According to The Economist, the world’s largest airlines as of June 2015 were Delta Airlines with 129.4 million passengers, and Southwest Airlines with 129.1 million passengers. But, according to Tubular Labs, Turkish Airlines is the #1 brand in the travel and events category, with 36.9 million views across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Vine in March 2016.

When it comes to video marketing, Turkish Airlines is flying circles around the world’s largest airlines. And so are TAM Airlines, Emirates, and LAN. Which begs the question: What do a lot of the smaller airlines know about video marketing that most of the bigger airlines don’t?

Turkish Airlines: Viral Video Strategy

Well, to put it bluntly, it appears that video marketers for several of the smaller brands know that Millennials turn to video when making purchase decisions, while the traditional marketers at a bunch of the bigger brands mistakenly believe that the only content this key demographic group could be watching online is funny cat videos. We've already addressed how safety videos are the new video marketing for airline brands, but if you are part of a video marketing team for an airline brands, start by taking a closer look at how Turkish Airlines is flying circles around the world’s largest airlines by creating content that appeals to that particular audience.

Turkish Airlines is the Turkish flag carrier and a leading European airline. It flies to 284 cities in 113 countries, making it the airline that flies to the most countries in the world. It’s also worth noting that Turkish Airlines has won the Skytrax “Best Airline in Europe Award” five years in a row. There are 284 videos with 587 million views on the Turkish Airlines YouTube channel, which means each video is getting an average of 1.9 million views. By comparison, there are 311 videos with 29.2 million views on the Delta Airlines YouTube channel, which means each video is getting an average of 93,700 views. So, what is Turkish Airlines smoking?

Well, the most watched video on the Turkish Airlines YouTube channel is “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout,” which was published Dec. 3, 2013, and now has 144 million views. This video also has 22,700 comments, making it the video with the most comments on the channel.

It’s worth noting that this video was the sequel to “Kobe vs Messi: Legends on Board - Turkish Airlines,” which was published Dec. 6, 2012, and now has 112 million views. And the hat trick in this series goes to “Drogba vs. Messi: #EpicFood (Official full length version),” which was published Nov. 14, 2014, and now has 62.8 million views.

By comparison, the most watched and most commented on video on the Delta Airlines YouTube channel is “The Internetest safety video on the Internet,” which has 9.7 million views and 8,537 comments. So, you can’t jump to the conclusion that Turkish Airlines got lucky when one of its videos went viral. So, let’s dig a little deeper. On Feb. 7, 2016, “Fly to Gotham City with Turkish Airlines!” was published on YouTube. This video for flights to a fictional city now has 27.3 million views and 1,715 comments.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpk8eSpRBnY

On the same day, “Fly to Metropolis with Turkish Airlines!” was also published on YouTube. This video for air travel to an imaginary city now has 25.3 million views and 1,135 comments. So, Turkish Airlines knows how to leverage sports stars and fictional superheroes when it sets out to create great content. But, are these the only plays in their playbook?

ALSO ►  Why Safety Videos are the New Video Marketing for Airline Brands

Paid Promotion Boots Viral Reach

Well, over the years, I’ve noticed that Turkish Airlines also leverages paid video advertising to put its content in front of the right audience. Yes, one of the keys to success on YouTube is to produce great, relevant videos, but you also have to make sure your target audience sees them. So, how do I know that Turkish Airlines has been using paid advertising on YouTube to ignite sharing and accelerate audience building? Well, its YouTube channel only has 131,600 subscribers, although this has increased from 108,200 on Jan. 24, 2016. Still, this isn’t enough to seed new content when it launches. Besides, you can find videos from Turkish Airlines on several YouTube Ads Leaderboards. For example,

  • “Kobe vs Messi: Legends on Board” ranked #2 on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard for Cannes in June 2013.
  • Turkish Airlines Euroleague Epic Pool Dunk” ranked #7 on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard for May 2014.
  • “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout” ranked #1 on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard for Cannes in June 2014.
  • “Drogba vs. Messi: #EpicFood” ranked #1 on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard for November 2014.
  • “Drogba vs. Messi: #EpicFood” also ranked #3 on the YouTube Ads Leaderboard for Cannes in June 2015.

