The recent and popular BBC 2 documentary series “British Airways: A Very British Airline” which looks behind the scenes of one of the UK’s most visible brands, has resulted in a renewed interest in this company. Arguably, this increased interest in the corporate heritage of British Airways is partly owed to the research by our very own Professor John MT Balmer, a leading corporate heritage scholar and Director for the Marketing and Corporate Brand Management Group in Brunel Business School. Professor Balmer is known for his scholarship on the British Airways Corporate Brand, and his article in the California Management Review has emphasised the airline’s heritage.
Professor Balmer reflected,
My interest in British Airways dates back to the early 1990s. I was most fortunate to get to know Lord King and Lord Marshall who, respectively, as President and CEO of BA turned around the state owned legacy carrier, which had the nickname B….y Awful, to a profitable and customer-focused British brand. Lord Marshall was a key note speaker when I brought the international corporate identity group symposium to Brunel University in the late 1990s. It was striking how British Airways began to celebrate its heritage in its corporate positioning and corporate communications after the publication of the lead California Management Review article. To me, the link and the impact of our research are clear.
Professor Balmer’s article “Aligning identity and strategy: Corporate branding at British Airways in the late 20th century” (California Management Review, 51(3), 6 – 23, 2009) explains the utility of adopting an identity-based view of the corporation, which underpins a diagnostic tool of identity management outlined in this article. Using British Airways as an extensive case history, it examines and analyses how British Airways’ senior executives have intuitively adopted an identity-based perspective as part of the strategic management of the carrier. The analysis is corroborated by insights from the former CEO of British Airways, Lord Marshall, as well as his predecessor, Lord King. The overriding message is that calibrating the multiple identities of the corporation is a critical dimension of strategic management.