This morning, Virgin Blue re-brands as Virgin Australia. As an employee of the airline, it’s been a little frustrating that I haven’t been able to share what little information I understood to be true but, thanks to the investigative blogging of our newest Aussie podcast partner, Will Horton, he’s been able to uncover certain clues leading up to today’s launch. He has to be given credit for uncovering virtually every hint of the carriers new brand (despite other blogs taking unfair credit).
First, two things should be noted.
Despite the fact I’ve forged a working relationship with Will Horton for the purpose of our new purpose Australian podcast, I’ve quickly established with him that knowledge gained from my employment within the Virgin Group, and consistent with my contract of employment, no information will be shared with him – or anybody else – under any circumstances (I’m sure he has his sources, anyhow). In any case, as a lowly line pilot, the only information I have comes from his blog.
Second, everything in this post is purely speculation. We’ll post some video, audio and pictures after the close of today’s event.
A little known fact is that the Virgin Blue name was decided upon by way of a competition in 2000. The name plays on the predominantly red livery and the Australian slang tradition of calling a red-headed male ‘Blue’ or ‘Bluey’. If you didn’t know that – you’re not alone. The name itself has little international appeal and doesn’t mean much to those that aren’t into Australian slang word-play. It’s time for change.
Moving forward and re-branding is a timely and strategic move as the carrier competes head-on with Qantas and no longer necessarily fills the New World Airline gap it once did.
In just hours from now, Virgin Blue will announce its new branding strategy to the world. We’ll be there to capture the day’s events.
Hints of the Virgin Australia Name – In Brief
In what has got to be one of the best kept secrets in Australian aviation history, Virgin has managed to suppress the name of the new brand exceedingly well. Virgin chief, John Borghetti, has previously hinted that they could form anywhere between one and four brands… but has refrained from giving anything else away.
Let’s look at hints suggesting the Virgin Australia brand.
On the morning of February 23, 2011, Virgin unveiled its news uniform to the public via a fashion parade at Sydney Tower Wesfields. Despite all crew receiving their uniform prior to that date, the secret was kept quite well. Secrecy was assured by means of a confidentiality agreement with the threat of termination should information be leaked.
The new uniform closely resembles that of Virgin Atlantic and, at the time of the launch, this fuelled lots of speculation regarding a far broader rationalisation – including the name, logo and livery. Some went so far as to suggest the two carriers would be more closely connected in the future. The colours used in the uniform did give branding strategists a lot to work with.
Virgin registers a trademark and logo with IP Australia
The most popular guesswork suggests we’ll see red Virgin insignia on a silver tail with purple “australia” text plastered on the fuselage. Moving away from the red tail is a clever move in that it gives them a more recognisable brand when compared again Qantas (with its red tails) and other carriers.
Kyle from Raydon Designs posted a suggestion to his blog. Is this what we’ll be seeing this morning?
The only hint of colour came by way of a partially painted Airbus A330 that was used in Australia for early certification and training purposes. The aircraft has a red stripe around the engine cowling and a silver ‘flying lady’ painted on the nose; the silver lady further fuelling the predominance of silver in the tail livery.
February – April, 2011 : Company Name Registrations
Virgin Australia Airlines Pty Limited was registered to Virgin Blue’s Bowen Hills headquarters in 2007, although the company only took control of the Virgin Australia Pty Limited name on the 25th of February 2011 after successful litigation against the previous owner. On the 28th of April 2011, the names Virgin Australia International (Holdings) Pty Limited and Virgin Australia International Airlines Pty Limited were reserved, again, to VB’s Bowen Hill’s HQ.
February 2011: Domain name acquisitions
Branson’s UK-based Virgin Enterprises Limited, owns and leases over 2000 “Virgin” trademarks. In February 2010 they extended their Australian reach by trademarking the Virgin Australia name. They listed company activities in over 200 categories including air travel, seating reservation, loyalty programmes, passenger lounges, package tours, promotion of sport events, limousine hire, freight services, in-flight entertainment and airport parking.
As noted above, Victorian based Virgin Australia Pty Limited- an adult-entertainment-turned-book-accessories company – was forced to legally change its name and relinquish any association they claimed to the Virgin brand. They were forced to hand over the control of VirginAustralia.com.au to Virgin Enterprises.
Not everybody takes Virgin Blue’s side. Here’s some audio (only) from an Australian news program supporting the previous name owner. Video will come soon.
February 28th 2010 : Twitter handle @VirginAustralia
The previously suspended Twitter account, @VirginAustralia, came back to life on the 28th April. It’s likely that – assuming the carrier adopts the Virgin Australia name – this account is serving as a holder to replace the existing @VirginBlue handle. Either that or it’s just another means of Virgin Enterprises guarding its brand.
As of today, the @VirginAustralia Twitter account is following Hootsuite, a piece of software used for sharing an account between multiple people. Coincidentally, Hootsuite is the choice of software currently used by the Virgin social media team, and following the developer’s Twitter account is actioned by default when setting up new accounts. It is odd that they would even choose to manage this handle since they can easily port their new name to their existing account.
April 3rd : A330 Economy Seating
In what we can only believe was in error, Virgin Blue posted an image of their A330 Y-class seating to their website. The leather seats feature a red and purple band around the inner portion of the headrest. Interestingly, the photo was initially unbranded but a small snippet of text was added shortly after the airline tragics of the country found it. Virgin Blue later removed the picture entirely. The image does, however, further strengthen the belief that the aircraft will also feature a red and purple livery.
The business class seating was previously made available but the response from aviation media was less than flattering. They found little motivation for frequent business passengers to switch carriers.
29th April : Booking engine failure
In what has to be the biggest giveaway yet (assuming the screen capture is legitimate) was the failure of a Virgin Blue IT System (fancy that?) that rendered “Operated by Virgin Australia” on the booking screen. Interestingly, this screen capture was for an international flight. Many industry commentators are speculating that V Australia will retain its name until the long running fued with Singapore Airlines preventing the name to be carried internationally is resolved.
3rd May 2011 : Virgin Australia Eve
The Virgin Blue social media team decided to taunt their Facebook fans with some so-called images of the new A330.
4rd May 2011 9am : Sydney Airport, Australia
Keep and eye out for our Twitter hashtag of #NewVirgin (which will be used by at least a few in attendance at the media event).
At this point in time, nobody has any real evidence of what we’ll see this morning.