The Airline Social Brand Personality Index: Before and After Covid

31st August 2020


Airlines have long been synonymous with progress, internationalism and escaping the grind down below. That, however, was before the turbulence of Covid-19. Far from a being a source of escapism, air travel was thrust to the very forefront of the global struggle, first as a vector of disease and then as the scene of economic devastation.

Premium airlines that had spend decades crafting brand identities geared around luxury and exclusivity all of a sudden faced an uphill struggle: how to persuade the world that air travel was either viable or safe? 

That's why we selected three of the most internationally recognisable airlines in Delta, British Airways and Lufthansa, and analysed them according to our research team's newly developed Social Brand Personality Index. This mode of analysis maps the social conversations that surround a brand onto personality traits and archetypes. How has perception of airline brands been affected?

To arrive at these measurements, Pulsar measure Brand Personality dimensions, following the model laid out in Jennifer Aaker's pioneering 1997 study. These are then mapped onto Carl Jung's Universal Archetypes (1947). 

When used to compare brands within the same category, and carried out over a period of time, these findings provide brands with answers to questions of campaign effectiveness, damage control and competitor benchmarking.

Here's what we discovered. 



The US is currently home to some of the most heated, politicised debates over face coverings. Delta's attitudes to these newly integral pieces of the in-flight experience have therefore set the tone for how it is perceived; post-truth advocates and mainstream commentators differ in their emotional response, but both tend to characterise the airline's enforcement as an archetypical Jungian 'Ruler'. 


British Airways

Job losses and treatment of staff have seen British Airways take a significant hit in their perceived sincerity. Brands which establish strong links with nostalgia, heritage and nationhood, as BA did when making itself the nation's go-to 'Explorer', are disproportionately likely to attract attention and opprobrium both when they falter economically and when they are judged to deal with an issue in an 'improper' way.



The individual customer experience dominates the conversation around Germany's largest airline, with complaints over poor service and the lack of refunds ensuring dips in perceived sincerity, competence and sophistication. 

Delta appears to have withstood damage to its brand better than its European competitors, thanks in large part to the positive noises made around its enforcement of mask wearing. Better, you would think, to be judged an overly strict airline than an incompetent or insincere one.

However, both British Airways and Lufthansa did in fact enforce similar policies, underlining the importance of local context. The same decision, taken in two different places, can have entirely separate impacts on brand perception. 



You can download our full 16-slide presentation, including worksheets, by filling out the form below. To find out more how the Social Brand Personality Index might help your brand, you can book a demo with one of our specialists here.