Fly the Branded Skies


Airline: Pan American World Airways

These are posts from Fly the Branded Skies about Pan American World Airways.


Pan American World Airways Junior Pilot Wings
Pan American World Airways Clipper Stewardess Wings
Pan American World Airways Master Pilot Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Captain Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Stewardess Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Pilot Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Stewardess Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Stewardess Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Pilot Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Clipper Stewardess Wings
Pan American World Airways Jr. Clipper Crew Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Flyer Wings
Pan American World Airways Junior Flyer Wings (dark blue)
Pan American World Airways Wings
Pan American World Airways Wings
Pan American World Airways


On the first Monday in March, 1961, the unthinkable struck Eastern Air Lines: a deficit. After 26 years of profits, Eastern declared a loss of $3.6 million.

The loss in 1960 marked the beginning of a decade of change at Eastern. It revealed fundamental problems from which the airline would never really recover. But it also spurred one of the most remarkable reinventions of any airline brand, ever. The changes at Eastern went far beyond a new coat of paint on its airplanes. They reflected an airline that not only portrayed itself differently, but saw itself differently.

For in just ten years, Eastern went from “bums on seats” to “the Wings of Man.”

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Listen: Pan Am: “Once in a Lifetime: Put a Dime in the Slot”

In an age when most Americans fly at least once a year, it’s easy to forget that not so long ago they might have flown just once in a lifetime — if at all. As recently as 1965, only one in five Americans had ever flown on an airplane.

Pan Am was going to do something about that. For them, it was a matter of survival.
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Jingle: “You’re A National Priority” (1979)

You're a National priority.

Listen: National Airlines: “You're a National Priority”

The two key pronouns in airline advertising — in all advertising, really — are “we” and “you.” Fundamentally, all advertising is a simple proposition: Here’s what we have to offer; here’s what’s in it for you. Some advertising emphasizes the “we,” some advertising emphasizes the “you,” but pretty much all of it falls somewhere on that continuum.
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Jingle: “Say Hello to Pan Am” (1980)

Say Hello to Pan Am

Listen: Pan American World Airways: “Say Hello to Pan Am”

It’s big. It’s brassy. It’s got pizzaz coming out of its ears. It’s “Say Hello to Pan Am”: the theme song to the most disastrous merger in airline history.
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Jingle: Braniff “El Clan Braniff” (1971)

El Clan Braniff

Listen: Braniff International Airways: “El Clan Braniff”

A few seconds after my Spanish-speaking art director started listening to this, I could hear him giggling on the other side of our office. I’d asked him if he could translate this jingle for me. By the time he got to the end of the song, he was full-out laughing. And when he sent me the translation, I knew why.

This jingle is just goofy.

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Jingle: Pan Am “We Fly the World” (1979)

Pan Am: We fly the world the way the world wants to fly.

Listen: Pan American World Airways: “We Fly the World the Way the World Wants to Fly”

Today Pan Am is remembered as a luxury airline, largely by people who never flew it. But it was also an inclusive airline. Most of its advertising campaigns weren’t aimed at the international jetset—they were aimed at getting ordinary Americans to fly overseas, often for the first time.

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The Nostalgia Problem

Stewardess with foodFor some unfathomable reason, people who would never believe today’s advertising will accept yesterday’s without question.

Take air travel. Passengers yearn for the “golden age” of air travel. When that golden age took place remains unclear. Maybe the 1950s. Maybe the 1960s. Perhaps even the 1970s. And hey, the 1980s had a lot going for them too. But everyone agrees the golden age ended long ago.

Of course, this “golden age” sprang as much from advertising as anything else. Reality fades away. Perceptions last.   Read more


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

Tropes: Employee-Owners

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.

When airlines get into trouble, as they often do, they eventually end up being worth more dead than alive. But there’s one group of people that always has an interest in keeping the planes flying: the employees. Over the past few decades, a number of airlines have been saved — however temporarily — when employees took ownership stakes in them, usually in exchange for pay cuts.

And as soon as employees become stockholders, the airline advertises.

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Designed for you?

Look at the image above. Do you see an airplane? Look closer. You may just barely be able to make it out. This is the same airplane that, some day soon, will buried in snow on the tarmac in Helsinki and not found again until spring (which I believe takes place for 15 minutes in July if you’re in Helsinki.)

Today, Finnair announced a new, €10-million rebranding as part of its strategic plan to expand in Asia. The airline wants to be the number one airline in the Nordic countries, and in the top three airlines in Asian traffic.

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