There was a time when British Airways was very clear about its identity. The planes all looked the same and the all the advertising sounded the same. Back in the 80’s and 90’s all you needed to hear was a couple of notes from the Lakme’s Flower Duet and you knew that you were being sold to by the self titled “World’s Favourite Airline”. Back then BA was a poster brand for sonic branding, they used the same music over and over again, creating new arrangements to mirror the messages in their ads.
BA achieved sonic branding gold with a piece of music it didn’t even own. There were stories of consumer revolt when they used “Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman on an ad in 2000 which they quietly ditched in order to return to the safety of Lakme.
So the other day when I saw the latest BA ad featuring Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg I thought it would be a good idea to review the last few years of their advertising to see how they sounded. BA’s move away from its old audio identity was probably the right thing to do. BA needed to become a more modern brand and move forward but musically I think their brand strategy is starting to look like one of those maps showing you all the routes they offer. The choice of Jake Bugg for the latest ad is a good example of how they have started to jump on bandwagons rather than seek to stand alone. There is also the BAMusic stuff which is just a little bit random, gigs in airports for passengers who are almost certainly more concerned with whether or not they have removed all the liquids, knives and guns in their hand luggage. This is not to say everything musical that BA have done has been off brand. There was that ad featuring Experience (Starkey Remix)’ by Ludovico Einaudi which worked nicely, maybe it was a little technical but it showed some imagination.
I’m all for progress and I’m all for BA expanding its relationship with music but a little bit of strategy would have been nice. So this has got me thinking that 2014 should be the year of the Music Agency. Brands really need to work with music and brand specialists who know the value of delivering effective creative partnerships rather than simply buying access to stars.
Come on brands make music agency happy in 2014.