How not to become Qantas

How not to become Qantas

The implosion of Qantas this week seems to have made plenty of people nostalgic. There was barely an article that didn’t make some mention of the “good old days” when the Qantas brand brought a tear to the eye and ache to the heart for anyone heading home.

Looking at the cold hard reality of things, Qantas hasn’t been that company for many years, probably even decades. The “I Still Call Australia Home” campaign that came to embody that golden time began in the mid-1990s. And since then, through a series of board and management decisions, missteps and mishaps, they have been steadily eroding and squandering the goodwill that campaign signified.

The Qantas brand – that flying kangaroo that everyone loves to wax lyrical about – is long dead. In its place, by virtue of a whole pile of different promises made and kept, is a very different animal.

Nostalgia is a lovely thing – who doesn’t like to look fondly back on good times. But those memories can get in the way and make it easy to confuse what was with what is.

Brands are a result. They evolve. They change in response to the actions and decisions made by the company which in turn are made in response to the environment it operates in.

If you are smart and keep your eye and actions on the things you care about, the brand can change in a measured, deliberate and relevant way. If you don’t, you can be swept up by market forces and before you can click your heels and say “there’s no place like home” your brand is trashed.

It’s no mean feat to hold your centre, to preserve the core while at the same time making the changes you need to stay relevant.

This recent article from Inc. magazine highlights the pitfalls and challenges that befall many as they try to grow and hold on to what made people care about them in the first place.

The lessons for SMEs in the Qantas tale of woe are many, here are a few:

  1. If you don’t show you care about what you care about there is zero chance your customers will care about you.
  2. When appealing to national pride is your (only) competitive advantage, I’d suggest that trying to sell a chunk of your company to international private equity, offshoring big parts of your operations, fighting with your remaining staff and stranding thousands of people are probably not going to help your cause!
  3. Staying relevant is equal parts keeping doing what matters and stopping doing things that don’t – the trick is to know which is what.
  4. Once you turn your product (airline tickets) into a commodity chosen only on price, it is difficult, if not impossible, to go back to a more value-driven approach.
  5. Actions and decisions have consequences far beyond that specific point in time (Stranding thousands to make a point probably seemed like a good idea at the time.) Think well ahead and beyond the immediate of what you are planning to do and you might avoid some nasty consequences.

Happy flying and see you next week.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan


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