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Cold Dead Fish and Airline Safety

How popular would sushi be if its menu description was “cold, dead fish”?

The challenge in message development, especially for an issue or product that you see all the time, is to make it interesting and memorable. Take airline safety videos as the example. When flight attendants ask us to PLEASE pay attention to observer8.1“this important safety presentation,” how many experienced flyers stop, look and listen?

If you fly Virgin American, you may look up because they are known for clever and entertaining safety music videos. Air New Zealand’s latest video is themed from Men in Black. Recently, a major legacy carrier, Delta Airlines came on board with making safety more engaging. In May, Delta Airlines released a safety demonstration video called “The Internetest safety video on the Internet” containing 25 cameos of the web’s most popular viral video stars and characters including the cat in a shark costume riding a Roomba, a screaming goat, and the “Charlie bit my finger” kid. Now, its latest production features a giant squirrel fitting a nut in the overhead bin, the creatures of Yo Gabba Gabba doing the Harlem Shake, and Moses parting the aisles.


Just as airlines are required to conduct a safety demonstration, most of us have to communicate consistent messages on a regular basis. Think about comparing a typical quarterly presentation that just delivers the numbers with one containing creative and engaging messages. The actual numbers remain the same, but audience attention and retention will be different. It’s not just the content of the message, but how it’s delivered.

Here are a few lessons learned from the safety videos if you want your audiences to pay more attention:

  • Change it up early and often so the important points don’t become stale
  • Use compelling examples or stories to describe the main messages
  • Keep it simple with only a few data points. Too many facts can be confusing

Doing more than “checking the box” has other benefits as well. The airline videos mentioned above have all gone viral gaining millions of YouTube views. Click the links and you’ll understand why.

Watch our Attack of the Alien Presenters Video