Our approach was simple – in collaboration with our social media partner, Society, we developed a surprise ‘silver service’ in-flight launch for passengers – and in true kulula style, even ‘The President’ was invited.
In July 2012, kulula.com (owned and operated by JSE-listed Comair), announced the arrival of the first of seven new Boeing Next-Generation 737-800s in South Africa. The challenge to the King James Group was to deliver this corporate message in typical tongue-in-cheek kulula style so as to excite both local media, fans and investors.
On 19 July 2012, the first flight of the new kulula B737-800 became the ‘venue’ for the official launch party, with the VIP list reserved for kulula passengers who had (unknowingly) booked themselves on the flight. A Jacob Zuma look-alike welcomed passengers with all the pomp associated with an official ceremony. The party kicked off with a number of over-the-top stunts, including collecting some unsuspecting passengers in motorcades and ferrying them to the airport. Others at the boarding gate were welcomed with a drumming band accompanying them through Lanseria International Airport. Once airborne, the 189 surprised passengers enjoyed a silver service three-course breakfast, complete with crew in tuxedos and bubbly in crystal – service usually reserved for an ambassador’s reception, not a commercial flight on a budget, no-frills airline. As a grand finale, just before the descent, blinds were closed, cabin lights were dimmed and guests were treated to a signature Boeing ‘Sky™’ interior light show – with local opera star Brenda Thulo singing a Puccini aria. We arranged a fire-tender ceremony both on departure from Lanseria and arrival in Cape Town. In Cape Town, media and key stakeholders were shuttled to The Ritz restaurant in Sea Point, where a lunch hosted by kulula and Boeing afforded them the opportunity to interview kulula and Boeing representatives.
Within an hour of the new plane landing in Cape Town, the event was trending on Twitter. Within six weeks, we secured 52 pieces of on-message coverage, of which more than 90% positioned kulula as a sustainable airline business which had invested in a R2.5 billion shiny new fleet while local peers were struggling to survive. Overall, the launch cemented kulula’s position as an airline that is here to stay, and one that still has a great sense of humour – despite choppy market conditions.