Friday, May 29, 2009

Jakarta's Bluebird Taxis: A Case Study in the Power of Branding

1. Logo is correct but name on side says Morante

1. A Bluebird taxi or a fake? Windscreen says Bluebird Group but logo on side is different
2. The Bluebird logo

3. A fake Bluebird

5. A Silverbird taxi

Any new visitor to Indonesia would very soon be familiar with Bluebird Taxis. The Bluebird Group’s ( ) blue taxis are as iconic as the yellow cabs of New York. But more than their appearance they are also an icon for reliability, honesty, security and cleanliness. In an industry where rip-offs, smelly rickety cabs, dangerous driving, bad attitudes and robberies are common, Bluebird stands out as being very different from its peers. When a visitor arrives at Jakarta airport, taxi touts swarm around like flies. But if you keep your cool and walk unswervingly to the Bluebird stand, you know you are in safe hands.
So great is its reputation that Blue Bird is an unshakeable brand, and its peers in the industry have had to adopt unusual business strategies to compete with it. This makes Bluebird an interesting case study in branding. What makes Bluebird admirable is that they manage to maintain their excellence in an industry that is notoriously difficult for quality control. Imagine trying to maintain consistency in quality among 17000 taxi drivers who by natural selection and natural inclination towards this occupation, cannot be expected to be exemplary in their service attitudes. How do they do it? I was told by locals that the Company is very strict in its recruitment procedure, and that once recruited, it keeps an eagle eye on each driver’s behavior and driving record. The one-strike-and-you-are-out rule applies in Bluebird. One complaint, from a customer and you are out. As time passed and the best drivers worked at Bluebird, it became natural for better quality drivers to aspire to be Bluebird drivers. It must be mentioned that as the Group grew larger and larger, the task of maintaining its reputation and keeping the brand unassailable required ever more effort. But to date, there has been no reduced perception in the quality of Bluebird services. This lead to two developments:
Bluebird started other related services, capitalizing on its strong branding. With panache and a deft touch of humor Bluebird beget: Silver Bird for larger and more luxurious cabs. Gold Bird for car rental. Big Bird for Bus charters and Iron Bird for freight services.
The other interesting development spurred by such a strong brand as Bluebird has a biological analogy. In Nature, some species are so successful that other species mimic them in looks and behavior. Examples are the Viceroy butterfly’s uncanny resemblance to the Monarch butterfly to ‘acquire’ the Monarch’s strong repugnancy to predators because of its smelly emissions. Other examples include harmless Hoverflies and Bees that mimic dangerous Wasps to deter predators, and the non-poisonous King Snake acquiring the gaudy colors of the highly venomous Coral Snake. So here,in Jakarta, we see taxis painted the same shade of metallic blue as Bluebird taxis and having logos that at first glance resemble the Geese-like logo of Bluebird. Standing on a street corner, I counted about ten taxi Companies that try to mimic Blue Bird. Sometimes it's really difficult to tell whether it is a Bluebird or not. They all claim to be associated Companies of the Bluebird group. Sentra, Prima, Pusaka Lintas, Morante, Satria, and many others that I have forgotten. But I remember the Bluebird imitation called Cendrawasih. Because “Cendrawasih” means Bird of Paradise in the Indonesian language!

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