Dubai International Airport, one of the busiest and most cosmopolitan airports in the world, is getting a new shape. From Dubai International Airport to ‘DXB’, Landor – the global leading brand consultancy- has collaborated with Dubai airport authorities to kickoff a new strategy and identity that positions DXB as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking travel destinations in the world.

We’ve exclusively interviewed Mariagrazia Deangelis, General Manager at Landor Dubai, to give a sneak peak on the making of the project. 

BB: Celebrating its billionth passenger, Dubai Airports has recently rolled out its new brand identity in a serious attempt to transform the passenger experience. In your own opinion, why places and destinations need branding?

MD: The main role of any brand is to drive differentiation, to build that unique and engaging association in people’s minds that will set it apart from the rest. Places and destinations do not need a brand per se but benefit from the focus that a brand brings on their uniqueness. From Sri Lanka to Azerbaijan, from Burj Khalifa to Neom, destination branding has proven to be a key tool to communicate a sense of place, the essence of it, and its range of experiences.

BB: Airports represent an engaging experience to the travelers, surpassing the traditional functionality to become a destination on their own. From Landor’s strategy manual, what constitutes a powerful airport brand?

MD: We don’t really have a ‘strategy manual’ as we take a bespoke approach to every project because of the unique circumstances around it. Powerful brands drive preference, and when travelers choose their stop-over airport before deciding on the airline, then you know you have a strong airport brand. At the core of such a strong brand is a deep understanding of travelers’ mindsets and needs, a strong brand idea and a cohesive set of experiences around it.

BB: Airports are heavily investing in new technologies towards more automated processes which are able to offer speed and convenience. How the global digital transformation has reshaped the way airport brands are building their experiences?

MD: Historically, one of the main challenges airports had to face was defining the overall experience when a lot of key components of that same experience, from passport control and security procedures, to baggage handling to Duty-Free shopping were managed by different entities and therefore operated beyond the airport’s direct control. New technologies are facilitating the integration process and dramatically improving the overall traveler experience.

BB: Dubai is a global hub for multiculturalism where passengers come from all over the world with their diversified backgrounds. How Landor Dubai was able to craft a new brand strategy that appeals to this multitude of diverse audiences?

MD: Customer insights clearly show that when it comes to destination branding, what travelers are looking for is the “essence of the place”, an authentic memory of the encounter with a different culture. That’s why the brand strategy focused on the concept of the multifaceted culture of Dubai, a world of polarities where calligraphy thrives next to extreme sports and skyscrapers next to oases.

BB: The creative strategy of the rebrand has depended on lettering ‘DXB’. Can you elaborate on the creative strategy direction the team has crafted for the client?

MD: The brand strategy defined the airport as an exciting space where travelers can experience the spirit of Dubai, beyond stereotypes. The letters “DXB,” the universal airport code for Dubai International Airport, were purposefully designed on two parallel planes to visually represent that “space in between” where exciting things happen.

BB: In any rebranding project for an airport, the passenger experience is as important as the brand. Please comment.

MD: A strong brand drives the design of the overall experience in a way that makes it relevant and differentiating. Without a brand concept, a traveler journey faces the risk of becoming a random collection of possibly exciting but generally disconnected experiences and missing the opportunity of owning its unique space in customers’ hearts and minds.