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United launches new brand campaign as it seeks to shake final vestiges of troublesome 2010s

May 16, 2022
4 min read
United launches new brand campaign as it seeks to shake final vestiges of troublesome 2010s
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United Airlines is gearing up for a major ad campaign with a new message: "Good Leads The Way."

United plans to launch the campaign on Monday as part of an effort to frame itself as an industry leader and innovator as travel demand continues to roar back from the COVID-19 pandemic and as the airline looks to a busy decade ahead that will feature a fleet renewal and refresh — part of its "United Next" plan — alongside growing sustainability goals.

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The campaign also comes as United looks to shrug off the final remnants of the major reputational hit it endured throughout the 2010s, with complaints about customer experience following the 2010 merger with Continental, and multiple scandals contributing to difficulties and a leadership shuffle.

It's a turnaround that's taken years of work and been a substantial goal of the airline's leadership, United's chief financial officer Gerry Laderman said during a recent event at the Wings Club in New York City (before the new campaign was announced).

"It starts with the culture, and over the last five, six years, that's really been the focus," Laderman said. "What we needed to do as a leadership team was to regain the trust of our employees and our customers. And if you regain the trust of your employees in the service industry, you regain the trust of the customer."

Now, the "Good Leads The Way" campaign — which was developed with creative agency 72andSunny — focuses on several different areas, including a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the company's early-career pilot recruiting, sustainability efforts, its vaccine requirements during the pandemic and, crucially, its current customer service and passenger experience features.

The airline and agency created over 150 pieces of content, a representative said, including television and digital ads, social media content, banners and more.

Among passenger experience-focused ads, the airline highlighted its new "United Next" interiors which the airline says will feature enough overhead space for every passenger to bring a carry-on bag, as well as its "Connection Saver" program and its policy eliminating change fees, which United introduced during the pandemic before being followed by American and Delta.

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The campaign also features 32 different employees, a spokesperson said.

In recent years, United has aggressively promoted success stories and communicated customer-friendly moves, enhancing its focus on social media influencers and briefing media frequently ahead of impending announcements.

The broader turnaround effort partly began under former CEO Oscar Munoz, who became CEO in 2015. The momentum has continued under current CEO Scott Kirby, who took the reins in 2020. In 2018, United hired former Obama administration press secretary Josh Earnest as its chief communications officer.

The reputational turnaround, which accelerated during the pandemic, is remarkable considering the previous decade.

While grumblings about United gained steam following the merger with Continental in 2010, a series of episodes later in the decade caused particular hurt to the airline's reputation.

In 2015, then-CEO Jeff Smisek stepped down amid an alleged bribery scandal involving the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Smisek was never charged with wrongdoing, and the Port Authority chairman, David Samson, was convicted of a felony for attempting to coerce United to keep an unprofitable route in place between Newark and South Carolina, where Samson owned a home). Smisek was replaced by Munoz

In 2017, the airline made headlines after a passenger, Dr. David Dao, was injured while being violently removed from an oversold flight from Chicago O'Hare airport. Initial statements by the airline and then-CEO Oscar Munoz were contradicted by eyewitnesses and viral video from the incident.

Related: United CEO blasts FAA, JetBlue and Spirit over Newark flight woes

The following year, the airline was in the news again after a flight attendant allegedly forced a passenger to place a puppy in an airline-compliant carrier into the overhead bin during a flight from Houston (IAH) to LaGuardia (LGA), rather than under the seat in front of her. The dog died during the flight, the second time in a year that a dog traveling with the airline died during a flight after allegedly being mishandled by airline staff.

With the new proactive brand campaign, United seems to be seeking to focus on the future — and its improved standing among its competitors.

Advertisements from the campaign will appear on television and streaming platforms, in airports, aboard aircraft, on social media, and otherwise out in the world on billboards and other static displays.

Featured image by Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.