Our events are all over the globe, so we spend a lot of time on airplanes.
We're also based out of Minneapolis/St. Paul, so we fly Delta quite a bit.
We have something to report.
Delta Airlines recently changed their safety videos.
And we hate it.
It's not just a knee-jerk reaction to change. There are brain-based reasons why changing the tone of the videos made them significantly less effective.
This is how Delta's safety videos used to look:
(There were several in the series, this is just one example.)
They get all the essential messaging across, but there is also humor and lightness. Even a seasoned flier will pay attention through some of the drier safety messaging (that they may have heard and ignored a hundred times before) because they're looking for that little nugget of entertainment.
What visual treat will I get next? What tiny thing will surprise and delight me?
This is the NEW Delta safety video that was playing the last few flights we've taken:
It's really...pretty? It's done well. It highlights the global nature of their business.
And it's tremendously dull.
I'm guessing the former are the reasons they went that direction. It's a classy video, sure. But no one was watching it. We tuned in for the first few seconds, saw that there wasn't going to be any humor payoff, and went back to our various diversions. It was easy to tune out.
We also noticed that there was a message from a *new* CEO in the beginning of the video. We speculated that they did as so many companies do; they changed the video strategy because a new head person wanted to go a new direction; to make their own mark in the creative branding of the company.
We don't know that for a fact, of course, but we've seen it enough times in events to recognize the strong possibility that this is the case.
Here's are four things we can learn from Delta's decision, as it applies to events:
1. Don't change JUST for the sake of change.
In this case, Delta had built up a reputation for these fun videos, so we were anticipating the same thing (maybe slight variances, but the direction and overall tone was the same). We were disappointed by a straightforward video and tuned out after figuring out that it wasn't going to be entertaining.
There is ample reason to change something when it feels stale or is no longer working, and change is quite frequently good. But changing something for the sake of change when the previous tactic or message was--and remains--effective isn't a wise move.
For instance, if you do a high energy meet-and-greet at every event and it feels fresh and people love it, there's no reason to stop doing it *only* because "we did that last year".
2. Don't prioritize flash over substance.
The new videos are very pretty. They have little flourishes and animations that are rather impressive and probably cost quite a bit to do.
But they're not the compelling hook that is going to get people to watch the video.
A lot of times we see events with VERY splashy opening videos, beautiful staging, specialty lighting and flourishes...and then the content is presented in a way that is overwhelming, stale, dry or boring. Flash will not overcome finding an engaging way to present content.
3. Humor is incredibly effective.
The previous Delta videos weren't always laugh-out-loud funny, but they had a touch of humor that hooked the viewer. The lighthearted structure made it clear that there was an effort to engage with the audience; to show them little visual punchlines while delivering a critical message.
Humor is effective because it activates your emotional connection to the content. When you engage your emotion, your content retention increases.
And along those lines:
4. Serious content doesn't have to be boring.
The safety messaging Delta is delivering could save lives. There are things that *must* be communicated--no matter how dry or boring. It's serious stuff, and in an emergency the content of that video needs to be on the forefront of everyone's mind.
A lot of people would, thus, shy away from bringing any levity into the messaging at all--fearing that people wouldn't take the messaging seriously if the delivery wasn't maximally serious.
However, the severity of the messaging means that it's even more critical for people to actually see it; to pay attention and absorb the content points. A bone-dry delivery is not an effective way to achieve that. Humor--done right--doesn't detract from the gravity of the messaging (whether it's an airline safety video or a corporate presentation). It does, however, go a long way toward audience engagement.