The battle begins
The fight for customers in the skies of the UK and Europe has often been a bitter one, and the last decade has been no exception. The no-frills era brought about some of the fiercest financial, communication and brand battles ever known. Two of the nation's earliest front runners, Buzz, from KLM and British Airways' Go fell fast. They were bought out by Ryanair and easyJet after just four and seven years respectively, a shock, given the heritage of their parent brands.
The demise of Go in particular came weeks after Ryanair chairman Michael O'Leary said that the winter of 2004 would result in a "bloodbath" from which only two or three low-cost airlines would survive. In this fledgling, disruptive market, BA's foundations and heritage meant nothing, and the sector quickly descended into a relentless war on cost.
A battle fought on price
Both Go and Buzz, with their nippy names and simple but considered approach to branding, were praised within the industry. Go in particular was considered a smart extension of the British Airways business, allowing it to reach a much greater audience. However, it was the cheekier, and crucially, cheaper services of Ryanair and easyJet that caught the nation's attention.
It was a new market with new rules. Costs were so low that flying no longer became part of the holiday experience, it became a means to an end. As everyday as getting the bus to work. Ryanair and easyJet capitalised on this, fighting head on through the nation's newspapers, driving down price until flights were as little as 99p, excluding tax.
A battle fought on reputation
As prices took a nosedive, the quality of customer service quickly followed suit and by 2011, the reputation of both businesses was lower than ever. easyJet realised the need to change first. They hired ex-Guardian Media Group head Carolyn McCall – a woman who shrewdly asked the Operations Director what problems there were with the business – before she’d even interviewed for the job. He told McCall that the business had lost the faith of its customers and its staff, after sacrificing quality over cost for too many years. He was right. They were failing to land more than 50% of flights on time at Gatwick, according to the Sunday Times.
McCall knew something had to change, and with the help of marketing director Peter Duffy, the business embarked on its first repositioning in the 17 year history of the business. The strategic brand development programme, and communications campaign that followed, was aimed at reconnecting passengers with the joy of flying, holidaying and even business travel.
Featuring headlines such as 'This is generation easyJet' and 'Europe by easyJet', the £50m repositioning focussed on the final destination, and the subsequent emotional experience for customers.
Alongside a new direction in tonality, the brand shifted typographically too. Though its no-frills typeface Cooper Black remained in the logo, it was shrewdly dropped from body copy, ridding the business of a design element so symbolic of 'cheap', that will scarcely be used by another brand again. In its place, a refreshed sans-serif typeface, coupled with an angular, orange supergraphic brought new warmth to the business.
VCCP, the ad agency behind the campaign, reaffirmed this rationale. It suggested that easyJet’s "low prices and expanding network of destinations heralded the democratisation of air travel which has meant everyone is able to do more of the things they love – whether it be exploring new holiday experiences, new business opportunities or visiting friends and family".
VCCP's campaign introduced new tonality and typography to help revitalise the brand: