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.”
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.
In the 1960s, Aeroflot had something of a public relations problem. Although it was then the world’s largest airline — and a vital link for its vast motherland — its reputation for Soviet austerity was well-earned. On domestic routes, passengers endured indifferent service, chronically oversold flights, and uncomfortable aircraft. The situation was so dire that a 1960 column in Komsomolskaya Pravda, the official newspaper of the youth wing of the Communist Party, openly criticized the state-owned airline: “Unfortunately no genuine concern for passengers is felt in Aeroflot.”
So Aeroflot did something distinctly un-Soviet: it turned increasingly to Western marketing techniques. Techniques that included a jingle sung by none other than Eduard Khil, Mr. Trololo himself. Read more
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.
KLM is old. Like, really old. Like this song, which is itself nearly 50 years old, was composed to celebrate the airline’s 50th anniversary. So when KLM calls themselves the oldest operating airline in the world, they’re not kidding. They’ve been around for a while.
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.
It’s morning in 1957, at a travel agency on Main Street in some unknown town somewhere in America. The mailman has just stopped by with the day’s mail: the usual assortment of bills and brochures, plus one unusual package from BOAC. “Be sure to play this record soon,” reads the cover. “It contains a message of great importance to you!”
It’s a slow day at the office, so the travel agent sets the 12-inch record down on the turntable and drops the needle. The speakers play a jaunty tune: “You’re really flying when you fly B-O-A-C…”
This must be the longest-running campaign in the airline category. Indeed, it may be one of the longest-running campaigns in advertising, period. The Singapore Girl campaign is now more than 40 years old. Think of it this way: the first Singapore Girls are now in their 60s.
They don’t make airlines like Ozark anymore. That’s not nostalgia. The category no longer exists. Ozark was a local service airline. And the locals had something to prove. Read more
A confession: I actually like a lot of the jingles I write about. Not even in an ironic, hipster sort of way either. Some of them are admittedly guilty pleasures (like TWA’s 80s power ballad Leading the Way — still desperately trying to find that one on vinyl, by the way) but others I think are legitimately great songs. And of those, “Mother Country” is my favourite.