Going Deeper Than The Buzz: Will Boeing or Airbus Capture the Future of the Sky?

Sili Yan

New York Office

This year’s Farnborough International Airshow gave us a peek into what the future of aviation will look like. With more than 1500 exhibitors, the world’s largest biennial aviation event offered a stage for reimagining the future of the sky by displaying the most cutting-edge technologies of the aerospace industry. It came as no surprise to see the long-standing competition between Boeing and Airbus on display yet again. Boeing proclaimed that “the future is built here” and shared its hypersonic airplane concepts and models, while Airbus ushered in its “new season of flight” by unveiling solar-powered drones and advancing into the unmanned vehicle field.

Without a doubt, Boeing and Airbus were the most high-profile companies at the Airshow, and neither of them disappointed audiences and investors. But the question emerged: which company is better positioned to capture the future of sky? Above and beyond their technologies and aircrafts, let’s consider the two giants’ strengths and weaknesses using the 4 Facets of Brand Positioning- an effective way to forecast a brand’s future direction. 

Truth: Industry Authority vs Pioneering Spirit

Boeing, an American multinational company with more than a century of history in leading commercial aircrafts, defense, space and security systems, has established itself as the foremost authority in the aerospace industry. No company could shake Boeing’s authoritative status until Airbus came on the scene in 1970 in Europe.

Since its first commercial aircraft A300 launched in 1974, Airbus has continued to prove its strong capabilities in innovation and design. With the aim of providing a better flight experience and reducing environmental impact, Airbus brought commercial aircraft into a new era of advanced automation, digitalization and eco-efficiency. Despite having less history and experience than Boeing, Airbus has been apioneering force in designing, manufacturing and delivering aerospace products, services and solutions to customers on a global scale.

Vision: An All-Around Leadership Status vs A Better World

According to its brand statement, Boeing aspires to be the “best in aerospace” and the “enduring global industrial champion” by connecting, protecting, exploring and inspiring the world in order to achieve its goals of being the market leader, accelerating innovation, having top performance and returns, building the best talents and teams, and providing excellent design and manufacturing services by 2025 – in a nutshell, an all-around leadership status in aerospace.

On the other hand, Airbus aspires to build a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world with the continuous spirit of innovation and design. The vision for 2050, as it states, will be to continually focus on designing concepts of better flight experiences, eco-efficiency, digitalization, and entering international markets.

Universe: The Mind of an Engineer vs The Comfort Up In the Air

Let’s try to imagine ourselves on a flight journey. As a pilot, you notice that the layout of the instruments is cleaner in an Airbus aircraft and rely on autopilot system more. Whereas in a Boeing plane, you operate on instruments that are more complex and require more manual inputs. As reflected by their brand campaigns and videos, engineering and leadership are the primary concerns for the Boeing brand with technicality, human input, and mechanical detail behind the scene. Airbus, on the other hand, emphasizes the enjoyable and automated flying experience for both pilots and passengers - a sense of speed, lightness, and comfort. 

Boeing 757, 1983 Ad

Airbus Campaign, 2018

Personality: The Experienced Master vs The Innovative Prodigy

With its rich history dating back to the 20th century, Boeing came to be one of the recognized brands in the sky. As the industry veteran with over 100 years of experience in aircraft engineering and manufacturing, Boeing has always portrayed itself as the ruler in the industry with established leadership and ambition to be the best. As a relatively new comer, being founded in the 1970s, Airbus is the child prodigy who surged right on to the scene to become a worthy contender to Boeing. Airbus is the innovative creator who focuses on aircraft innovation and design and aims to make the aircrafts more efficient to fly and the in-flight experience more comfortable for the passengers. Although Airbus now holds 28% of the market share compared to Boeing’s 38%, the competition will become a lot fiercer in the future. According to projections, the young prodigy is going to command 36% to Boeing’s 40% by 2025. 

Conclusion: The Best of Both Worlds

The competition between Boeing and Airbus will not end anytime soon. From a branding perspective, rather than saying which brand is better positioned for the future, it is better to say that the two brands complement each other. The Boeing brand delivers scale, leadership, engineering, and safety, whereas the Airbus brand advances innovation, comfortability, and sustainability. Above and beyond the standard 4 key concepts that underpin the airline industry - electronic planes, unmanned aerial vehicle, hypersonic airplanes, and better flying experiences - new players like SpaceX and Blue Origin are taking it even further by reimagining the reach of humans, going as far to promise the commercialization of space travel in the near future. For the commercial aerospace industry, the company that is most successful in continuously bringing both technological and brand innovations will be the one that rises to the top as the pilot in command.

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