United touts diversity and sustainability in its first brand campaign since 2013
May 16, 2022
By Jeff Beer, Fast Company
Last week, United Airlines announced its latest sustainable aviation fuel venture (SAF), a fuel type that can be made from feedstocks, such as solid waste, municipal trash, and forestry residue. The airline has committed to buying up to 52.5 million gallons to use toward every flight departing from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport over the next three years.
Today, United is launching a new brand campaign called “Good Leads The Way” to hype its fuel innovation, as well as its diversity, customer service, and safety record, leaning into a decidedly purpose-based message.
Created with agency 72andsunny, it’s the airline’s first major brand campaign since 2013. Kicking off with an “aw shucks,” inside-the-ad-process approach, we get an airline story told in the form of a pitch, bouncing from snapshots of runway employees to flight attendants to pilots to customers, all smiles and high fives, all “on a mission to do good in the air and beyond.”
United’s chief communications officer, Josh Earnest, says “Good Leads The Way” is more than a tagline, but guided by the company’s values to do the right thing.
“United was the first to prioritize safety with mask mandates and required employee vaccinations, first to make historic investments in sustainable aviation fuel to fight climate change, first to get rid of change fees, and first to remove barriers to pilot training for women and people of color,” says Earnest. “Each of these actions underscores how United is committed to doing the right thing, even when it is hard. And United is determined to lead—not just within our industry, but among the world’s largest and most recognizable brands.”
Beyond the main ad, there are a handful of more targeted messages, including “Trash to Jet Fuel.” It’s a bold positioning, in particular the sustainability ambitions given the inherent challenges in the airline industry. Despite SAV investment, and a commitment to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050, flying just isn’t all that energy efficient. By 2050, for example, the United Nations actually expects airplane emissions of carbon dioxide to triple.
72andsunny executive creative director Lauren Smith says it was about time the marketing caught up to everything the brand was doing to differentiate itself. “‘Good Leads The Way’ is a powerful articulation of this brand mission, but also as an ambition to elevate above the airline industry [and take] leadership roles in sustainability and diversity. It’s about having an unwavering commitment to continue to do good.”