The dust that’s settled over Italy’s national carrier, Alitalia, is soon to be shaken off after the airline announced a new business strategy, backed by Etihad Airways, that’s set to revitalise this once loved brand.


Italy has always had so much allure, style and richness as a nation. Yet, its flagship airline Alitalia, has gone from scandal to scandal, with leadership changes, looming bankruptcy, and several changes to its shareholder structure in the past decade. As a result, customers saw the quality of service decline, directly impacting sales at a time where competition was rife in the sector, with airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways developing new services.

Through this new business strategy, it’s clear that Alitalia needs to differentiate itself from the competition and its biggest asset might just be its Italianess - la dolce vita and all those wonderful, whole-hearted Italian values. Just think back to the days of drinking a perfectly mixed Negroni, and the smell of fresh Italian bread being distributed in the aisles of the plane. It goes without saying that the brand experience needs to be at the heart of this transformation.

To bring this to life, the changes to the business will need to follow a ‘three-hub’ strategy, a customer centric brand experience approach, new livery and an increase in transatlantic and Asian flights. The connection with Abu Dhabi will also play a vital role in the airline’s renaissance. However, ‘rebranding’ might be just the word that will revive Alitalia along with creating a better brand experience for consumers, ensuring it delivers the Italianess to other parts of the world. Alitalia could quite easily bring brand Italy to Asia, and to the Middle East.

As a parallel, Peroni was previously a mainstream Italian beer brand, which was repositioned after extensive research. As part of the brand refresh, Brand Union created and coordinated a look and feel across the Peroni range that is authentic, Italian and timeless. The packaging maintained its heritage feel, but subtly introduced cleaner, modern lines. Peroni became an embodiment of Italy, curating special events around Italian culture, such as the Peroni House in London.

In a similar way, Alitalia should be rebuilding its brand, taking into consideration the wealth of Italy’s heritage, culture, and contemporary design through redefining what it stands for and what it wishes to bring to a savvy traveling generation at every single touchpoint.

National carrier brands, whether they intend to or not, represent a country. Quite simply put, they act as an ambassador for the country, and arguably, unlike a beer brand, the notion of being a country representative is something that’s naturally attached to an airline. Futhermore, it’s the airline’s job to leverage this association rather than work on creating it. With Peroni, the association was something that had to be created in an international market.

Having said that, leveraging this association is not so easy. Not only do we have to take into account design and branding, but also in the customer experience as well as political, religious, social and cultural factors.

However, it’s not impossible. South African Airways is a perfect example of how an airline can rebrand successfully by placing the county’s culture and heritage at the centre of the campaign. The new brand positioning was about bringing the world to Africa and Africa to the world. The rebrand managed to get consumers to reassess their view of Africa as the ‘lost continent’ to a far more relevant and alluring travel destination. It was vital for South African Airways to be seen as an African brand rather than just an extension of the tourism board. Every touchpoint of the customer journey was carefully looked at and tailored to deliver an authentic and vibrant experience of African culture.

Matching up the experience of the Italian carrier with its overarching strategy will be key here for Alitalia’s future success.

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