Amazingly Good Branding Lessons From Virgin America’s New Dance Video (Yes, Dance)

Virgin’s new “Safety Dance” clip shows that air travel doesn’t need to be soul-killingly dull. But more crucially, it shows they understand social branding.

Amazingly Good Branding Lessons From Virgin America’s New Dance Video (Yes, Dance)
[Image: Flickr user Exit Festival]

Though they’re only recently posting profits, Virgin America enjoys a stratospheric cool factor–one that only increased with their new Safety Video.


Directed by the same dude that did Step Up 2 and a Justin Bieber music video and employing former contestants from So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol, the video turns the staid, snore-worthy, broadly ignored traditional airline safety video into something sassy, entertaining, and engaging.

“Virgin America has accomplished the impossible,” our Peter Wade writes. “(They) convinced us to listen to airline safety announcements.”

But the savoriest part of Virgin’s savvy lies beyond the choreographic wonder. As Simon Mainwaring writes at his WeFirst blog, the 6-million viewed video is a chance to activate Virgin’s brand among its people.

Let’s walk through the steps.

1) Virgin found a place to reinvent

When you watch the video, you’ll see a little box in the right-hand corner asking if you’d like to participate in the making-of: the link kicks you to Virgin’s Safety Dance Battle competition page, in which you, yes, you, can audition to be in the next iteration of the video. To audition, naturally, you Instagram them.

What’s happening here? A little thing called co-creation, Mainwaring writes, which is getting pretty big these days, helping Virgin’s brand to be more fun, more exploratory, more, as any post relating to Richard Branson would say, maverick.


2) Virgin keeps the community engaged

Bet you never thought you’d read these words: the safety video is being turned into a reality show, à la American Idol or America’s Got Talent. You know the platform: competing artists, a series of judges, and an online audience getting their social voice heard.

But this is an on-going thing, Mainwaring explains:

Virgin will be making four videos a year, so rather than framing this as a one-off opportunity to create some media buzz, Virgin has structured this in a way that it will maintain community engagement over the long-term, creating a series of conversations that will compound awareness and engagement around the brand.

3) Virgin amplifies the engagement

With the audition-contest-platform, Virgin America is making itself more inclusive and more fun. Not just for a one-hit wonder–in theory–but quarter after quarter as they release these videos. All this awesomeness adds up to some pretty profound differentiation.

“(I)t makes it harder and harder for others to compete not just with the in-flight experience of Virgin,” Mainwaring says, “but rather its brand personality.”

Hat tip: WeFirst

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.