JetBlue and the power of the rebrand - Monocolumn | Monocle


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7 April 2010

Long before nations ranging from Britain to New Zealand got into the rebranding business there was I Love New York – the seminal slab serif logo devised by legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser back in 1977. Instantly identifiable via its ruby red heart symbol and typewriter-style font, Glaser’s graphic has remained perhaps the best destination-branding effort in the history of an increasingly crowded genre. 

Now, I Love New York – which was actually developed to promote all of New York State, not just New York City – is entering into a new era of civil service. Late last month, low-cost airline JetBlue was awarded I Love New York’s first-ever corporate licence as part of a comprehensive incentive package to keep the carrier based in the Empire State. 

The deal, which includes some $30m (€22m) in city and state tax breaks, will ensure JetBlue remains in New York after the lease on its current Queens headquarters expires in 2012. Over the past year, the airline had publicly flirted with relocating their entire Tri-State operation to a new base in Orlando, FL – taking almost 1,000 workers with them during this crucial period of job scarcity. 

Beyond the lost jobs, the move would have been a serious symbolic blow to New York. Over the past decade, JetBlue has become JFK’s largest airline – flying 42 per cent of the airport’s passengers from its sleek, new $743m (€553m) terminal. “Thirty years ago, almost every major airline had their headquarters here, but today JetBlue is the only US carrier still based at JFK,” observes Peter Davidson, Executive Director of Empire State Development (ESD), which promotes New York State tourism and development. Most crucially, Davidson adds, JetBlue is the only major JFK carrier to serve important upstate New York cities such as Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo.

But JetBlue is staying put; or – more accurately – shifting its entire operation to a 200,000 sq ft former automobile factory in Long Island City over the next two years. By then JetBlue’s I Love New York campaign will be in full swing. Although the scheme’s specifics are still to be determined, JetBlue is certain to festoon its fuselages with the I Love New York logo. ESD’s Davidson says an I Love New York-themed television campaign is also in development promoting New York State – with the resulting commercials slated for screening on JetBlue’s entire network. 

It’s all part of his effort to convince visitors to New York City to venture beyond its famous five boroughs to the rest of the State – destinations (conveniently) served by JetBlue. “New York City gets 50 million visitors a year,” he says. “We’d love to get even five per cent to extend their trips.”

Although additional branding opportunities are still in development, for the moment JetBlue appears happy to simply have scored the sacred logo. “I Love New York is the most celebrated piece of graphic design there is,” says JetBlue Director of Brand and Advertising Fiona Morrisson. “We could not have invented a more ideal message if we’d tried.”

As for Milton Glaser himself, rather than lament his logo’s corporate co-opting, he’s rather pleased that I Love New York remains so well loved almost 35 years after he developed it. “This was supposed to be some little six or eight-week advertising run,” muses the designer, still at work in his Murray Hill studio. “Who knew it would be so durable for all these years.”


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