Airport branding: Heathrow kills the TLA BAA. Hooray!

London’s  airport manager “BAA” rebrands to… wait for it… “Heathrow”!

Beg to Differ celebrates the departure of a bad airport brand, the arrival of an old friend, and after the gates, wishes the grand old dame of British airport brands a successful baggage retrieval. (Oh, but mate: don’t bother hailing a cab. Take the tube instead.)

BAA humbug

If you’ve ever flown through London’s Heathrow Airport, or Glasgow, or Stansted you’d be forgiven for not knowing that you were actually in the hands of an entity called BAA – which once stood for British Airports Authority, but more recently became “BAA”, which stands for, well, not much at all. Because it was just another TLA (see previous rant here).

And now, in a stroke of brilliance (and possibly desperation), they decided to drop the three letter moniker. Here’s the story in brief:

It is the end of an era for BAA with the company announcing that the name is to be dropped in favour of stand-alone brands for its airports. Its airports – Heathrow, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Southampton and Stansted – will cease to be called BAA gateways from today.

So the company running Heathrow Airport will now call itself “Heathrow”? And didn’t spend a billion dollars doing it?  Wow. Unlike a lot of nonsense in the branding world, that actually makes sense!

I completely agree with the “Thumbs Up” verdict from Mark Ritson in the UK version of Marketing Week:

The simple rebranding of BAA as Heathrow might look pretty bleeding obvious to the untrained eye, but it’s a job very well done. Brand managers around the world should note how the strategy has been executed.

Indeed. And hopefully they also think twice before choosing a meaningless abbreviation, acronym, or impossible to spell “domain grabber” name as well.

I wish “umbrella brands” like “The Ottawa Hospital” (better known as the Civic Hospital, Riverside Hospital, and General Hospital) would take note of the other lesson here: Branding is the art of making sense. And stretching the idea of a Hospital – or an airport – to cover whatever you want it to? That just doesn’t make sense.

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  1. MarilynArmstrong says:

    The keep changing the names of stadiums and airports around here and no one pays any attentiont. They still call it “The Garden,” no matter who is the currented “branded sponsor” and the airport will always be Logan, just as the airport in New York stays Idelwild, though it’s been 40 years of JFK … etc. Everyone knows where Boston Garden is, but what the heck is “Staples Stadium” or “Bank of America Park?”

    • @MarilynArmstrong It’s true. It would be nice if cities assigned heritage value to the NAMES of prominent things as well as to old architecture. I would argue that a name like “Boston Garden” is as important to people’s sense of space (citizens and visitors alike) as the building itself. And while it’s gratifying to my little Canadian inferiority complex to have a Canadian bank name on your landmark, I don’t see why they couldn’t have been forced to call it “TD Boston Garden” rather than “TD Garden”.

      • MarilynArmstrong says:

        @DenVan  They don’t even SELL the names of the arenas and stadiums anymore. They rent them, so the names change so often, no one can remember who’s the “owner du jour.” If they tried that with Fenway Park, there would be rioting. There are some things that are sacred and Fenway in one!

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