United kept “Rhapsody in Blue” as its signature music when it merged with Continental several years ago. Now The New York Times reports it’s bringing back the popular advertising slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies,” which it dumped in 1996. Read United’s official press release.
However, I have several problems with the new campaign.
First, there’s no evidence that United is actually emphasizing the original phrase. Instead it uses the idea and focuses on the phrase “flyer friendly” instead. Even the URL for the re-launch is united.com/flyerfriendly, and commercials on United Hub are in a section labeled “Flyer Friendly.”
If you listen to the script, “Fly the Friendly Skies” is never mentioned.
Carefully planned, coordinated, and synchronized.
Performing together with a single, united purpose.
That’s what makes the world’s leading airline “flyer friendly.”
They could have changed that last sentence to: “Fly the friendly skies and see what makes us the world’s leading airline.” But they didn’t.
The second reason I’m disappointed is because the new advertising campaign lacks any emotional pull. One of the great things about some of United’s legacy commercials was that they focused on passengers and how travel for work, travel for pleasure, and even returning home to loved ones was a part of their lives. United was a part of their lives. I feel like the new commercials focus more on United and how United is doing this or that rather than focusing on the customer.
Check out one of my favorite classic commercials and compare it to the new one above. (It uses a different slogan, “It’s Time to Fly,” which I prefer more. But it has the emotional pull that I think carries a stronger message.):
Finally — and this may not be too different from my second point — I don’t see how much of what United talks about is actually “friendly.” How is WiFi friendly? How are synchronized operations friendly? How is seat-back entertainment friendly? Maybe they are. But I don’t think these commercials do a good job of explaining the concept. They’re not inspiring. And they don’t make me any more excited to to fly United.