Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brilliant Branding: How 60's Ad Legend Mary Wells Launched Braniff and Changed the Airline Industry

Move over Mad Men. During the 60's (and for decades more) Mary Wells Lawrence was Madison Avenue's leading lady - famous for big ideas that got people talking and buying. She and other luminaries of her day, like Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, and Leo Burnett, were masters at commercial storytelling and it's worth rediscovering their work.

Case in point: Look at what Ms. Wells Lawrence did for the 1968 launch of Braniff International, then an unknown airline in an industry of bland carriers. 

First she teamed up with famed architect Alexander Girard; together they convinced Braniff's brass to paint each plane a bright acid hue. 

She then brought in Italian couturier Emilio Pucci to design ultra-mod uniforms for the crew, and used edgy decorators to produce chic space-age passenger terminals and aircraft cabins. 

From all of this (and more) she went on to spin advertising and publicity gold. 

Braniff debuted with a stunning ad campaign that heralded 'The End of the Plain Plane,' and indeed it was. Other carriers raced to slick themselves up, but Braniff did it first - and best. 

Braniff's launch was wrapped around a mammoth brand story - and it was integrated marketing way ahead of its time.

To get a sense of what Madison Avenue was really like back in the 60's, check out Mary Wells Lawrence's 2002 memoir, 'A Big Life in Advertising'. Also, check out Braniff's mind-blowing "End of the Plain Plane" TV spots.

Now that U.S. airlines are profitable again and with passenger satisfaction at an all-time low, perhaps it's time for airline marketers to study Braniff's playbook - or better yet, give Mary a call. 

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