Viral videos on Youtube as airline marketing strategy – lessons from Air New Zealand

At a conference in Acapulco, Mexico this week, after my speech, a journalist asked me – how can airlines create viral videos? And my answer to that was… you can’t “create a viral video”. You can create a video and hope that it goes viral, meaning it gets watched by a lot of people and gets shared by lots too, generally in a short period of time. It’s an art, more than a science.

But it seems that the smart folks at Air New Zealand are bent on proving me wrong! 🙂

Fun safety videos as a marketing strategy?

1.2 million views in 40 hours. That’s what Air New Zealand’s latest safety video “Fit To Fly” has achieved.  It is high energy, 80s retro, Lycra clad fun hosted by that era’s exercise guru Richard Simmons, who is having a renaissance, and featured on Ellen recently. The video also features a few high profile cameos, including one from Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan. But the key point to note is that this is not the first of Air New Zealand’s safety videos that’s gone crazy-viral!

The Bare Essentials safety video, with crew (and CEO) in just body paint, has over 6 million views (and once caused this site to crash!). The safety video featuring the New Zealand All Blacks safety videos have over a hundred thousand views put together.

As we shared in the brand lessons from Air New Zealand previously, the airline loves to do the unconventional. And this time, they’ve taken the mundane safety demonstration and made it something people would want to watch over and over again (hopefully making the flying safer too!)

Viral videos – again and again and again!

The latest safety video has come on the back of a recorded a music video of Rico, the airline’s mascot, with superstar Snoop Dogg. That video is approaching a hundred thousand views too!  There is a bit of cross pollination going on, too, with Snoop wearing an All Black jersey for part of it and Adidas gear. Rico is already lined up to be interviewed by MTV about it.

For those who may be unaware, Rico is Air New Zealand’s furry mascot who is known for his infamous (if controversial) and exceptionally flirty viral ads promoting the airline’s new Skycouch, was recently flown to Los Angeles to collaborate on a new hit track launching a week before the release of Snoop’s new album, “Doggumentary.”

We’ve seen airlines produce one-off viral hits, like the rapping flight attendant on Southwest, or the Cebu Pacific dancing flight attendants.

But Air New Zealand has left most industry observers dumbfounded with their success on Youtube, and the ability to produce videos that go viral not by luck, but by design!

And that’s a great marketing strategy that’s difficult to replicate. For sure. Kudos to the Air New Zealand marketing team!

What’re your thoughts? do you think more airlines should use such a strategy? Do you know of other examples? Let’s hear it in the comments, and on Twitter.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Mr. Madness

    Great article, Shashank. Spot on!

    As someone living in NZ, I couldn’t agree more with you. In terms of social media, Air New Zealand leads the way. Speaking of virals, they are on a rocking roll. In fact, 6 web videos have hit the bigtime back-to-back – starting with Bare Essentials; Nothing to Hide; Rob Fyfe’s reply to The Listener in sign lingo, the All Blacks rugby star-studded inflight safety video; furball Rico’s mean rap video with hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg; and the latest Fit to Fly viral with fitness guru Richard Simmons. To use a cricket term, that’s a S-I-X !!!!!!

    Your article took me back to a cool infographic I’d seen on Mashable >

    Cheers, Amar

  • Oussama

    It is great to have you tube videos go viral but does anyone know exactly how many additional sales this video generated and yes how many sales they lost because someone does not like the hip announcement. It is great to go viral whether a video, event or a tweet it is the impact on actual sales or whatever the target engagement is that matters. In any case, I liked the safety briefing it certainly grabbed my attention.

    • Megan Matthews

      Your comment simply reinforces the benefits of our campaign – what’s the likelihood of you knowing about Air New Zealand before all of this – most likely limited.

      Our use of social media is about generating talk ability and awareness much like the old brand television commercials of old – but without the cost. It’s about growing awareness and preference, so that when people come to book a flight, they remember Air New Zealand and choose us, possibly with the help of some related retail advertising (which is absolutely about generating instant sales and watching the till ring)

      At the end of the day, 1.8m hits on YouTube, millions more views via other websites and hundreds of news items globally gives us far more exposure than we could ever afford, and more cut through then any traditional brand campaign could ever achieve.

      As for anyone who doesn’t like it – well, once again people don’t like ads for all sorts of reasons, whatever the channel (a traditional brand ad on TV for any company might have anywhere up to 25% of people who don’t like it). In our case, a bit of controversy simply drives further awareness.

  • Jetaviato7

    The question is, does all of this improve Air New Zealand's bottom line or just increase it's visibility?

    • Shashank Nigam

      I think you have to view marketing driving two things – ROI (return on investment) and ROE (return on engagement), the latter being more qualitative – such as number of views and how far the message has spread. And they're not mutually exclusive.

      Traditionally, successful brands have had a very high “net promoter score”, which reflects the intention to talk about the brand. With new tools like Youtube, this goes a step ahead and actually shows you the number of people who've watched the video (or spread it), rather than just an intention to spread the message. And this is what makes the ROE metrics from social media very strong. Just imagine trying to track the ROE of a billboard outside an airport 5 years ago – can't match up to Youtube right?

      Having said that, airline marketing managers need to determine before the start of the campaign what aspects of ROI it's driving, and what about ROE. In these safety videos, Air New Zealand's success metrics have certainly skewed in terms of ROE metrics, such as share of mind, number of views, amount of PR – as Megan stated in her comment earlier. And the immediate ROI impact may very well be limited. But that's ok, as long as a clear combination of metrics was established before starting the campaign, and there were enough measures of success attached to it.

      So, while this video may not be driving direct, short term bottom line, it is by no means not considered a success.

      Makes sense? 🙂

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