Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Air India Rebranding — the transformation of independent India's national flag carrier

For the aviation community, it was a much-awaited event. Namely, the rebranding or brand refresh for Air India. Revealed on Thursday last week to significant media fanfare, the new brand incorporates elements from erstwhile Air India, from the soon to be merged Vistara and a few newer elements. As the airline indicated, the brand exudes a feeling of possibility and limitless horizons. “Window of possibilities” was the official tagline.

Notably, the brand has also continued with the Maharaja mascot. Additional features like a completely revamped frequent flyer program are to be introduced later this year. The brand refresh is yet another foundational element that goes towards reviving Air India. But the question how effectively the brand will be delivered remains. And the only true measure of this will be the ability to capture a premium.

The rebrand clearly highlights how the Tata group has combined the old with the new. A complete new brand was just not an option because all things said and done, the mindshare and recall value of Air India remains very high. But ideally a high mindshare should emanate from a consistent product experience and build on that with the ability to capture a premium. That has not been the case.

This paradox is explained by the narrative on Air India. Every conversation on Air India including conversations to the present day, often refer to its past glory. A past dating back to 1932, with high service levels, legendary advertisements and the golden age of flying. This was repeated to a point where it started to form expectations. But the airline changed and the industry changed. Neither are the same today. The airline suffered years of financial losses and consequent underinvestment and the airline product industry wide is now extremely commoditised. So the rebrand is just the beginning.

15/08/2023 Gavin Eccles/Satyendra Pandey/CNBC TV18

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