OPINION: Profile - Flight of fancy - Tyler Brule, Founder, Wallpaper Group

Tyler Brule is well-established as a journalist, publisher and

style guru. But from this week he is officially a marketer. Brule's

Wallpaper magazine was the style bible of the late 1990s. He encouraged

us to varnish our floorboards, embrace digital technology and adopt the

sleek, minimal style of dressing beloved by Prada. Snapped up by Time

Life a few years back, Wallpaper is now a global publishing


And now Brule's Wink Media consultancy has broken into branding big time

by relaunching and redesigning what will be Europe's fourth largest

airline - Swiss. Since its inception in 1998, Wink Media has produced

some advertising and a customer magazine for Selfridges, and come up

with logo and packaging designs for Stella McCartney and Kurt Geiger,

but this project is of a different league.

The consultancy fought off competition from around 40 agencies to win

the lead role in the £22m task of resurrecting Switzerland's

national carrier. Swiss rises out of the ashes of Swissair and its

subsidiary Crossair, which so spectacularly went bankrupt last October.

It will begin flying at the end of March.

Apart from the rather uninspiring paint job on the planes, Wink will be

redesigning the airline's interiors, passenger lounges, web site and

staff uniforms. "The beast becomes bigger everyday," says Brule

excitedly. "We're currently putting together ideas for a customer

magazine and some creative ideas for its advertising."

So how did all this come about? "When I heard about the collapse of

Swissair, I penned an article in a Swiss newspaper decrying the death of

such a great brand. Andre Dose (Crossair's chief executive officer and

now chief executive of Swiss) read it and called me in."

"He recognised that our journalistic background uniquely qualified us

for a task which requires a distinctive point of view and the ability to

work to tight deadlines." Brule says he personally, desperately wanted

the business. Although a Canadian, who developed his journalistic career

in the UK, Brule has often expressed his love for Switzerland, devoting

an entire issue of Wallpaper to the nation last year. He also lives for

travel. "It was a childhood dream to design an airline. Now I want to

make it the world's singular premium travel brand," he says.

Why the rather tame logo then? Would people even notice the difference

from the now defunct Swissair?

"We've just cleaned it up a little. Wallpaper and Wink have always been

based on good solid, basic graphic design. The Swiss flag is a metaphor

and will be used in the advertising. There's a trend to make airline

liveries look like whales in a marine park or something, but this is a

national flag carrier. It's backed by major Swiss corporations like

Nestle and Novartis and we need to restore faith in the


But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the project is its holistic

nature. Wink is getting involved in every aspect of the relaunch, right

down to sourcing the architects for the passenger lounge and the

suppliers of food, wine and cutlery. "The classic design agencies who we

pitched against weren't thinking through the strategy. We realised we

needed to use Swiss suppliers to revamp the airline in every detail.

Swiss is about quality products. And our intelligence network can

identify these people."

When asked about an analogy of a British company that has achieved this

type of holistic, nationalistic brand approach, Brule surprisingly

points to high street stalwart Marks & Spencer. "In the late 1980s and

early 1990s M&S used to have a consistent touch and feel that was

distinctly British and of a high quality. Later on it lost this focus

and lost its way," he says.

Above all Brule is bringing to the project his belief in what he calls

'dependable, democratic design', which may well find resonance in a

polarising airline market. "The low-cost carriers have changed the

business. Swiss isn't going to be budget, so we're concentrating on

service. But while we will give premium passengers more room and choice,

economy passengers will be treated with equal dignity. I want Swiss to

be an adjective for premium air travel."

So after all this brand strategy stuff, does Brule now see himself as a

fully-fledged marketer? "I've never put myself in that camp, but the

airline has started to use me in that way. My involvement is very

strategic and we're closely involved in the marketing


"Tyler brings the most incredibly confident and cultured eye to the

table," says MT Rainey, joint chief executive of Rainey Kelly Campbell

Roalfe/Y&R, who has worked with Brule in the past. "Big companies tend

to be very slow on the future-focused side of things. Tyler is not

data-driven and doesn't rely on the usual laborious, mechanistic

process. Instead he encourages companies to be highly current, modern

and ahead of the game," she says.

Swissair was always associated with service. Its replacement could soon

gain a reputation for style.

So if you're returning from Zurich this summer, hide that souvenir

cuckoo clock inside your Mandarina Duck handbag, relax with some Lindt

chocolate and trust the airline won't go bust again.


1989-1992: TV reporter, BBC, ABC, Sky, Fox

1992-1996: Freelance writer, Elle, The Guardian, Sunday Times

1996: Launches Wallpaper

2000: Launches Line

2001: Launches Spruce

2002: Rebrands Swiss airline


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