Friday, 12 June 2015

BA Record Breaker: Having a bit of fun with safety

Guinness record breakers: World's largest ever flight safety briefing (foto thanks: Jim Sherwood)

You can't have fun with safety can you ?  In the week following a serious roller coaster accident at Alton Towers the notion that safety can also be fun, engaging and uplifting seems rather contrary.

However, on Sunday, with my family, I became a world safety record breaker,  as 352 of us (pictured above in bright yellow, inflated safety vests in the shadow of Concorde) smashed the previous official Guinness world record (250) for the biggest flight safety training briefing.  And it was fun.  More press photos here

Safety is imbibed in the DNA of British Airways employees, but because of its importance and serious consequences it rarely brings the positive associations marketers love.  You never see airlines boasting about their safety records, although QANTAS benefitted from a huge and memorable plug by Dustin Hoffman's autistic character in hit movie Rain Man.  The closest I have ever seen is the 75 whatever year celebrations of operations (e.g. Dutch airline KLM), implicit in a statement of longevity is a sense of safe operations.  Accident prone operators e.g. PanAm/Lockerbie, ValuJet/Everglades and more recently Malaysian tend to fold or re-brand.

Aviation is an industry that offers the safest form of transportation, and where continuous improvement is embedded in to the organisational culture, safety is of central importance and never taken light heartedly.  

So huge kudos goes to the BA comms team who creatively used crowd sourcing to harness and amplify an educational, entertaining and effusive (3e's) centre piece to the British Airways family open day.  

You try and work in a Health and Safety agenda item at your next team away day with this level of positive impact.  It really was fun learning with a serious point that reminded me of the powerful team spirit that exists at my former employer.  Trial runs, before we were encouraged to really set off the compressed gas to inflate our life preservers, were interspersed with educational quiz questions.  Did you know that safety briefings were introduced very early in the 20th Century following the Titanic disaster ?  I didn't, but I do now.  We even got to blow on the whistle on a string, to the tune of the Delibes flower anthem, BA's oral brand identity.  Best of all, we got to bring home the safety card, preserver and oxygen mask - I feel the need for some fun learning during next terms undergraduate marketing lectures.

Several airlines have used  very innovative approaches to their inflight safety briefing videos, beyond British Airways diversity positive animation, linked above.  Regular flyers appear to tune out during the safety briefings, thus efforts to prolong traveller attention and generate some lucrative PR coverage appear not inappropriate.  My favourite, although a little bit risqué, comes from Air New Zealand, who managed to create a social media storm that probably enhanced both their brand awareness and saliency with this "Nothing to hide" campaign.  It's shockingly popular in class.

In lectures it is lots of fun to see the different points at which students realise that these daring Kiwi crew members are wearing nothing but body paints, literally with 'nothing-to-hide' their bare essentials. They did a follow up and the All Black rugby squad got in on the act too.  Awesome, first order viral branding. 
Virgin America, as befits a glamorous Branson sub-brand, also chose a rather unconventional approach to its safety briefing too.  Filmed in a hangar space with just a few cues to suggest an aircraft interior, staff and reality TV micro-celebrities put on a bit more than a song and dance in this super creative video that emphasises the energetic, sexy and flamboyant Virgin brand.  Well done Richard !


If you got this far down the post, you deserve a little extra treat - quiz question - did you spot Justin in the main photo  ?  Front left in a red T-shirt.  

Our neighbours Ben (front left) and Adrian (behind) feature in this shot !

I am told this lady is famous.  

Four final photos linked from here  Nick Morrish/British Airways