Lufthansa's Rebrand Shows Importance of Color on Physical Objects and on Screens
At first glance, Lufthansa's rebrand is a subtle one. The specific hue of blue it's used since the '60s is a shade or two darker, and the yellow is replaced by white. It's not an earth-shattering change by any stretch, but the German company's reasoning behind the color change reflects a greater trend in advertising: the need to look good on a physical product as well as on a screen.
— Lufthansa (@lufthansa) February 7, 2018
Lufthansa took its new-look aircraft around a European tour, and some critics downplayed the minimal shift in design, saying it was boring and didn't stand out enough from its competition.
One journalist went on a Twitter rant about the rebrand, saying, "If I were casting aspersions, I might suggest that the people Lufthansa had [to] redo their brand didn't really know about aviation enough to be able to discuss the emotional connection to the yellow and how paint looks under grey sky."
Here's the thing: I really liked the Lufthansa golden, orange yellow. Brand equity is an actual thing that has actual impact on actual people. Airlines — companies — know this, and the amount of money they spend on MBAs to try and science up human emotion should tell them.
— John Walton 🏳️🌈🇪🇺 (@thatjohn) February 9, 2018
But, one writer for Forbes got to the bottom of the switch, and it makes a lot of sense: We aren't just making advertising for items anymore. Virtually everything comes with a digital counterpart in some way. And, for an airline as big as Lufthansa, that logo is going to pop up on screens at the airport, smartphones and smart watches. One could argue that the masses are seeing the logo in that form more than they're seeing it on the tail of the plane they're boarding.
Christine Negroni writes for Forbes:
Rebranding Lufthansa for its second century was about harmonizing the way it looked on the variety of devices travelers use to connect. “Things were not as smooth as they could be,” [Lufthansa head of global marketing Alexander] Schlaubitz said. The assignment was to touch every part of the brand from product to service so that whatever window customers used to view the airline, the experience would be the same.
Schlaubitz, who led the rebranding effort, said that the current logo with the apparently beloved yellow "does not work on a small digital screen." With limited screen space, it appeared distorted and got lost in text, as web designers had to make it work for the smaller format.
What's interesting, too, is Pantone's response to the matter. While we might write off some critics of the new color scheme as overly sensitive, it's important to remember the almost primal reactions human beings have to colors. They signal more than our conscious minds might understand.
Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, which selects the color of the year every year based on a variety of worldly influences, told Forbes that the reaction to Lufthansa's new color scheme says a lot about a person. She said that fans of the yellow are "optimistic and hopeful."
So, it could be argued that abandoning the yellow created a color scheme that immediately felt void of happiness and optimism, even if they didn't know that themselves on a conscious level. What Walton said in the tweet above about companies trying to "science up human emotion" seems to be dead on, but maybe not in the context he was using. They got the emotion, but from the omission of a color rather than the addition of one.
But, rest assured yellow lovers, as the yellow will still appear on employee uniforms, boarding passes, signage and on the in-flight snacks.
This whole situation is an interesting study of the use of color on mood, the co-dependent nature of tactile and digital marketing and the opportunity to rebrand while keeping parts of a company's history in different ways (like the uniforms and snacks).