March 14, 2016

Delta Airlines & Carson Daly: How to Use the News for Brand Placement

So as I was munching on my gluten-free Cheerios recently, I stopped to watch a segment with Carson Daly on the Today Show.  I was struck by the authentic storytelling opportunity this presented for Delta’s brand (talk about the ideal product/brand placement) and wanted to share how you can pitch organic ideas to news organizations and see tangible results.

Watch by clicking here!

Why this is effective brand storytelling:

  1. Today’s consumer doesn’t want to be sold to; they want to learn something, laugh, or be entertained in some way. More than anything, millennials like authenticity.  If your brand promise does not match the story you’re telling, fuhgeddaboudit. They’re changing the channel at best or taking to TwittFaceInstaSnapiscope to malign your brand all over the interwebs. Play it safe and keep it real.
  1. Millennials also like to be involved in your process, so by Delta taking Carson behind the scenes, the brand is lifting the curtain on its processes and being totally transparent. That’s something that really resonates with consumers today.  
  1. Social influence matters. Using Carson Daly, a celebrity, to tell this story is also genius. He doesn’t feel out of place like Savanna Guthrie would (and I love me some Savanna Guthrie). His personality is “everyman” and that fits organically with the story of hard-working, below-wing agents at an airline.  Plus, he’s funny.  All of these factors combine to appeal to consumers.

How to get brand or product placement:

Too often brands, especially smaller businesses, are afraid of the media and think no news is good news.

This is often false.

If you have the opportunity to get your name or business in front of a large audience in a complementary way, it’s golden. 

The Today Show segment is clearly not designed to be investigative in nature, so there’s no risk of “gotcha” journalism… unless of course, you show up drunk on a riding lawnmower with a new Smurf tattoo.

Then, I can’t help you.

In this case, the Today Show put out requests for ideas for “on the job” segments, and Delta reached out from there. 

Your company or brand can create several story pitches based on your product and take them to local broadcast affiliates.

Ideas can be news-adjacent, such as tying your product or brand to a holiday, a current event, or a season.

Why the Today Show liked the pitch:

I reached out to the Today Show for a response, and producer MaryAnn Zoellner kindly sent me these responses to my questions:

Scenic Road: How much editorial control did Delta have?

MaryAnn: None – We always have editorial control. Delta helped us select staffers to interview and they helped with the FAA application to shoot.

Scenic Road: What were the obstacles in getting this story told?

MaryAnn:  Because it was at the airport we had to follow all of the safety precautions and submit the names of the producers and cameramen involved, as well as every piece of equipment that we used.

Scenic Road: What kind of response have you had so far (on social, etc.)?

MaryAnn: AMAZING! It received a great, positive response on social.

Scenic Road: What impact does it offer for brands to tell stories versus doing straightforward advertising?  

MaryAnn: Our goal of the piece was to focus on the men and women who help get our flights safely in and out of the airport.

Scenic Road: Anything else you’d like to add?

MaryAnn: Delta was wonderful to work with.

Here’s what I would add to her comments.  News organizations do not want to do a free commercial for your brand.

They have ad people that get paid to do that. 

They want fun, engaging content their viewers will want to watch. You being a pitchman for your product, can invoke thoughts of car salesmen and late-night infomercials. Don’t be that brand. Find a way to tell a story that happens to include your brand.

The best part? It’s free!  Delta did not pay for this placement.

carson daly working with delta airlines

Delta Communications Coordinator Ashton Morrow also was kind enough to send these responses:

Scenic Road: Why did Delta think this was a fun opportunity?

Ashton: This was a great opportunity for Delta because it gave us the chance to showcase and recognize our hardworking below wing employees.

Scenic Road: How much editorial control did Delta have?

Ashton: The content development was really a team effort, our team developed the run of show and shared lots of background to tell an informative story.

Scenic Road: How quickly did this come together?

Ashton: The below wing angle was selected about two weeks ago and everything came together really quickly.

Scenic Road: What were the obstacles in getting this story told?

Ashton: We operate New York Cities’ largest airline and this was all taking place at JFK’s busiest terminal, T4. The live operation was our biggest challenge, but also made the experience much more exciting for everyone involved. There were real customers on board relying on Delta’s ability to run an on-time operation.

Scenic Road: What kind of response have you had so far?

Ashton: We’ve had great feedback from Delta employees who extremely excited to see someone live a day in the life at Delta. We’ve been able to amplify in social and on our brand journalism platform, the News Hub, at The Atlanta Journal Constitution even picked up the story.

Scenic Road: How important is it to tell stories about your brand versus doing straightforward advertising?

Ashton: We launched the News Hub at last year and find stories invaluable in keeping customers, employees and the media informed about the innovative things happening at Delta.

See what she did there? She (wisely) used this opportunity of a segment on the Today Show and me writing about it to push people back to their brand stories. It’s an opportunity you can harness, too.

Have you seen (or created) a great product or brand placement, brand film, or video story lately? Whether it’s a corporate video, advertising, marketing, or internal communications, please send it to me and I will share it.