After nearly 20 years, Cebu Pacific is undergoing a makeover. “The new branding is an evolution of the old one,” explains Candice Alabanza-Iyog, the airline’s Vice-President for Marketing and Distribution. “So it’s built on the same values the airline as founded on, but better reflects our mission.”
To get a full sense of this mission, you’ll need to hear a bit of backstory, and current airline CEO Lance Gokongwei is more than happy to share Cebu Pacific’s amazing journey, from being “the little airline that could” in the late 1990s, to becoming most people’s go-to airline in the Philippines in just under 20 years. “It all began with a dream my father [industrialist John Gokongwei] had,” he explains. “He wanted to serve the vast majority of the traveling public in the Philippines. There was an apparent need for more affordable flights, and he wanted to address that.”
Twenty years ago, air travel in the Philippines seemed to be a luxury exclusive to those who could afford the often hefty price tag. When Cebu Pacific arrived on the scene as the first low-cost carrier in the Philippines and in all of Asia, it offered low fares all year round, plus regular promotions that saw rates dive to as low as PHP1. The airline was a game-changer as soon as it took flight. “Apart from making necessary travel possible where it wasn’t before, the airline also enabled people to act on their wanderlust,” says. “It allowed you to travel for fun without breaking the bank.”
A frequent flier recalls feeling the collective excitement as the airline’s domestic network grew and, along with it, the possibilities for adventure. “All of a sudden we were booking flights to places we’d only vaguely heard of,” she says. “We didn’t have to spend long weekends prowling one mall after another. We were making travel checklists.” By the time the airline announced its first suite of international destinations, travel madness had all but gripped the country.
One of its first catchy taglines — “It’s time every Juan flies”, a clever play on words using the local nickname for the everyman — pretty much summed up what the airline was all about: it was fun, it was affordable, and it was on a mission to make air travel accessible for more Filipinos. Over the years, variations on this tagline reflected the airline’s growing size and capability — “How long can Juan go?”, for example, bannered announcements for long-haul flights to the Middle East — while its determinedly pun-filled slogans for each new destination affirmed its commitment to keeping it fun and casual. To this day, one passenger remembers the opening of more doors to China, and the world, by the memorably hilarious “Xiamen, shimmering, splendid” (if you’re clueless about what that alludes to, look up the hit song from Disney’s Aladdin).
Today, Cebu Pacific is the largest airline operating in the Philippines, reaching more airports across the archipelago with unparalleled frequency. This expanded network to the has not only given more Filipinos access to the wider world, but it has also provided travelers from around the world greater access to the Philippines. “When visitors come to the Philippines, it’s helpful for them to see such a vast menu of options for where to go, options that the airline makes possible for them,” says Candice. “Cebu Pacific has made the world smaller for Filpinos, and has made the Philippines bigger for all who come to visit.”
To drive home the point of this new positioning as a global Filipino airline, the company enlisted the help of Bonsey Design, a Singapore-based-brand consultancy with offices in Manila, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
“The airline has grown up, so to speak,” says Jonathan Bonsey, creative and managing director of Bonsey Design. “The fleet has grown, new and modern aircraft have been added to the fleet, and the international network is extensive. The challenge was: how do we present this new bigger and better airline, Cebu Pacific 2.0?”
The first order of business was to give the logo a more contemporary and dynamic feel, while communicating the idea of the airline as a kind of ambassador for the country on the world stage. The eagle now looks “friendlier and more approachable” but it’s also sleeker, conveying a greater sense of purpose and energy.
“When you think of the Philippines, you think of the blue sea and sky, and lush green islands,” explains Jonathan. “So all these colors of the country are reflected in the brand. And then there’s sunshine yellow. By and large, Cebu Pacific is a yellow airline – when you step into the airport for your Cebu Pacific flight, it’s the color you look for – so while it’s not in the logo itself, it will frame most of the airline’s visual communications.”
The rebranding exercise is expected to roll out in phases over the next year – encompassing everything from crew uniforms to aircraft livery – and will extend into systems to greatly improve the traveler experience. Now you can look forward to more from your favorite island, and to more of the Philippines.
Also read: CEB’s new cabin crew uniforms — revealed!
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Smile magazine.