Brand identity refers to how a brand wants to be perceived by its customers. This is constructed using brand elements such as logo, slogan, characters, communication tools, and an overall marketing strategy. On the other hand, the brand image is how customers actually perceive the brand.

To explain these concepts, let’s take a look at some of the companies that compete in the airline industry. Firstly we will perform a brief brand identity analysis, second a market positioning according to experts, and third check customer online feedback.

For example lets look at the four companies with the highest market share in domestic flights in the United States: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest, and United Airlines.  

Brand identity analysis

For brand identity, lets look at how these brands define themselves:

American Airlines

  • Slogan or key phrases: You are why we fly, used both as a message and as a hashtag in social media. Also, during Covid-19 the hashtag #LetGoodTakeFlight for any content related to the company’s efforts during the crisis.
  • Values: The governance report mentions respect, transparency, honesty, security, and integrity.

Delta Airlines

  • Slogan or key phrases: Keep climbing together is their current general brand slogan; a safer travel experience is a key message on their website.
  • Values: As written in their company website, “Honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance, and servant leadership – every day, in everything we do.”

Southwest Airlines

  • Slogan: Southwest Heart.
  • Brand promise during covid-19: “Enhanced cleaning, physical-distancing measures, and equipped Employees.”
  • Values: The three values are efficiency, discipline, and excellence. Also, according to their careers site, the three vital elements of their culture are appreciation, recognition, and celebration.
  • Purpose: “Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.”
  • Vision: “To be the world’s most loved, most efficient, and most profitable airline.”

United Airlines

  • Slogan or key messages: United together as the slogan, another key message in their website is “You’re the reason we fly”
  • Values: The highest standards of safety and reliability, friendly, respect, honesty, empathy, excellence.
  • Purpose: As written in their website hub, “Every day, we help unite the world by connecting people to the moments that matter most. This shared purpose drives us to be the best airline for our employees, customers, and everyone we serve.”

Market brand positioning analysis

Subsequently, in our analysis, we will place each company according to the ratings of professionals on price and quality.

Firstly I’m using WalletHub’s rating on pricing based on revenue per available seat mile. Secondly, for quality, I will be using The Wall Street Journal’s ranking of best and worst airlines in 2019.

Market brand positioning with price and quality airlines in the United States

Based on our analysis American Airlines has the worst quality and second-highest price, Delta has the highest quality and highest price premium, Southwest is the second in quality and price, and finally United scores the worst in quality and the lowest price per mile among the four.

Customer brand image

Meanwhile, for customer perception, I decided to check the trip advisor reviews for each brand, and averaged the last five reviews ratings, and analyzed some of the feedback against the brand identity.  

American Airlines

Average rating: 1.6 out of 5

Above all customers are concerned about the social distancing policy. Certainly, this is problematic for a brand that stands for security, having their customers not feeling safe.

Customer reviews on American Airlines
Customer reviews on American Airlines on Tripadvisor

Delta Airlines

Average rating: 3 out of 5

Customers enjoy the comfort and elegance of the new seats and quality entertainment services. Nevertheless, there is a case of a customer complaint due to mechanical failures causing a delay.

The takeaway, in general, is that customers have taken notice of the investment and dedication that the Delta’s leadership has to improve flight quality, so we can see the brand identity and image closing in.

Customer reviews on Delta Airlines
Customer reviews on Delta Airlines on Tripadvisor

Southwest Airlines

Average rating: 3.4 out of 5

Words like favorite, generous, and accountable sure make it seem that the slogan Southwest Heart is not wasted words. Nonetheless, some customers have negative experiences.

Customer reviews on Southwest Airlines
Customer reviews on Southwest Airlines on Tripadvisor

United Airlines

Average Rating: 1.8 out of 5

United has been famous for scandals, like in 2017 when a passager was yanked off a plane, or recently going against its own social distancing rules.

United claims to be friendly, respectful, and empathetic, however, I feel a clear difference between their brand identity and brand image.

Customer reviews on United Airlines on Tripadvisor


To conclude I hope the airline’s case explains the idea of the value of having your brand identity consistent with your brand image. Therefore, marketers should strive to communicate effectively and make sure your brand is loyal to itself.

What is your opinion of these airlines, do you think their brand identity matches their brand image? Leave your opinion in the comment section.

Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz on Unsplash