Food service on airlines may be disappearing, but food names on airlines are thriving, thank you very much. South Africa has Mango Airlines*, India has SpiceJet, and Japan has Peach, which I wrote about in 2011.
Now another Japanese airline is raiding the pantry. AirAsia Japan, which is wholly owned by ANA, the country’s second-largest air carrier, has been rebranded as Vanilla Airlines. (Or possibly Vanilla Air. Reports are inconsistent.)
To a speaker of idiomatic English, “Vanilla Air” may suggest a plain, nothing-special approach to in-flight amenities.** But that’s not how Japanese speakers perceive it, according to a report in Campaign Asia (all punctuation sic):
While the ‘vanilla’ is synonymous with ‘safe and boring’ in the English-speaking part of the world, it’s nothing of the sort to Japanese says McCann Worldgroup senior strategic planner, Sakura Irie. “The brand is clearly targeting young Japanese travellers so what it means in English, does not really matter.
“In Japan, vanilla does not have any connotation of being boring or bland – and the overall impression of the word is very positive. It is accessible, likable and familiar. Moreover, it gives the impression of being ‘pure and innocent’ and ‘kawaii’ – which means a lot more than ‘cute,’ it’s the feeling of emotional excitement, endearment and desire to be a part of or to own,” she continued. “It’s an interesting and in fact, very Japanese choice, I thought.”
No mention of whether Japanese speakers will struggle with the pronunciation of the L phoneme, which is virtually identical to R in Japanese.
AirAsia worked with “several” agencies on the rebranding, according to a Bloomberg.com report. Much is made in the press coverage of the report that AirAsia “sifted through” a list of 200 names, as if that number were astronomical and newsworthy. (The runner-up names were not disclosed. Spearmint? Cinnamon? Oregano?) In my professional experience, 200 names is a modest number to be developed for a major rebranding. I have to wonder, though, about the wisdom of presenting the client with that many names. That must have been one very long conference call.
But here’s a happy thought: Aren’t you looking forward to the merger of Peach and Vanilla? Mmm, swirly goodness.
* OK for man, but how does woman go?
** Or a cheap drugstore fragrance for teen girls.