United’s New Safety Video Highlights how Marketers are Finding Creative Ways to Engage and Promote the Brand in Unexpected Places


(A couple of the images from United’s new safety video highlight the diversity of locations that were incorporated into its scenes. Photos courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com and http://www.ausbt.com.au)

An interesting post in Forbes discusses a move made by United recently that highlights a more current trend being undertaken by many airline carriers. Specifically, making engaging safety videos that communicate the personality of the carrier while still meeting FAA regulations. United has received a lot of positive attention for its safety video titled “Safety is Global” which features a diverse set of backgrounds spanning the globe and a diverse cast of actors playing passengers, attendants, and pilots. The video educates the audience on safety through a host of different scenarios involving both the actors and locales. The video not only promotes an image of the brand that is more fun and engaging, but also has the added bonus of communicating to customers that United goes to a wide range of exotic places.

Given the fact that the FAA allows each airline carrier to be creative with their communications on safety as long as the required content is still a part of the presentation, the decision on the part of many airline carriers to add some flair to their videos seems a prudent one. Long considered one of the more lackluster and unengaged portions of the flying experience marketers are now seeing this requirement to educate on safety prior to takeoff as an opportunity to help promote the brand and provide passengers with some entertainment.

An article in USA Today shows that the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has ranked United sixth. Placing the airline carrier in the lowest position amongst those airline carriers that were identified individually, with an overall ACSI score of 60. JetBlue on the other hand holds the top spot with an overall ACSI score of 79. Second place on the index belongs to Southwest with an overall ACSI score of 78, just one point behind JetBlue. For United, being able to infuse some personality and fun into the carrier’s brand through its revamped video should help to improve the American consumer’s image of the brand. This is just one of a number of actions that are being taken to help improve the carrier’s image.

For United’s marketing efforts related to improving customer perception it will be important to ensure that the image represented in its media (such as the safety video) is aligned with the service that its employees are offering to its customers. Flight attendants and other employees that serve in customer service oriented positions can be seen as brand ambassadors for airline carriers and it’s fair to say that these individuals often play a pivotal role in shaping the customer’s perception of the brand.

For Southwest (one of the higher ACSI rated airline carriers), hiring employees with personality has always been an important consideration given the organization’s values. Southwest is so confident in its employee’s ability to communicate with its customers on requirements that the organization does not actually deliver its safety presentation through the aid of a video. Flight attendants are even empowered to improvise in order to help ensure that passengers pay attention during their presentations. One of these improvisation sessions has even gone viral to the tune of over 16 million views on YouTube (as of the time of this post) and a lot of positive awareness of the Southwest brand. You might even say that the video shows just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to one of Southwest’s core competencies. The video can be seen below:

So as airlines look for new ways to manage how their brands are perceived by their customers and identify creative ways to make mundane elements of the experience more engaging and personal, here are some interesting questions to consider from a marketing management perspective:

  • How would you try to measure the value of a branded safety presentation video? Which metrics would you be most interested in tracking to understand its impact on the organization?
  • Can you think of any other points within a customer’s flying experience where a marketer could turn a lackluster and mandatory component of the experience into an opportunity to better promote the brand and provide customer value?