Airline safety videos come of age as marketing tools – Virgin America, Delta Air Lines and Air New Zealand leading the pack

Just a few years ago, the only place you’d have expected to see an airline safety video would have been on-board a plane. And even then, you’d have tuned out within the first few seconds, because of the mundane, rudimentary movements. Fast forward to 2013, taking a walk down Times Square in New York City, you might notice a high-energy dance routine on the large screens, which is actually Virgin America’s latest safety video!

On possibly the most famous billboard in the world, you see not an advertisement, but a safety demo from an airline. And this is becoming more of a rule than an exception.

Groove to #VXSafetyDance

Virgin America was already the first US domestic airline to feature a cartoon-style safety video, back in 2007. And now, it has just added more funk to the skies with the latest musical-style safety video. The snazzy dance safety video was released on Youtube, Google Play, and features former American Idol contestant Todrick Hall, performing along with finalists from another reality show, “So you think you can dance”.

The video has crossed two million views, just a couple of days after launching on Youtube, and comes along with its own “making-of” video as well, which has racked up just over 30,000 views itself. The videos not only entertain and educate, they are a fantastic brand building tool that customer (or potential customers) can experience outside the airplane too! Moreover, the new safety video is something that goes well with the Virgin brand, and resonates with their customer profiles.

In fact, the airline anticipated the video going viral in advance, and has created a microsite, seeking auditions for a dancer to be featured in their next safety video!

Behind the scenes of #VXSafetyDance

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Delta decks up for the holidays

Just a week prior to Virgin America releasing its funky dance video, Delta Air Lines released its own holiday-themed safety video. While not as loud and attention-grabbing as the Virgin America video, Delta’s effort showed lots of passengers dressed for the holiday season – from Halloween to Christmas.

Perhaps it was intentionally not as disruptive as Virgin’s video, due to the profile of Delta’s travelers being very different – typically business travellers, and across the world. This, as compared to Virgin’s tech-savvy, young crowd mostly on the West coast and major US metros. The Delta video has had over 40,000 views in the first week after being released on Youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P-fqUoHMBc

Air New Zealand goes old school style with Betty White

Earlier this month, the airline that probably has done more for airline safety than anyone else, Air New Zealand released its latest safety video that features yesteryear’s star, Betty White, in a retirement home setting. The video has been viewed over two million times since it launched, as it features a number of Betty’s former co-stars as well. A good mix of humor and old-school safety tips, the video has surely struck a chord with the audience. Those who watch the video are also invited to win a trip to the Palm Springs in the US or Queenstown, New Zealand.

Those of you who’ve kept a track of Air New Zealand’s multiple airline safety videos, from the Hobbit safety video and Rico, to Fit to Fly and Bare Essentials safety video, might find the latest video a little toned down. But the fact is that each of their safety videos has garnered millions of view, only on Youtube, hundreds of thousands more on China-based Youku and of course, all those eyeballs in the airplane seats.

Building your own safety video strategy

From cute kids being featured, to furry mascots , like Air New Zealand’s Rico – airline safety videos have come a long way from the times when they bored the travellers and made the flight attendants standing in the aisle very self-conscious. Today, the videos bring a flavour of the airline brand to the masses who might have never flown with the airline before – after all, how many Americans have been on Air New Zealand? Moreover, they entertain and engage the passengers in a different manner, allowing the airline to add a bit of character to the traditional safety demonstration.

Recently, when my team and I were at an airline’s headquarters, discussing safety videos, one of the arguments raised was that the new style of safety videos “doesn’t go well with our brand.” Well, if you cater to the corporate passenger more, then there’s always an opportunity to design something professional, yet not boring. Something people find engaging enough to watch on Youtube and share with their friends on Facebook, isn’t it?

If you’re an airline keen to jump on the bandwagon and do something fun with your own safety videos next year, it’s not necessary to do something funky like Virgin America or Air New Zealand. Perhaps you can be a bit more sober, like Delta Air Lines or even think differently and may be feature your own customers.

Airline safety videos today have proved to be far more effective at engaging the connected travellers online, as well as in-flight, than traditional glossy advertisements often uploaded online, which only showcase the flight attendants and cabins most people can’t differentiate between airlines. There are opportunities abound in this field and you’ll only figure out your way is to get started.

Meanwhile, which is your favourite of the latest safety video – Virgin America, Delta Air Lines or Air New Zealand?

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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