advertising, and it quickly became notorious.

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Remember when…

News leaked this week that United Airlines is polling its current and former employees on which classic livery to feature on a 757 next year. The livery will celebrate the airline’s 85th anniversary. Thanks to @GordonWerner, you can see the five options here. I don’t want to unduly influence the voting, but the Mainliner colours sure look sharp…

When United’s “retrojet” takes to the skies, it will join dozens of other airplanes painted in the bygone colours of dozens of different airlines. It seems almost every airline has a retrojet these days. The trend started ten years ago, and is only gaining momentum.   Read more

The day the industry changed

Most people will tell you that the airline industry changed 32 years ago today—the day Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act.

In fact, there are some people who will tell you that October 24, 1978 was the day everything that ever has changed or ever will change in the airline industry, changed.

Not me. For my money, the day the industry changed was 20 years ago, when Young & Rubicam resigned Trans World Airlines.   Read more