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My Virgin ears: Brand Voice and Messaging where you least expect it

Posted by: Melinda Flores on February 12, 2010

We’ve all heard it before. Wear your seat belt. Don’t smoke. Put on your emergency mask before assisting others. The standard airline safety video, the one only first-time fliers (printed safety instructions clutched firmly in hand) ever bother to watch.

But some airlines have taken the opportunity to use their flight safety videos to say something about their brand. It’s not surprising that Virgin America is ahead of the pack.

Launched in August 2007 with the idea of “creating an airline people love," Virgin America seeks to reinvent the typical domestic flight experience, featuring more ergonomically-correct seating throughout the plane, touch-screen in-flight entertainment and fleet-wide Wi-Fi, as well as mood lighting designed to help passengers relax.

And even the flight safety video speaks to customers in an all-new way, with a unique voice that’s a natural extension of the Virgin brand. Half snarky pal, half friendly host, the unseen male narrator says things like, “For the .0001% of you who have never operated a seatbelt before, it works like this” and “Keep in mind that your seat cushion is not a flotation device —so please don’t take it home with you.”

The narrator’s slight Southern twang lends him an extra down-home authenticity, and the messages he sends are designed to put passengers at ease. Every safety procedure, from locating the emergency exits to inflating the life vest, is presented as a simple task that will be easily accomplished in the exceedingly rare event that something were to go wrong. In fact, the term “just in case” is used a few times to stress that these are merely preventative measures everyone must comply with, according to what the narrator calls “our friends at the FAA.”

The video also recognizes the limits of its own genre, signing off with this gem: “We promise to do everything we can to make sure you have a safe, comfortable flight — not the least of which is ending this speech now.”

Produced by Anomaly with animation by Wild Brain, the video has a distinct visual identity as well. The illustrative style, a hybrid of Tim Burton and Edward Gorey, looks more like something you’d watch on Adult Swim than something you’d see on an airplane. The video not only sends a message about safety — that, in the unlikely event that something should happen, we should all be prepared — but also sends a message about the kind of experience you’ll have with Virgin America. Playful, irreverent, honest, unexpected.

Which might just be enough to get people watching those flight safety videos again.

Want to see it for yourself?

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