Injecting Some Serious Swagger Into Your Brand Personality

I’ve noticed more and more that companies in most industries are nearly indistinguishable. I honestly can’t tell you the last place I filled up my car with gas, the last brand of cheese I purchased, or the brand of my wireless router. From credit card companies to soft drinks to mutual funds, so many products and services are swimming in a sea of sameness.

Those that try to appeal to everyone end up delighting no one. What’s the point of going to market if you can’t stand for something? Most brands are like needy teenagers, desperately trying to blend in with the crowd. In turn, we care little about the companies we support and often make decisions based on who has the best deal-of-the-day since true differentiation is nonexistent.

And then there’s Kulula Airlines, a South African discount flight provider. In an industry where even the peanuts are identical from carrier to carrier, Kulula stands out with a personality cleverer than Conan O’Brien.  

How fun, right? But it isn’t just about paint—their edgy brand personality permeates the entire organization. For example, here are some actual comments heard over the PA system on Kulula flights:

“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”

And from the pilot during his welcome message: “Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: “We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em.”

To Kulula, this stuff isn’t just marketing hyperbole. It’s who they are. It is their culture and personality; an authentic message about having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. And as a result, they stand apart from all the other nameless, faceless airlines. They dared to be different. They let their creativity shine. Their imagination is viewed as jet fuel to success rather than a liability that must be controlled.

What’s your brand personality? The world has become too competitive not to have something that’s worth talking about. If you or your company has the personality of a pet rock, it’s time to shake things up. If you don’t, your competitors surely will.

Question of the week: If you could change five things about your brand, messaging (both internal and external), positioning, or approach, what would you do differently?

Bonus question: Can you really afford not to make these changes?

For more insight on creativity and innovation, please check out author Josh Linkner's blog at JoshLinkner.com

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9 Comments

  • Darren Davis

    That's awesome, that cracked me up – I love it! I totally agree that brands should have their own personality like this.

    I've tried to do this in my companies messaging too on http://www.LinkCaffeine.com – Your Website... On Like 50 Cups of Coffee :)

    Best,
    Darren

  • Joe Swinn

    Fantastic article - I really love a great brand like this. An airline which is comfortable enough to make light of flying fears is my kind of airline!

  • Sorilbran Buckner

    (Exhale) That helps a sista out.  Cool beans.  Thanks for co-signing what I already suspected. 

  • IlyaBodner

    Fun marketing like this works.  Besides a spike in sales they are getting a large amount of media buzz - priceless.

  • Chris B. Myers

    Just had this conversation about a business idea competition we launched. We asked if entrepreneurs really want to do the whole dog and pony in front of a bunch of serious guys in suits.

    Well we're entrepreneurs too and we thought the formality was empty. We dubbed our thing as "Not Your Grandmother's Startup Competition" to set the tone and let FLY. It's been really fun and feels good too. The reaction from entrepreneurs is what sealed it though - nearly universally positive.

    If you want to check it out, you can at www.musemaka.com

  • TDUB1111

    WestJet (headquartered in Calgary, AB) has been doing this for almost 20 years. And per the commenter below, WestJet's business model was based on Southwest's approach. 

  • robert bell

    Ever flown Southwest? They use some of these same ideas, some of them verbatim. 

  • ryan m. brewer

    articles like this one are what make me love fast company.
    the myriad of nonsense i just went through to sign up to make this comment challenged that love.

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    Yay, something fun and irreverent! Honk if you're tired of bland corporate nonsense written, or at least approved, or worse yet, inspired by, the legal department!

    Do these guys fly in and out of OHare? I'm there!

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Executive Coach & CEO
    www.DarkMatterConsulting.com