Pan Am Takes Flight Again


Image from: Pan Am / Shutterstock
This isn’t just a shameless plug for my new favorite TV show or to make my Halloween costume relevant – this is a look at the incredible brand revitalization that is occurring from an airline company that virtually disappeared in 1998.

If you haven’t heard, ABC has piloted a new series entitled “Pan Am”, which hopes to capture the stories of the 1960’s jet age, particularly representing what it meant to be a woman in the airline industry (and employed in general), the historical and political context of the period, and the excitement of travel during that era. Many users look to the show in a nostalgic light, remembering the luxury & excitement of flying – the dressing up, the gourmet meals, the awareness of flying a carrier often contracted by the U.S. government itself. There was something very glamorous about air travel that has seemingly died down over the years.

‘Pan Am’ has done fairly well in terms of viewership, but currently falls below ‘CSI’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’ in the Sunday rankings. The show runs on Sunday nights at 10pm EST and last week garnered 5.8 million viewers, competing against an NFL game that lasted until 11:16pm.

I decided to check out to see how the website was fairing since the launch of the new series. If you notice, other ABC shows don’t have their own domain, but are rather listed as a subdomain of ABC’s site. This goes to show that the brand is really at the forefront of the TV series and is the most important thing to feature from a marketing standpoint.

Going to made me feel like I was headed to check out ticket prices, but of course this was all an illusion. If people aren’t visiting this airline website for flights, what are they looking for?

Well, if it’s possible to make something out of nothing, (what is now) Pan Am Railways has done just that. isn’t a site where you can book flights, but rather a travel themed retail store offering a variety of luggage, accessories (such as cufflinks & watches), and coming soon, apparel – not very far from what you may see in airport terminals or the SkyMall magazine.  Even Marc Jacobs has taken up on this trend and designed its very own traditionally styled Pan Am bag.

So what is PanAm – an airline, a TV show, or a retailer? The answer may be that they’ve brilliantly managed to turn themselves from a historically pertinent company that went bankrupt into all three overnight. Interestingly enough, was the #9 site that people visited after in September.

Outgoing Traffic from (Timeframe: September 2011)  
Destination SiteIndustry CategoryMonthly Outgoing Share
google.comGeneral Portals and Search16.10%
facebook.comPersonal Networking11.79%
yahoo.comGeneral Portals and Search8.00%
bing.comGeneral Portals and Search7.04%
twitter.comPersonal Networking5.53%
googleapis.comGeneral Portals and Search4.73%
lipsum.comReading and Writing3.41%
irazoo.comRewards Program2.84%
localguides.comLocal Search2.54%
linkedin.comProfessional Networking2.48%
weather.comNews: Weather and Traffic1.91%
live.comGeneral Portals and Search0.70%


I’ll be checking back in the coming months to monitor the data and see if we can gather any more insights about this extraordinary story of a timeless and ever-valuable brand. In the meantime, what do you think about reusing the brand Pan Am? Do you worry about the preservation and security of the brand in the context of a modern drama? Do you think Pan Am will ever cross back into transportation, or will it continue to grow in the travel retail space?

Curious to know how accurately the show depicts the lives of the 60’s stewardesses? Here it for yourself in this interview with Marge Aultman and Linda Strong, former Pan Am stewardesses on the international airline: New ‘Pan Am’ TV Drama Triggers Memories from Charlotte Women


About Jen Duguay:
Jen Duguay joins Compete to take on all things social media. She comes from a social issue background, most recently having worked for the Social Innovation Forum, the venture philanthropy arm of Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. Jen's interests include singing, marketing, running, art, making guacemole, and using social entrepreneurship to tackle world issues. She has spent time in Belize and the Dominican Republic working on microfinance initiatives and recently traveled to Kenya where she studied the public healthcare system. Follow Jen @jenduguay on Twitter.

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  1. cindy duguay

    This was an extremely interesting blog entry.. lots to think about and follow. I’ll have to check out the show 🙂


  2. Pam Alvord

    Jen, the PanAm TV show is raising branding debates on many fronts. For those who lost loved ones who were on PanAm 103, there other, highly emotional associations with the PanAm brand.


  3. Jen Duguay

    Hi Pam, thanks so much for contributing the other side of the brand association story – I really enjoyed reading your article. Pan Am carries a lot of personal connotations with it, so the series is certainly taking a risk by using a brand so many had close experiences with, especially due to the extremely tragic event in 1988. Factoring in both the good and bad components of Pan Am’s history (even if they aren’t acknowledging it, clearly both sides exist) ABC is including the viewer in the story. We will have to stay tuned as the season unfolds to hear more reactions from the audience and gain a better understanding of the overall impression of this brand incorporation. Thanks Pam!


  4. Andrew

    I just started getting hooked on this show. I’ve been catching up on it by watching it on dishonline(dot)com. It’s this awesome, free streaming site with a ton of content set up by my employer: DISH Network. I love browsing it because I often end up taking a look at something that I wouldn’t normally see (like for instance: Pan Am). Hopefully the ratings will pick up, because this is a well-made show that I think is just scratching the surface of what it can do and I’m a sucker for anything that gives us a sense of history like this and the likes of Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men.