Why KLM became a chameleon airline

To reinforce its identity, the Dutch carrier went onto the street, into the kitchen and, of course, on the air.

KLM (which stands for Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, or Royal Dutch Airlines) is the oldest operational airline still bearing its original name. But just because you’ve been around for a long time, it doesn’t mean everyone knows who you are.

That was the problem facing KLM in its most important market, Germany. When asked what KLM was, most people thought it was either a bank, a restaurant, or a radio station. To correct this impression, the Dutch carrier launched a brilliant counter-intuitive campaign. It set up fake ATMs in the street, launched a pop-up restaurant, and even went on air with its own radio station.

Each iteration proved the same point: the ATM gave out air tickets, the restaurant served airline meals, and the radio station ran a phone-in quiz revealing KLM’s true identity. By now, thanks to the agency DDB & Tribal, quite a few more Germans are aware that KLM is an airline. Born in 1919 and still flying strong.