Last week, Alitalia took the wraps off the first major redesign of its airplanes' look in 46 years—one that CEO Silvano Sassano said in a statement represents "a new journey," one that "will allow us to bring a timeless and uniquely Alitalia style to everything we do the world over."
That's heady stuff for a new paint job that looks ... well, a lot like the old paint job. In fact, said Landor Associate's North American chair Allen Adamson, Alitalia's updated look bears testament to one of branding's perennial challenges. "How do you insure that the brand is seen as current," he said, "without taking away from its unique heritage?" Landor was the firm that updated the livery it had created in 1969.
Some elements could not be messed with. "The colors, of course, are tied to the Italian flag, so that's non-negotiable," Adamson said. Ditto for the Alitalia "A" on the aircraft's tail: It had to stay an "A," and it had to stay on the tail.
So, what was left to change? Quite a bit, actually. Adamson says that the tweaks are so subtle "customers won't even notice them." They'll see only that the planes "feel more contemporary."
He walked Adweek through some of the changes and why they were made.
1) More Dominant "A" — Landor doubled down on the "A," filling it out to the edges of the stabilizer fin to achieve a literal sharp contrast to where most airline logo branding is going. "Airlines want swooshes to look like they're floating in the clouds," Adamson said. "This has strength."
2) Deeper Hues – Compelled to keep the basic color scheme intact, Landor replaced flat colors with richer tones. Why? Conditioned by high-def and 4K screens, "younger customers have grown up in a more dimensional world" and expect to see colors that look like this, Adamson said.
3) Bare White Belly – Gone is the green stripe that used to run the length of the fuselage. "For the world now, simple equals sophisticated," Adamson said. "Some of this is what Apple inspired when it used white more than any other color," Adamson said.
4) Wrapped Tail – Continuing the color band below the plane, an area traditionally left untouched, was a way of showing the brand's edginess and that it wasn't afraid to color outside the proverbial lines. "Customers are comfortable with branding touching everything," Adamson said, "and being seamless."