In The Works: Branding Boom

 - May 7, 2008, 4:37 AM

When the going gets tough, marketing departments heat up their branding irons. Or so it seemed at the 55th NBAA Annual Meeting and Convention in Orlando, Fla., last month. No   fewer than three major business aircraft manufacturers announced new or reinvigorated brands for at least one of their offerings (see full stories elsewhere in this issue). The moves were as much a reaction to the wishy-washy U.S. economy as they were a reflection of the difficulties of melding diverse product lines after acquisitions.

In number of models renamed, Gulfstream Aerospace (for the past three years a General Dynamics company) led the pack, reformatting its pre-NBAA product line from four to seven. Two of the four include the former IAI/Galaxy Aerospace jets, the Astra SPX and Galaxy, which Gulfstream renamed the G100 and G200, respectively, shortly after acquiring their type certificates in June 1999. The other two “old” brands were the familiar GIV/GIV-SP and GV/GV-SP. The five “new” jets include the G150 (the G100 with a wider cabin, listed on the chart below), and the G300, G400, G500 and G550. “After the 500th GIV is produced,” Bill Boisture, Gulfstream president, explained at NBAA, “the GIV will become the G300 and G400.” Similarly, after the 200th GV, the model will split into the G500 and G550 (with the G550 being the former GV-SP and the G500 somewhat less). Gulfstream realizes the
G-hundred designations will take time for the industry to accept, but Boisture said he is confident the retention of the “Gulfstream” brand will help ease the transition.

Bombardier renamed only one model at NBAA, the Continental, which is now the Challenger 300. Like Gulfstream, the reasoning behind the change was pure marketing, not technology. A “brand audit,” conducted over the past year, showed that industry people think of the Continental in the same way they think of Bombardier’s Challengers, even though technically the Continental is more a hybrid of the Challenger and Learjet product lines, both of which were acquired by Bombardier. As a result, Bombardier is grouping its business jet products into three nameplates: Learjet, Challenger and Global. By the way, this wasn’t the first time Bombardier has renamed the Continental. Shortly before the jet’s official launch at NBAA 1998, Bombardier was calling it the Continental All Business Jet. Apparently, someone recognized that the acronym CABJ, when pronounced as a single word, was not very flattering. So, “All Business” was dropped. Later, the company referred to the model as simply the Continental.

Raytheon Aircraft Corp. (RAC) reached back to its roots in its renaming, pumping new life into the Beechcraft brand while at the same time reinvigorating the Hawker nameplate (Raytheon Co. bought Beech Aircraft in 1980 and acquired the Hawker family from British Aerospace in 1993). Now grouped under the Beechcraft name are the Premier I (and possible future derivatives), Beechjet 400A, the King Air turboprops and the Baron and Bonanza piston airplanes. The Hawker line of business jets encompasses the Hawker 800XP, the Hawker Horizon and, if launched, the Hawker 450. Besides the marketing boost, RAC insists that the reorganization is intended to “provide our customers with an enhanced delivery experience and with more tailored customer support.”