The Success of Virgin America’s Friendly Copy and the Next Generation of Conversational Copywriting

By October 6, 2015 August 3rd, 2016 Branding, Business, Content Strategy
virgin america brand messaging

“Chatter is an incredible way to strengthen our culture.”

-David Cush
Virgin America CEO

I’m glad you’re here. Reading this article. It’s about the general badassery of really simple copywriting. I’m fairly unprofessional in business communications as well. Why? Because formality is just a mask over who you really are. You aren’t formal with your friends. You aren’t formal with your family. Why be formal to people you’re trying to get to like you? It’s a lie that is instantly untrustworthy, and one that has to go if you want you gain trust.

This is conversational copy. It’s raw. It’s chatter. It’s unprofessional.

It’s how Virgin America changed the game for everyone else who isn’t conversational with their targets. By getting down with their guests, they formed a relationship with them. A sort of “we’re all in this together” mentality.

My favorite VA copy? It’s the banner of this article. Their carry on size requirements: “While Impressive, If Your Bag Is Bigger Than 24”X16”X10” It Must Be Checked.”

The brilliance of using such witty positivity in a normally annoying circumstance is what makes Virgin America the monarch of airlines. Not only is their messaging casual, it’s funny. Like really funny. I chuckle when I see that sign, and if my bag is too big, I’ll walk up to the Virgin people and say, “Looks like my bag is just too impressive.”

That reaction right there is branding genius. Virgin America’s copy creates a positive stress-free environment where their guests, even if they have to get their carry-on checked, will have a good experience.

And, their copy speaks to their guests. Most people don’t want to read, and dear unicorn, especially not instructions or advertisements. But people do like to be spoken to. People do like to tweet their thoughts. And ‘like’ Facebook posts. And share Upworthy articles (causal headlines anyone?).

So when I see this ad for the Four Seasons:

4 Seasons Meetings Events Copy

I want to hold my head and say “STAAAHHHP!”, and frantically wave Virgin America posters in their face. “We’ll make you look good,” they say. There’s no fire in this advertisement. There’s no personality in this advertisement. There is nothing gripping that tells me, come on, we’re Four Seasons, so obviously your event here will be the Queen’s crown jewel of events.

Simple and casual copywriting isn’t enough.

Copywriting has to be smart. It has to be clever. When Virgin America changed their entire brand, they understood the importance of ‘friending’ their audience. It’s a brilliant strategy and one that every single large corporation should be thinking about. So why hasn’t copywriting gotten down to the casual, simple wit that drives people’s interests?

Because large corporations fear change.

Old school companies are bumbling blindly ahead towards a social media savvy group of millennial consumers that have the attention spans of tea spoons (sweet Harry Potter reference). The curtain has fallen on the out dated Don Drapers in favor of the friendly “I’m just like you” content. Millennials don’t want sophistication. They want reality. Strip away the formal facade, show your non-makeup’d face to the world and say, hey man, we know airlines suck. How about you take off your shoes, put your items in this box, and we’ll take care of everything. With a fist bump. And it’s not so bad anymore.

Copywriting has to make people smile.

It should make people think better of your brand. And it should always form a relationship with your target. Think Joaquin Phoenix in Her. The more human you sound (unless you’re Meowingtons, accessories for cat aficionados), the better friendship you form. It’s just better to be real. Virgin America gets that, and their assassin copywriter deserves applause. And chocolate.

Understand the future of copywriting. We write for millennials now, and that means getting on their level. No need to break out the hashtags and YOLO’s. Just keep it friendly and charming. And if your writing doesn’t make someone feel something, it’s not good enough.

These guys nailed it. Funny, friendly, clever, charming. Old Spice and Dollar Shave Club. Need I say more?

Dollar Shave Club

Old Spice

Judson Abts

About Judson Abts