It's more than just a video: Lessons from airline marketing on YouTubeNews / OnlineBy Nick Vivion | November 5, 2013Share This article was originally published on The rise of in-flight video systems have given airlines a new distribution channel for common facets of the flying experience - such as the safety demonstration. Savvy airlines have realized that these videos can also function as marketing pieces, differentiating the airline's perspective and brand position while also actually getting people to pay attention to the boring-but-important safety briefing.Here's a few examples of airline marketing on YouTube, and how that marketing extending into more traditional real-world marketing gains.Virgin America's "Safety Video"Virgin America has long been known for their social media prowess and tech cognoscenti cachet. Their cred continues to be boosted with projects like the "#VXsafetydance" video, which takes the traditional safety briefing and transforms it into the most engaging safety video in the industry.By incorporating the hashtag into the video, the company was able to create a conversation around this video that continues to thrive on social media. Thousands of mentions have rolled in over the week that the video has been live.In true Virgin form, the video was created at the in-house production arm of the parent company, Virgin Produced, which has the following tagline: "Virgin Produced very simply has balls, and we're not afraid to show them. In fact, we're gonna go ahead and apologize ahead of time. You might see our balls."The video also played to the company's heritage as a music label, which added an additional layer of authenticity that also captured the attention of a Glee and music-focused younger audience. This is a clever way to both advance the brand's legacy while also maintaining relevance in the zeitgeist.So far, the video has racked up over 4 million views on YouTube, and the supplemental behind-the-scenes footage is coming close to 100k views. This is indeed a success for the company, and will surely be swiftly copied by other airlines looking to make an impact with traditionally staid areas of operations.Of course, the conversation was helped along by a significant promotional budget.The company clearly knew that this video could be something large, and wanted to push it hard, so they purchased time on NASDAQ's screens, and created photo opportunities around their in-flight team in Times Square. They also scheduled slots on shows like Ellen, which pushed awareness even further, bringing coverage into mainstream press across the world.Overall, the success of this campaign was driven by the fresh twist on a familiar staple of the travel experience, and once traction was felt, the company fanned the flames further with a fresh wave of marketing. A smart move, which has clearly paid dividends not only with earned media coverage but with Virgin's alternative brand positioning in the United States.British Airways "Man vs. Plane"British Airways took a popular meme - that of South African rugby player Bryan Habana racing a cheetah - and brought it into a brand-relevant situation.This time, Habana - who runs the 100m in 11 seconds - was challenged with racing one of the airline's new enormous A380s - which takes off at about 140 mph before reaching a cruising speed of around 600 mph.The video is brilliant - not only does it allow for an extremely interesting look at an early morning runway for aviation geeks, but it allowed the airline to beautifully photograph the new planes in their singular beauty.By pitting man versus machine, the company also created an emotional story on both the human and mechanical fronts, which delivered a perfect introduction to the model's latest routes from London on BA.The video has logged nearly 2 million views on YouTube, which is a solid return on awareness of the the new flights.Air New Zealand's "Unexpected Briefing"Virgin was not first to the viral safety video party - Air New Zealand actually logged millions of views for their Hobbit-themed about a year ago. The video currently sits at about 14 million views, benefiting not only from a longer timeframe than Virgin's, but also given that it's based on a hit Hollywood movie filmed on location in New Zealand.Similar to the Virgin example above, the company used a brand-relevant scenario to both pique interest and further establish a brand position. ANZ is tying itself to the home of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, while also bringing in a cute sensibility and sense of humor that resonates with travelers.For those visiting New Zealand on fan pilgrimages, this also establishes Air New Zealand as the airline that most perfectly represents that part of the New Zealand identity.Air New Zealand isn't a one-trick marketing pony, however - they have recently released two other videos that creatively address the airline safety briefing. This is an important footnote, as even the most clever and engaging safety video becomes rote for frequent flyers who see the video many times a year.At its worst, the video could get annoying and becoming a grating experience that sets an aggravating tone at the start of the flight - there's only so many times one can hear a particular jingle or song, and so it behooves airlines to switch it up so cute doesn't become crap for frequent travelers.The company leaned on comedy legend Betty White for a particularly memorable video called "Old School Safety," and also dropped some adult humor into another video promoting their premium economy seats - which logged over 2 million and 500k views respectively.The Betty White video was released just last month, and, while it was not as big of a social media juggernaut as Virgin's, it shows just how the safety video can be addressed each year for a new audience.As one YouTube commenter notes, "I was on a plane filled with old people when this played and the whole cabin was laughing. Old people seem to love this way more than anybody else." So that's a sign of solid diversified marketing, brought to the airline by thinking creatively about these standard operational items.The one thing all airlines need to adapt to? The changing rules regarding electronic devices in the United States that will take a dent out of the content base of these safety videos.