Oh, and just in case there is any doubt, Think with Google published a case study in June 2014 that is entitled, “How Turkish Airlines Reached 100+ Million Traveler Prospects with Selfies.” The case study refers to the video as “a new YouTube ad called ‘Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout’”, “one of the fastest spreading commercials on YouTube”, and “one of the most popular ads of 2013”. Get it? Got it? Good.

So, is it cheating to leverage YouTube’s advertising tools to reach a wider global audience? Well, even the YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands says, “Given the abundance of videos on the web, it's risky to assume that your content will be organically discovered by a large audience. It is key to design a solid plan to promote your content and ensure it’s viewed by your target audience.” Besides, just look at the results:

  • “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout” got 77 million views in one week, making it YouTube’s fastest spreading commercial.
  • This promoted video tripled brand searches on YouTube for Turkish Airlines and achieved a 16% increase in global brand searches on Google.
  • Finally, “Kobe vs. Messi: The Selfie Shootout” generated a 9% increase in global brand recall.

It’s also worth noting that total passengers on Turkish Airlines have increased from 38.3 million in 2013, to 54.8 million in 2014, to 61.2 million in 2015. This indicates that we’re likely to see the Turkish flag carrier in The Economist’s list of the world’s largest airlines when it is updated in June 2016.

And as regular readers of ReelSEO, you’ll know how Turkish Airlines got there. So, you will ready to provide strategic insights to discombobulated traditional marketers and top marketing executives if they come looking for help. Just tell them, “You’re leaving money on the table if you aren’t leveraging videos to reach Millennials when they’re thinking about taking a trip, choosing a destination, and looking for an airline that can get them there – even if ‘there’ is Gotham or Metropolis.”

Why Video Marketing to Millennials is Essential

According to the 2015 Online and Mobile Video Study from Animoto, “video is no longer optional for brands and businesses looking to market to millennials.” Their survey of a representative sample of 1,051 U.S. consumers revealed 70% of millennials were likely to watch a video when shopping online and 80% of millennials found video helpful when conducting online research for a purchase decision. So, how much money are a bunch of bigger brands and businesses leaving on the table if they aren’t targeting this demographic group? Well, Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 2000. They’re also called Generation Y. There are 80 million of them in the U.S. alone. And they will spend more than $200 billion annually starting in 2017, and $10 trillion in their lifetimes. This is a target audience that is too big to ignore.

And according to the Animoto study, Millennials are 264% more likely than Baby Boomers to share videos about a product, service or company while shopping online. But, if you aren’t uploading very compelling video content very often, then your videos aren’t likely to “go viral,” are they? The Animoto survey also found 62% of Millennials prefer to watch a video from a company instead of reading text. Now, that’s going to discombobulate many of the traditional marketers to who spent their formative years learning how to write travel brochures or travel magazine articles that made the cash register ring. This means they have to go out and find someone who can teach them how to master visual storytelling.

Finally, the 2015 research found:

  • 84% of millennials follow companies or brands on Facebook.
  • 76% of millennials follow companies or brands on YouTube.
  • 47% of millennials follow companies or brands on Twitter.
  • 42% of millennials follow companies or brands on Instagram.

And that’s going to totally discombobulate most of the top marketing executives who earned their last promotion based on the outstanding jobs they did pitching feature stories to Condé Nast Traveler or negotiating advertising deals on the Travel Channel. This means they have to go out and find people who can create compelling travel videos that can "put butts in seats," as they say in the airline industry.

And video -- especially YouTube video -- can do that. According to “The 2015 Travelers Road to Decision,” a Google/Ipsos MediaCT survey of 3,500 leisure travelers and 1,500 business travelers that was conducted in August 2015, about 106 million of YouTube’s monthly unique visitors in the US are travelers. And among these travelers, 64% watched travel-related videos when thinking about taking a trip and 37% watched them when deciding which web site to book their trip on. It's also worth noting that 80% of YouTube's views are from outside of the US, so the number of global travelers watching YouTube videos each month may exceed 500 million.