Last year’s biggest brand story and what’s ahead for 2014

Looking back, the biggest branding news of 2013 was the new identity that resulted from the merger betweenAmerican Airlines and US Airways. The resulting merger created the largest airline in the world with more than 6,700 daily flights to 206 locations in 32 countries. The new merged identity is branded American Airlines and features a contemporary version of the eagle in motion. The changes reflect the organizations’ progress and provide a visual manifestation of the leadership the two combined airlines bring to the marketplace.

The former American Airlines eagle logo looks dated and lacks a sense of energy compared to the new shape that resembles the edge of a plane’s wing in flight and reflects a strong sense of direction and energy. The bold “American” sans serif typography is reminiscent of our old “Canadian” airline before it was acquired by Air Canada. The new merged identity has also retained the silver fuselage colour of its airplanes, a strong statement to a core equity of the American Airlines brand.

The use of a bold and dynamic American flag on the tail of the plane clearly announces the brand as an ambassador for the United States across the world. Its reverse colour execution is quite interesting as the American flag sequence of colours is blue squares followed by red stripes. Knowing how particular the American population is about their flag, I wonder why this execution did not cause a stir when it was introduced. Created by Future Brand, the new brand identity is simple, bold, and one of the best in our industry.

Moving forward, I am looking with keen interest at what the identities of both the Office Depot merger and Loblaws’ acquisition of  Shoppers Drug Mart will look like in 2014. (OfficeMax and Shoppers Drug Mart are both clients of Shikatani Lacroix.) Both situations are quite unique and may result in different executions of a new merged identity.

For Loblaws and Shoppers, my prediction is both identities will remain intact and much of the merged identities will be focused on leveraging their private label brands within their offering. With a significant percentage of Shoppers’ equity tied to Life Brand, the industry is speculating that we will start seeing this offering in Loblaws pharmacies while Shoppers’ store brand food offerings will be replaced by Canada’s leading private label food brand President’s Choice. By cross leveraging these two market leaders, each will benefit from an extended distribution that should result in significant sales gains.

The merger of Office Depot and OfficeMax is much more complex and will present their new CEO, Roland Smith, with a bigger quandary on what the new brand name, identity and consumer experience will be. One could argue that with Office Depot representing almost twice the number of stores than OfficeMax, the obvious choice and most cost effective approach would be to rebrand the OfficeMax stores to the existing Office Depot brand. The idea is to create greater differentiation and own the Blink Factor  my expression for using visual cues such as shape and colour to attract the attention of consumers in the split second they take to make a buying decision. However, using Office Depot’s red brand colours will only add to the market confusion and potentially lead to greater brand equity dilution as its largest competitor, Staples, shares the same red colour in its identity. OfficeMax also provides a stronger value platform to sell higher margin services, which the chain is well known for and positioned to deliver to the merged organization. I look forward to seeing how the new identities of the Loblaws acquisition of Shoppers and the Office Depot and OfficeMax merger evolve.