Why Kulula is the World’s Funniest Airline – Interview with Marketing Head, Heidi Brauer

Marketing that gets you smiling!

When South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma tied the knot for the sixth time a few weeks ago, the quick-thinking Kulula Airlines said it would give a flight on the house to the fourth wife in big families — the country’s new number of official first ladies. When I first saw the advertisement in a local newspaper, I almost fell off my seat laughing!

And this wasn’t the first time Kulula was giving people stitches in their stomachs. The airline’s previous targets include football governing body FIFA, which barred the airline from using the phrase “World Cup” in its adverts during South Africa’s 2010 hosting of the tournament. In response, free tickets were offered to anyone named Sepp Blatter, the same as FIFA’s president, finally giving a flight to “Sepp Blatter the dog”, who became an Internet star.

The streak continued with April Fool’s jokes this year. Kulula announced it has extended its service to include seaplane landings in Hartbeespoort Dam, Durban and Cape Town.

The World’s Funniest Airline – behind the scenes

Why do I say that they’re the funniest airline in the world? In addition to the above, remember their really cool airline 101 livery? Or their quirky advertisements? I decided to investigate further, and get the thinking behind all this hilarious marketing straight from the horse’s mouth – in Kulula’s case, it’s Heidi Brauer, who looks after all Marketing efforts at for the airline, along with their SLOW lounges, and the British Airways Partnership.

Heidi shares a number of insights in her interview (click here if you can’t view the video), like how their team paints each plane in a new livery and how the team brainstorms these. She also shares some of the best campaigns that have gone viral, and how new mediums are constantly being leveraged to enhance the marketing efforts for Kulula.

Customer Advocates abound!

I’ve always believed that no matter what the marketing folks say from headquarters, best testimonial for an airline is that from a customer. To substantiate what I’m talking about, let me just quote a Kulula user’s story here, which was shared on a popular online forum:

The highlight of any flight has to be the announcements from the crew; when landing in Port Elizabeth after a short hop from Cape Town, a booming voice came onto the PA system, saying “welcome to Zimbabwe!”, which had everyone in the cabin briefly looking a bit surprised before all bursting into laughter.

On the return hop to Cape Town, a hard bounce on the runway which turned into a go-around resulted in the first officer apologising over the PA, and asking if any of the passengers wanted to have a go instead.

And even the pre-flight safety announcement on another hop to Port Elizabeth whereby passengers were told that in the event of cabin de-pressurisation, masks would drop from the compartments above – to use the masks, let go of the passenger next to you, stop screaming and pull the mask over your face.

Now that’s what sounds like a truly fun airline to fly with isn’t it? Reminds me a little of Southwest’s antics in the US, or Or the in-flight safety videos of Air New Zealand. Kulula is doing a great job standing out from other airlines in the region, and to re-kindle some memories, here are the livery photos again!

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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