Boeing outlines multiyear brand transformation

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Chicago--Settling into its new Chicago corporate headquarters, The Boeing Co. is starting to talk more openly about its multiyear brand transformation and its work with Interpublic's Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, the agency that won the Boeing account--reported to be $70 million--in November.

During a luncheon keynote address Wednesday before the Chicago chapter of the Business Marketing Association, Anne Toulouse, VP-brand management and advertising at Boeing, revealed a few details about how the world's leading aerospace company ($58 billion in annual sales) is conducting its brand repositioning. The goal, she said, is to translate the substantial brand equity Boeing enjoys with its commercial airplane business to its six major units: air traffic management, Boeing Capital Corp., commercial aircraft, Connexion by Boeing, military aircraft and missile systems, and space and communications.

Toulouse said a 1992 study showed Boeing risked "loosing relevance" because its identity was tied to the modestly growing commercial airline sector. "Our image was fairly consistent but fairly fuzzy," said Toulouse, whose five-person group seeks to create a common brand theme for Boeing's various operating units. As recently as 1999, Toulouse admitted, senior Boeing officials scoffed at the notion that the company had a brand. "But they're seeing the power of brand [now]," she said.

Toulouse said the company's brand strategy had not been affected by recent events, notably the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which involved Boeing jets, and the loss of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which the government awarded to competitor Lockheed Martin last fall.

Mark Carlson, VP-management director with FCB Chicago, who joined Toulouse at the podium, indicated one challenge faced by FCB was creating an "impactful and sophisticated" ad campaign that would work across many audience segments. For instance, the recently launched "Forever New Frontiers" TV and print campaign pushes heavily on the emotional side, featuring rising suns, clouds and soaring birds. Commercial jets are not the centerpieces of these ads, even for a print ad focusing on air freight.

--Ellis Booker

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