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The Mile High (Marketing Success) Club

It’s the one line- or variation of- that you’ll likely hear too many times in your life:

In the instance of low cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead compartments….

Or something.

The airline safety video is an interesting and somewhat surprising way in which airlines are harnessing the power of video storytelling for marketing and promotional gains. This month, United rolls out its latest safety video offering, continuing with a trend that doesn’t seem to be wearing down.

I remember airline travel in my early teens (late 80s/early 90s), when the flight attendants would line up along the aisle and perform a synchronized routine, using their unique brand of ‘hand signals’ to walk us through the dated printed safety foldouts “located in the seat pocket in front of you.”

I hadn’t really given safety videos much thought, mainly because I experienced an embarrassingly long gap in international travels. This past August, on a transatlantic flight with United, I realized that they were still at it! While I found the video beautifully shot, the humour and approach didn't quite hit the mark. I suppose, since I sat through the whole thing- four times in total that month on subsequent flights with the airline- it could only be viewed as an effective tool....

What do you think? Am I being unfair? Have a watch:

While I thought this was an interesting way to leverage video storytelling to communicate routine safety messages, I didn’t realize the true power of this content.

According to, this new breed of flight safety video has true viral potential and therefore becomes powerful marketing tool airlines are using to define and differentiate themselves from their competitors and also "gain massive exposure in front of a global audience, many of who will never set foot on one of their planes.” (Marshall, Carla. “Airline Safety Videos: The New Video Marketing.”

"In the last 90 days alone, airline safety content uploaded to the major video platforms have attracted 13.5 million views, and over 100K engagements:"

The statistics tell us that people are watching (at home!), re-watching, and even sharing! What is happening here? It’s a testament to good storytelling.

But how'd these videos get so popular? Some history. The inflight-safety-video-as-entertainment really ‘took off’ in 2007. The trendsetting Virgin Airlines, rolled out a video that changed the game:

Seems practically archaic given the style of videos that we have today. Of course, never one to miss a chance to up the ante, Virgin has since rolled out an incredible music-video style version complete with safety instructions delivered in song! In fact, that video garnered 5.8 Million views in 12 days when it launched! (“How Virgin America Got 6 Million People To Watch A Flight Safety Video Without Stepping On A Plane.” Digital Synopsis. Web. 08 October 2015)

Check it out:

Many airlines have joined in on the storytelling party, with Air New Zealand boasting the most diverse and creative of offerings: from flight attendants in body paint to having Richard Simmons bring his unique personal twist, to a Hobbit themed video and one featuring the Betty White! This company arguably has the most fun… they recently produced a video featuring several of the Victoria Secret Angels.

Check out this comprehensive summary of the history of flight safety videos from Digiday.

Honourable mention goes to this video by Thompson Airlines:

Perhaps I’m biased, being a long-time children’s content creator myself…. But having children illustrate somewhat mundane, everyday messages certainly has a charm to it:

And as for United Airlines’ moderately-executed (in my humble opinion) video? Turns out, the one I saw in August has since been replaced! As of September 2015, they’ve rolled out a “2.0” version of their “Safety is Global” theme:

This time, my first viewing of the video wont have to wait until my next flight….

Inventive ways to tell us information that we already know, and apply a tongue-in-cheek approach is an effective way of harnessing the power of storytelling for brand success!

Thoughts? Which is your favourite?

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