British Airways and Balmer’s AC3ID Test of Corporate Brand Management Professor John M T Balmer Dr Helen Stuart Working Paper No 04/26 July 2004
The working papers are produced by the Bradford University School of Management and are to be circulated for discussion purposes only. Their contents should be considered to be preliminary. The papers are expected to be published in due course, in a revised form and should not be quoted without the author’s permission.
W O R K I N G PA P E R S E R I E S
BRITISH AIRWAYS AND BALMER’S AC3ID TEST OF CORPORATE BRAND MANAGEMENT Professor John M. T. Balmer Professor of Corporate Identity Bradford School of Management Emm Lane Bradford West Yorkshire BD9 4JL England U.K. and Dr Helen Stuart Lecturer School of Business and Informatics McAuley Campus Australian Catholic University PO Box 456 Virginia Brisbane 4014 QLD, Australia.
There can be few organizations that have received as much media attention as British Airways (BA). This is particularly in regard to its various changes of identity/corporate brand that have been key elements of its changing strategy. As a consequence, BA has been the subject of considerable international interest. As such, its changing corporate identity and corporate branding strategies have received many plaudits, and sometimes censure. In this article the wisdom of the BA’s various changes of corporate identity is assessed using the Balmer’s AC3ID Test of Corporate Brand Management. The test is a diagnostic tool for examining the relationships (and possible misalignments) between the six identities that are found within many organizations. Our analysis confirms the efficacy of Balmer’s AC3ID test for its diagnostic ability in detecting key identity issues, given that the test encapsulates multiple disciplinary roots and time frames. As we will show in the article, the early changes to the BA identity brought into alignment some key dimensions described by the AC3ID test. One subsequent change, the unsuccessful graphic-design-driven ‘ethnic tails fins’ identity change was narrowly conceived. Although highly creative and ambitious, and although it had a degree of logic, it was, ultimately, unsuccessful owing to crucial identity misalignments. The importance of considering multiple perspectives regarding corporate identity/ corporate branding and the inextricable link between identity and corporate brand are some of the main implications derived from this article. These implications have particular relevance in light of the growing numbers of organisations that have recently undergone a change in their corporate branding. The British Airways case study is, for these organizations, a salutary tale. However, it would appear that BA has adopted a mature approach in the management of identity in more recent years and has learnt from the debacle that accompanies its latest corporate rebranding exercise. In short, it has brought its corporate brand into alignment with key identity elements of the organization.
W O R K I N G PA P E R S E R I E S
There can be few organizations that have received as much media attention as British Airways (BA). Over the past two decades the corporate identity and corporate branding strategies of BA have been the subject of considerable public interest. For the main, such strategies have received numerous plaudits but in one, ill conceived change of strategy, British Airways received widespread censure. In considering the period from the 1970s to the present, our analysis revealed that the corporate identity of BA has undergone six identifiable periods of change. We label these periods as Appalling (pre 1981), Adjusting (1981-1983), Appealing (1984-1987), Adoring (1988-1996), Astonishing (1997-2000) and Affirming (2001 to the present). As such, the history of BA over the last three decades has been one of dramatic and sometimes turbulent change. Change, which for the...