I was seated in the exit row.
And when you’re seated in the exit row, you’re obligated to at least pretend to pay attention to the flight safety video, as 300 other people glance over at you and think, “Great. So that’s the dingle berry in charge of our lives.”
I didn’t want to watch it, though.
Not because safety isn’t important (insert Smokey the Bear infomercial here), but because I’ve seen the safety video enough times that I practically know it by heart. It's not that I’ve flown oh-so-much, but simply because I’m the kind of person who, every time I have flown, meticulously studies things like safety videos. (I’m also the kind of person who insists on reading the fine print when renting cars and/or signing anything that someone wearing an ill-fitting pencil skirt gives you, but that’s neither here nor there.) Ultimately, I just want to make sure I’m two steps ahead, so when the oxygen mask drops, I’m not the jerk off fumbling around with Pinterest, ooohing and aaaaahhhhhhing over some asshole’s chocolate lava baked good.
The safety video started off the same as any other.
Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard Delta Airlines flight 233 with continued service to Dallas, Fort Worth. All carry on items should be stowed securely either in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. All aisles and bulkhead items should now be clear. All electronic devices should now be turned off and stowed as they may interfere with the aircraft's navigation and communication systems. Once airborne, we'll let you know when you may use your approved electronic devices…
And then suddenly, I did a double take.
Was that an electric guitar being stowed casually in an overhead bin?
Was that a grown man with an impressive orange afro doing the backwards worm down the aisle?
Was that Teddy Ruxpin lounging in a seat and robotically finishing up a bedtime story?!
It was only 7 o’clock in the morning. I hadn’t had any wine. (Yet.) What was going on? Was Delta Airlines actually poking fun at themselves? Was Delta Airlines actually taking a brand risk? Was Delta Airlines actually…breaking the rules?
The entire plane laughed together in harmony as the bathroom was labeled with a picture of a guy rocking a very impressive mullet, Alf put on an oxygen mask, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar flew the plane, Airplane style.
And for once, the entire plane watched the flight safety video. Not just the girl seated in the exit row.
If Delta wanted to find a creative way to show—not just tell—the world that they weren’t just every other airline, they did a hell of a job.
If Delta wanted to make a statement about their brand, they yelled it.
And if Delta wanted every single person on this plane to feel, for the first time, that someone saw them as real people? They pulled it off without a hitch.
Because stunts like this aren’t just about having fun, or being hip; it’s about respecting your customer’s experience. Their attention spans. Their desires and interests. And this is why I love the work I do. It’s not about helping companies be creative for the sake of creative masturbation; rather, it’s about helping companies be creative for the sake of the client, the customer, the buyer. The people.
(Is this where I say of the people, for the people, by the people?)
From where I’m standing, something so simple just helped to shape an entirely different perception of who Delta Airlines is as a company. Before, they were just another option. It was a race to the bottom, in a price war against a team of other airlines that were the same in every which way…which is why people use sites like Expedia, Travelocity, or Kayak in the first place. Because who they fly with doesn’t matter. Because airlines haven’t done a good enough job of making it matter.
They commoditized themselves in an industry that should not be commoditized. A banana may be a banana may be a banana, but a flight to Atlanta does not have to be a flight to Atlanta does not have to be a flight to Atlanta. There’s opportunity there.
Instead of trying their hardest to fit in, doing things by the book and showing the same safety video as every other airline, perhaps they should look at the smallest of details—the ones that cost them next to nothing to polish—as a chance to step out.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to make the safety video.
But how you choose to make it?
Is where opportunity