Back to Basics

Watching what companies do when they are on the brink of bankruptcy is something that we can learn a lot from. They scramble of course to try and get their finances in order, rethink the structure of their personnel, and often times, they look at their products and services to see where things can be improved. But there’s another phenomenon we don’t see quite as often.

In September of 2005, Delta Airlines (DAL) plunged into bankruptcy. One of the bankruptcy judges was even quoted as saying: “I have not heard anything that I will say remotely impressed me that you have the money, the talent, or the thought that you could successfully reorganize in this case.” Delta was on the brink of collapse with seemingly no way out – what they did from here was revolutionary.

One of the first steps forward was that Delta started to fly many of its 47,000 employees to events around the country for intensive team building. The company began to turn inward, trying to rediscover what it was to itself, to its employees and of course to its customers.

In 2007, the same day the airline emerged from bankruptcy, they boldly unveiled their new rebranding campaign. Rebranding is about rediscovering and redefining a company’s essence –

this campaign was the cornerstone of Delta’s turnaround.

Really, a rebranding campaign is about going back to basics, as a Delta Airlines employee said herself “what appeared to be a bad thing turned out to be the best thing for us, it brought us all together and reminded us what a great company this is.” Now, newly invigorated, Delta’s ultimate task was to take this rediscovered passion for its people and for flying, capture it visually, and then shine it outward for the world to see.

Their new logo, revealed on that very same day, was a radical departure from all previous design sets of the Delta Airline logo. It was simple, crisp and set the tone for the color and style that would come to decorate every aspect of Delta’s rebranding campaign. We started to see powerful messaging from Delta, focusing on the deeper meanings of travel. Rather than stating the obvious like they did in their 1984 slogan “Delta Gets You There” the new slogan says a lot more in fewer words, “Keep Climbing.” Traveling wasn’t just about going from point A to B anymore, for Delta, it was about adventure, reaching for more in our personal lives, helping people to experience a richer life – Delta became a partner in helping people to achieve their dreams.

Delta focused on showing it’s customers that they were climbing, they were aiming for and reaching new heights and they showed this through every medium possible. Everywhere you looked, whether at the clothing of a Delta employee, the walls of the terminal, the posters in the tarmac, sentiments of growth and expansion lucidly came through.

Of course Delta was restructuring on a practical level as well, they began to invest in their fleet, and make technological and logistical upgrades. However the most powerful aspect of these changes was how Delta let the public know about these changes, the “encasement” of these upgrades. Changes to 764 aircraft take time but because of their video production, enlivened customer support, imagery and messaging, customers could begin to feel those changes instantaneously. They made customers believe in them, they turned customers into fans, believers, even partners. They were able to accurately translate their passion and excellence to the Delta visual interface we see and feel today. We’re now on the brink of 2015, eight years since they emerged from bankruptcy, and there’s no question that Delta has earned its new slogan as “The Most Trusted Airline in The World.”

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