You’ll Get My Attention With a Giant Squirrel

Almost anyone who’s flown more than a couple of times knows what the safety instructions entail on a commercial flight. And so most of us ignore them. Delta Airlines recognized this, and chose to create a series of safety videos full of pop culture references and humor to convince even the most seasoned flier to pay attention.

Delta squirrelI recently got back from a short vacation to Key West (yeah, yeah, humble brag), but I’m not going to regale you with photos. What I want to talk about is Delta’s airline safety, content marketing and storytelling.

I’ve been flying for 28 years, so I’m a pretty seasoned airline traveler. I jockey for a good position in line as I wait for my zone to be called, focus on getting my gear stowed, butt in my seat, seat belt buckled and book out to read as quickly as possible. I don’t mess around.

I also have heard the safety announcements so many times that I tune them out, a problem Eddie Izzard recognized during his comedy show, “Glorious.”

For my flight to Key West, I was prepared to do my usual ignoring of the flight attendants. Instead they announced there’d be a safety video. Oh goodie. Yawn.

But when I saw out of the corner of my eye a giant squirrel putting an oversized acorn into the overhead compartment within the first 13 seconds of the video, I stopped reading, and slipped my bookmark between the pages.

I watched the rest of the 4 minute and 39 second video. I heard people giggling. The kids behind me exclaimed, “Mom! Mom! It’s Yo Gabba Gabba!”

That’s right.

https://youtu.be/kfFHn6DxvEg

When the safety video ended, I was smiling. Delta had entertained me, reminded me about the usual safety drills, and managed to stay in the forefront of my mind for a solid week between my flight and when I wrote this week’s post. I told my aunt and uncle about the video when I met up with them in Key West. I sent links to the video to my best friend as I was writing this post. I told my dad — also a seasoned traveler — about the video Sunday night on the phone.

You’d think Florence + The Machine dropped a new album. Or that Jon Bonham had come back from the dead. Nope. A Delta airlines’ safety video had me talking.

As I think about it more, the entertaining safety video shows me that there are some creative problem solvers at Delta. The problem they faced was that most passengers tune out the flight attendants sharing safety instructions.

The solution, then, was to use the airline’s sense of humor to tell a story of safety, creatively. From Delta’s News Hub:

Delta launched a series of safety videos beginning in late 2012 meant to grab the attention of even the most seasoned travelers by using pop culture references, surprises and guest appearances — all to communicate important safety messages.

The video I saw during my flight, launched in August 2015, has over 250,000 views on YouTube. The description below the video on the YouTube page reads:

Safety information is information that no one should miss, even if they’ve heard it a dozen times. So to help encourage even the most frequent of frequent fliers to pay attention we’re constantly adding fresh scenes and moments of fun. It’s part of Delta’s commitment to making every part of our passengers’ flight a memorable one.

A few months prior, Delta released “The Internetest video on the Internet” featuring 22 Internet memes and clocking in at more than 9.5 million views after going viral.

https://youtu.be/Vttuonfu2BM

Finally, taking this all to the next level, Delta hosted the SAFETYS on Feb. 28, right before the Academy Awards. Following its Twitter feed starting at 5 p.m., the airline revealed which characters from its previous safety videos were up for a SAFETY award, as well as its newest safety video.

https://youtu.be/OiBIPNqmfEk

Suffice to say, Delta gets it. The airline understands its core business, sure. But it also understands the importance of storytelling and content marketing, of delighting its customers, and also keeping them safe. And, of course, all of this factors into the airline’s unique selling proposition (USP).

After enduring a stream of disappointing flights on a different airline — ranging from poor customer service to cancelled flights — my flight with Delta really showed what Denny Hatch calls “Customer Relationship Magic.” From the free snacks to the entertaining safety video, as well as arriving at my destination early, Delta wowed me. I look forward to racking up frequent flyer miles with them, especially if they feature more giant squirrels in their videos.

Is Safety Funny?

I’ve always liked the Virgin America brand: Quirky, entertaining and a little off-kilter. Their planes always seem newer, more modern and cleaner than most, and the dimmed lighting encountered upon boarding feels more like you’re about to sit down and have a few cocktails than fly across the country. But on my most recent flight, there was a new safety video that really captured my attention

I’ve always liked the Virgin America brand: Quirky, entertaining and a little off-kilter. Their planes always seem newer, more modern and cleaner than most, and the dimmed lighting encountered upon boarding feels more like you’re about to sit down and have a few cocktails than fly across the country.

But on my most recent flight, there was a new safety video that really captured my attention. With over 8 million views on YouTube, it’s hip, hop, happenin’. Sexy dancers, fun beat, and an array of characters that can contort into uncomfortable positions keeps you engaged and tapping your toe. Five minutes in length, I was glued to every second of it.

Last week I flew Delta and, lo and behold, they too have a new safety video. This video, however, was bordering on bizarre. While the entire plane was filled with people cryogenically preserved from the 1980’s, it was so distracting that I felt oddly uncomfortable—and the Teddy Ruxpin bear felt just plain creepy. At the end of it, I felt like getting up and taking a shower.

