This time last year we pitched to rebrand Turkish Airlines. We’ve worked with big brands before – from GSK to 10 Downing Street – but this was a different beast. This was one of the world’s largest airlines. And as anyone who’s ever watched Mad Men (aka everyone) knows, airlines are the holy grail.

 

Spoiler: we didn’t win. And there are no prizes for coming second (*cough* final three *cough*). There are, however, loads of learnings. Here they are.

 

It doesn’t matter how big the brand or the brief, it’s all about the idea

Actually, the bigger the brand and the brief, the more the idea matters. With so many factors, audiences and touchpoints to consider, it’s more important than ever to have a simple, true idea at the heart of your brand. 

The answer’s always in the brief…

We found our idea early on – in the brief. Turkey is at the centre of the world. And Turkish Airlines flies to more of the world than any other airline. So we created a map of all the places they fly to and put their logo slap bang in the centre of it. This gave us a flexible, ownable supergraphic and rules that ran through everything from type to templates to trays to tickets.

… but you need to go further

We went to Istanbul. The client had said it was really important to them that the spirit of the city was reflected – its diversity and unique energy; the fact it’s a meeting place for loads of different cultures. Turns out Istanbul is a mind-blowingly amazing city. And the trip helped us. Massively. It meant we could bring true, relevant emotion to the work and tap into what really differentiates Turkish Airlines. We fed all this into our original thinking. 

It’s a massive, massive undertaking

As well as all the standard stuff – ads, apps, websites, etc. – you need to brand a plane. And about 1000 other things you’d never think about, like headrests and carpets and sleep masks and uniforms and boarding passes for different classes. And they wanted to see everything at the pitch. 

Mocking up seats is harder than you’d think. And carpets. And blankets. And bespoke trays that don’t actually exist yet.

It took us bloody ages.

You don’t need to be an expert to do a good job. But it would make it easier.

You can be the best thinker and designer in the world, but if you don’t understand the ins and outs of airlines – what’s possible, what’s legal, what’s necessary – then you’ll trip up. We were up against agencies who consider airlines part of the day job. Had we known what they knew, our job would have been much faster and easier. 

It’s not where you’ve come from, it’s what you do now

Thirty years ago, we started life as a reporting agency. Today, we’re still creating world-class reports. But we’re also working on airline brands, international campaigns to get people to search for the Loch Ness Monster, award-winning identities for TEDxLondon and branding to help the Mayor make London more sustainable. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before. It’s what you do now that counts. You can do anything if you want it badly enough. Now we’ve done one airline pitch, we’ll smash the next one. And the one after that.

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