Airbus Branding: How Airbus Rebranded to Improve Their Image

Branding is a focus of this month’s Business Alabama, and we need look no further than Airbus Group for a lesson in the science of getting customers to love your book’s cover.

The European weapons and aircraft manufacturer formerly known as EADS announced its rebranding last summer, in a bid to improve its corporate image. Shareholders approved the name change in May, matching the company’s legal title to its flagship brand.

Allan McArtor, chairman and chief executive of Airbus Group Inc., the U.S. unit of the European company, sounded almost relieved in a June interview with Reuters at the AIAA Aviation and Aeronautics Forum in Atlanta. American customers, especially in the District of Columbia, didn’t go for the old brand.

“To be truthful, it was very difficult to explain European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS), ” he said. “It’s hard to build confidence in that brand.”

The rebranding of military units to Airbus Defense and Space and Airbus Helicopters has helped improve the image of the defense operations, McArtor said. “We think that we’ll be able to tell a better story and create and maintain the confidence of the government customers for our products.”

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McArtor said Airbus is still looking to expand its share of the U.S. defense market by selling its helicopters, explosive detection technologies and other products.

The company is building its first U.S. assembly line in Mobile for the A320 family of narrow-body commercial aircraft. That facility is expected to employ about 1, 000 people and deliver its first plane to JetBlue in 2016.

McArtor said the Mobile plant is still expected to produce four planes a month by 2017. He cited the ability to ramp up production to eight planes a month, but said that decision would be market-driven.

Airlines “are probably not buying our airplane because of Mobile, but they love the idea of taking delivery from Mobile, ” McArtor said, citing feedback from Delta and JetBlue.

Text by Dave Helms

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