Is it just me?

I glanced around at other passengers and a few caught my eye and gave me the “weird, huh?” shrug. The family seated across the aisle from me looked perplexed. It was clear that English was not their first language, and that this may have been their first flight—ever. The safety video appeared to confuse them as they struggled to put on their seat belts. I knew they would require my help to understand that the seat cushion could be used as a flotation device, in case of a water landing.

To be honest, they may not have learned these insights from the old fashioned safety videos either, but without a flight attendant to hold up the buckle and do a demonstration, they were totally lost.

I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket, but I take airplane safety pretty seriously. I do want to know where the exits are on the plane—and I want to be prepared in case of an emergency (God forbid). So I had mixed feelings about both of these attempts at humor. Will it make me choose another airline? Probably not. But is “funny” the way you want passengers describing your brand attitude toward safety?

United, on the other hand, shows a video that includes subtitles in English and Spanish—certainly a smart move. And, it does reflect the United brand—solid, reliable and no nonsense. Attributes I cherish in a product that encapsulates and propels me 30,000 feet into the air without any ability to control my destiny.

Granted most people these days know how to buckle a seatbelt, I’m still not 100 percent convinced the safety video should be treated as edutainment. Did Virgin and Delta conduct some research that told them passengers were bored with their old safety video and therefore dismissive of its’ helpful content? Did they believe there is a direct correlation between kicking off a flying experience in a fun and frivolous way and brand loyalty?

I’d love to hear your thoughts …

Manage Your Team, and Answer Important Questions While You Travel

Did you realize that you have a way to communicate with your team right in your back pocket? True or False: Only wealthy companies use video and film production? Statement: It’s impossible to be two places at once. Did you realize that even while you’re traveling you could answer questions, and keep your team informed? If you travel heavily for your company and are an executive or leader, this article will help you by offering some new communication solutions

Did you realize that you have a way to communicate with your team right in your back pocket? True or False: Only wealthy companies use video and film production? Statement: It’s impossible to be two places at once. Did you realize that even while you’re traveling you could answer questions, and keep your team informed? If you travel heavily for your company and are an executive or leader, this article will help you by offering some new communication solutions.

The types of video production companies use now vary considerably. Anything from sales presentations, corporate communications, customer service, tutorials and internal communications are media treasures.

These types of videos can be there to serve both the client and your employees. The other forms of video production include staff training, employee orientation, safety procedures, promotional video and financial reports. The key point to remember here is they can be viewed on several different devices—iPad, computer, and, of course, mobile phone.

Video can be used as a heavy-duty communication machine even while you’re traveling the tundra. Utilizing video platforms like Skype, Livestream and Google+ Hangouts will put you in front of your employees so you can continue to disperse your companies propaganda, even while miles away. This allows your employees to be not only informed, but to have an emotional connection to you as if you are still present, even when absent.

Some types of video production can cost next to nothing to create. For example, Instagram, Vine, Skype, Facetime and Google + Hangouts. These are simple to use and can be viewed individually or as a group; which allows you to continue to lead your team even if it’s in a busy airport. These platforms give you the ability to promulgate to a tailored crowd. You can choose to speak to one person, several or the entire staff.

The other benefit here is that you can be in several places at once. I bet you wish you could clone yourself so that you can be everywhere at the same time. With telegenic devices, you are able to be in multiple locations, which can save you time and money.

HR Professionals are finding these assets invaluable to effectively inform their troops and train their employees on important factors such as safety, company policies and procedures. The same message is given each time to each individual, allowing more control over the communiqué distributed among the new and existing hires.

While any of these types of television programs would be effective and work, here are some more advanced ideas for the use of video in communicating to your present crowd. Use a thumbnail video in your email signature. This could be a general message from the CEO, President or possibly an HR Supervisor.

One of the best devices that I’ve seen this used with is a USB stick. Placing your corporate mini movie on this type of device is sure to get people interested in what’s on it. We can’t help but be curious when a gadget is in the palm of our hands.

What’s the best way to get started by utilizing these simulcast luxuries? This would be some solid hypothesis; Ask the people that have the most questions directed to them at your company. Have them write up to 10 topics that these videos could address. Do this with the answers to those questions, and Voila!, you have a script created for your first production.

Next, decide who will be your audience. Directly address them individually or within the group. Make the dialogue interesting, as if you were right there in the same room—because technically you are.

Then decide what the best way to distribute this message should be. Should it be Live? Do you want to ensure that they will see it? Do you want this to be measurable and traceable? Consider the style as well. Do you want it to be comical, motivational or serious in nature? A financial report to your stock holders may need to be handled with kid gloves, while a safety video that is going to be viewed by the group and needs to be remembered, and comedy can often be more memorable, even on serious subjects.

I hope that this discussion has sparked a few new ways for you to interface with your peers. If anything, perhaps it’s helped answer the question of how can you communicate with the team while abroad? Either way, I’m sure you will remember that the use of video isn’t always obvious but still effective.

Any further discussion or ideas to be added can be sent to me at egrey@hermanadvertising.com.