Saturday, February 27, 2010

Frontier Republic Midwest

There’s been some interesting speculation about what brand/name will eventually emerge from the Republic-Frontier-Midwest airline conglomerate. Republic’s head honcho, Bryan Bedford, has seemed to indicate in some press reports that the company is leaning toward an integrated brand. And sooner rather than later.

Having been a marketing/branding consultant for many years, here’s my two cents worth.

Frontier has a much more “generic” name than Midwest, which is a location-based name. (Even the Midwest frequent-flyer program name is provincial – Midwest Miles. But then Frontier’s frequent-flyer program, EarlyReturns, has a terrible name, too – nonsensical, boring, non-descriptive. What does an “early return” mean?)

Frontier is apparently the bigger airline by routes and revenue.

Both airlines have loyal fans in their home airports (Frontier in Denver and Midwest in Milwaukee).

Republic is also a nice generalized name, but it has virtually no name recognition with the traveling public. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – the possibility of starting with a clean slate can be appealing.

If they do this right, it will be done soon, and only once. (You don’t want to re-brand your product again in a few years if you screw it up the first time. So don’t screw it up.)

From the amenities standpoint, both Frontier (with their tiered pricing and new Stretch seating) and Midwest (with their Signature seats and warm cookies) have some history. Frontier’s product currently has the ability to be more flexible and aggressive. But Frontier a’la carte pricing menu is too new to have become iconic, so shouldn’t be too much of a factor in leaning one way or another.

So, if I were in charge of everything....

I’d go with the Frontier name for the combined airline, but come up with a new tag line that indicated something new, emphasizing the extended almost-national breadth of the new entity. (I could be convinced that Republic would be a solid second choice for a name.)

This sounds heretical, but I’d ditch the goofy animal tails on Frontier. I’d update the Frontier logo; paint the planes just a little differently than now; maybe use the tail paintjob to slightly honor something from Midwest (a blue/gold streak or something). But in two years, you don’t really want anyone to remember the old part of your entity – you want every customer to think of your airline as Frontier. (Not, for example, how some travelers – after 5 years – still call US Airways “the old America West.”)

I’d immediately create a combined frequent-flyer program, under neither the Midwest Miles nor EarlyReturns names. Something new is needed, probably tied into the new tag line.

Now, if Frontier-Republic would like to pay me to suggest some brand strategies, tag lines, program names, etc....

UPDATE 4.13.2010
Republic decided today upon Frontier as their name. The tail animals will stay, as might the cookies (they are a little vague about that). No news yet about the frequent-flyer program.