One of the best classes I took at London Business School was Brand Management with Mark Ritson whom I mentioned a couple of times in this blog (here, here and wow! here). One of the things Mark tells his class which amused me and is so true is that the best exercise in branding is the blue curtain that separates the first class from the rest of the cabine on an airplane.

Mark's theory is that many a marketer wish he had such a way to create a premium offer and justify a premium price. Bottom line, you do feel like shit when you seat in the first rows of the economy class and the flight attendants close this blue curtain. In our quite egalitarian world, I think it's one of the rare occasion where you can feel so blatantly segregated on a purely "these people paid more than you" reason (like the third class on trains in the 19th century?).

I was actually reminded of this when flying business class on Thai thanks to Amex when I relocated in Sydney 2 months ago and again today while reading this great account in the Guardian of how 16-year-old Elliot Castro turned into a mini modern Frank Abagnale Jr. (the 60's cheque-and-airline con who inspired Catch Me if You can).

The cabin was dark. My family were sleeping. I clambered over my mum and could see more rows of sleeping people, and in the distance something else, a long, grey curtain that blocked the aisle.

My interest caught, I walked towards it. As I neared the curtain, I could hear laughter and the clink of glasses. It was a tiny cabin, and looked quite different from ours. The seats were enormous; with their leather coating and footrests, they looked like the chairs in the barber's back in Logie.

Here the lights shone brightly, picking out the gold in the uniforms of the women who seemed to be everywhere I looked. They strode up and down the wide aisle, bending over the passengers and laughing. I turned and saw a man sitting alone in the back row. He was in a suit. He had glasses and a ring on his finger that were both made of gold, and in a small metal bowl on his tray there was a cigar. He looked over and saw me frozen in appreciation of him and this room in which he sat. He knew why I was standing there and why I was so transfixed. He didn't know, of course, what opening that curtain would mean for my life.

And later on, the curtain is clearly a rite of passage:

I'd achieved my goal of international travel. Even better, I had made it past the grey curtain.

Ah... the blue curtain...