How Royal Jordanian got a brand makeover by trolling Trump

NEW DELHI: In the age of social media when millions of people latch on to news trends, a clever as well as low-cost advertising strategey is to ride a burning issue. And that’s exactly what Royal Jordanian, the national airline of Jordan, did to reinvent itself. It turned a major adversity into a big opportunity to stay afloat when Trump’s ban on immigration from several Muslim countries threatened Arab airlines.

Royal Jordanian came out with a series of advertisements on social media mocking US President Donald Trump for his travel ban on Muslim countries and the recent ban on electronics larger than a smartphone as carry-on items in flights departing from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports.

Eight months ago, Royal Jordanian approached advertising company Memac Ogilvy to reinvent its image. “RJ wanted to be a ‘fun brand’,” a Memac Ogilvy executive told The Atlantic Monthly. Royal Jordanian was struggling to compete with lavishly funded Gulf airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways. While its oil-rich competitors can afford to produce Jennifer Aniston commercials and paint planes with roses for Valentine’s Day, Jordan’s airline has a far smaller budget. So, it decided to play to its strength: humour—specifically, Jordanian humor, with just the right touch of sarcasm, reports The Atlantic Monthly.

The first ad in the ‘mock Trump’ campiagn, which won Memac Ogilvy several industry awards, was just an image published on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on November 8, 2016, before the US election results were announced. The ad showed economy and business class prices for RJ flights to Chicago, Detroit and New York. The lines above the prices read: “Just in case he wins… Travel to the U.S. while you’re still allowed to!” The ad went viral, reaching 450 million people and getting 80.3% positive response.

When a court blocked Trump’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, Royal Jordanian found another opportunity to troll Trump. It released another online ad for flights to New York, Chicago and Detroit. The ad showed the word “Ban” scratched out and changed to “Bon Voyage!”, and read: “Fly to the U.S. with RJ now that you’re allowed to.”

The next set of ads in the campaign rode on another news point: the US decision to ban electronics on flights from several Arab and North African airports, including the Amman airport. Royal Jordanian came out with an ad listing “12 things to do on a 12-hour flight with no laptop or tablet”. Yet another ad in response to the ban told the travellers to “Do what we Jordanians do best… Stare at each other!”

Though Jordan has been relatively peaceful in a conflict-ridden region, it is no longer immune to terror. It hosts millions of refugees and displaced people from countries like Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen, all hotbeds of terror.