Simon Calder: Will Thomas Cook's new look entice you to book?

The man who pays his way

Choosing a logo for a travel company is easy. Just ask Stelios. When he invented a low-cost airline in 1995, the entrepreneur plucked a colour that nobody "owned", the garish orange known as Pantone 021C. (The first beneficiary of his choice was the Milton Keynes branch of Benetton, the closest stockist to Luton airport of industrial quantities of orange garb for the cabin crew.) He found a banal font, presumably among a pile of discarded typefaces that did not deserve to see out the Eighties. The name "easyJet" was duly slapped on the side of a plane, along with a telephone number; older readers may recall that was originally the only way to book a no-frills flight.

Today, the orange glares out artlessly from more than 200 planes at airports across Europe. Who cares? Travellers have learned to equate the easyJet brand with safe and affordable air travel.

Different airline, similar story: were you to start a pan-European airline with domestic networks in countries as diverse as Spain and Poland, you might seek a name cleverer than bolting the traditional aviation suffix on to the founder's surname. But Ryanair seems to work, even if the brand brings with it a certain amount of excess baggage among those who dislike its business practices.

Neither company has one-sixth the heritage of Thomas Cook. When the pioneering tour operator began sending Brits abroad in 1855, the slogan "Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it" didn't exist – because there was no other realistic way to book a Continental journey other than with the enterprising Mr Cook. While he was helping Victorian adventurers to extend their horizons, I suspect he did not spend too long fretting about a brand that reflected "values of trust, personalisation and innovation, and an approach that is high-tech and high-touch across all customer touch points".

The current custodians of the most resilient brand in travel do, though. This week the Thomas Cook Group unveiled the next stage in its journey back from the edge of a financial abyss: a new corporate identity known as the "Sunny Heart". At first sight, it looks as though the Thomas Cook logo is a modification of the cardiac diagram on NHS donor cards. But the chubby golden "V" is not new. It was created by the Swedish design firm Happy F&B (now there's a bizarre brand) for Cook's Nordic subsidiary, Ving – slogan: "Holiday is where the Heart is."

Cook's blue and gold globe emblem was one of the most handsome and enduring in travel. Why ditch it in favour of a symbol that has no overt meaning and, inconveniently, even has topological echoes of its arch-rival's "Thomson smile"? According to the firm, "The new, unified brand captures the essence of Thomas Cook: how it delivers inspiring personal journeys as the trusted pioneer in global travel." Oh.

Fifty shades of play

Thomas Cook knows all about rebranding disasters, because a decade ago it ignominiously abandoned the worst new corporate look of the 21st century. The start of the new millennium was just the time when the traditional holiday companies should have been countering no-frills airlines by encouraging customers to place more importance on rock-solid reputation. Operators also needed to convince us that the value of a package holiday was greater than the sum of its parts. So, what did Thomas Cook do? It decided to disguise its noble heritage and rebranded all its holidays as "JMC"– the initials of the founder's son, John Mason Cook, a figure who does not much trouble travel historians. Then, just as the loyal Thomas Cook customer was trying to make sense of the new lime-green look, it promised JMC would "unwrap the package holiday piece by piece". Which was just what the low-cost carriers were busy doing.

According to Thomas Cook, though, the new design sells more holidays: "Having already piloted the brand unification approach in its North European businesses, there is evidence that the approach increases both early bookings and online bookings."

Thomas Cook (the organisation, not the visionary) is keen to tell us that the new logo is "leveraging the combined strength of the Group to maximise the Group's presence in the mind of customers". As the northern skies darken into 50 shades of grey, a logo embracing the spectrum from cream to blood orange provides 50 shades of play and a welcome dollop of sunshine on the High Street. No doubt great marketing minds have deduced it will spur sales in Stockport, just as it has in Stockholm. We shall see.

Let's let the slogan go

The company's decision to erase the trusty "Don't just book it …" tag is puzzling. It was a robust reminder of Thomas Cook's heritage. And it was original. Thomson once flattered its rival by echoing Cook's line with the short-lived slogan: "If Thomson don't do it, don't do it."

Thomas Cook has apparently borrowed the term "Let's go" from a Boston-based guidebook firm, which boasts: "With pen and notebook in hand and a few changes of underwear stuffed in our backpacks, we spend months roaming the globe in search of the best deals and hotspots for young, adventurous travellers". That might mirror the method and mission of The Independent's travel desk, but it is not traditional Thomas Cook territory (except, perhaps, for its Club 18-30 brand). And Stelios may not be impressed at seeing such a close relation to the "Let's fly" message that he devised for easyJet.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager (FP&A) - Surrey - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful leisure company is seek...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionist, Bar and Waiter / Waitress & Housekeeping

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The positions above are available either part ...

    Guru Careers: Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager

    £25K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager ...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food