The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure
I recently read a story from Richard Branson about how UK airline Virgin Atlantic had begun giving a picture book called The Great Hot Air Balloon Adventure to children on selected night flights. The back-story is that a man called Stephen Holmes first told the story to his daughter who loved it so much, her dad went on to turn it into a book with the help of illustrator Kev Payne. Following this, and knowing that Richard Branson loved both adventure and hot air ballooning, Stephen reached out to Virgin Atlantic to see if they had any interest. Richard Branson had an immediate affinity and the airline embraced the idea readily.
Now imagine flying with kids — tired and irritable at the best of times — and being given an actual picture book from the stewards, then snuggling up with the kids and escaping into a sky-high adventure at 30,000 feet.
There is so much to take from this story as an example of exceptional brand experience — going beyond the expected by delighting customers. In Richard Branson’s own words, “it’s a lovely way to support local talent, celebrate the art of storytelling, and the joy of ballooning and nature.”
Flying and adventure clearly tie in nicely with the Virgin Atlantic brand, but it also brings in feelings of warmth, connection, and family and layers them into their brand story in intangible ways. Great work to Virgin Atlantic for embracing this initiative and for building a brand story that is more authentic and personal — but also congratulations to Stephen Holmes for building his own brand as an author in such a creative and courageous way.