Trump, travel bans and how the outgoing president was a marketing gift

Posted By Emma Dodd on 21st January 2021

Donald Trump may have left the White House, but when he was president of the United States, there was rarely a dull moment. His premiership showed marketers how important it is to turn negative news into something good. We look back at some of the stories that underwent this treatment at the height of Trump’s power.

You may have seen the coverage of a passenger being hauled off a United Airlines flight to Chicago all over the news and social media when it happened in 2017. The shocking images were not great publicity for the carrier, but represented an opportunity for other airlines to take advantage of the world’s attention being caught.

For example, Monarch Airlines was quick to respond with an image of their friendly staff with a simple message in their branded colours attached. It read: “Don’t worry, we won’t overbook your flights. Always book Monarch.co.uk” and was shared on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

On Facebook, it attracted over 1,000 reactions, 240 shares and over 100 comments singing the praises of Monarch’s services.

Vintage Monarch ad

It’s a great way to tap into the conversation and reaffirm the message that Monarch had been sending out about its helpful staff in its TV ad campaigns. Putting itself in direct contrast to United Airlines and the negative attention it was receiving, Monarch showed it cared about its passengers and reassured them such an experience would never happen to them onboard.

But Monarch was not the only airline that has used negative news stories to its advantage. It’s safe to say that the US travel ban promised and imposed by President Donald Trump was not the best news in the world for Royal Jordanian. After all, the airline is the national carrier of a Muslim country. And while Jordanians weren’t prevented from flying to the US, people from some of its neighbouring countries were.

Instead of sitting back and feeling frustrated that the citizens of seven Muslim countries were being blocked from travelling to the US, Royal Jordanian took it in its stride. In fact, it started before Trump was even elected president, with an ad on social media that read: “Just in case he wins…Travel to the US while you’re still allowed to.”

Vintage Royal Jordanian ad

This approach, which was designed by the Memac Ogilvy Advize agency, worked really well and received an organic reach of 450 million. There were a number of reasons why it was so well-received. The first is that it tapped into a real fear among Muslims – the airline’s target market – and addressed it full-on. Secondly, it did this with humour and empathy, mocking Trump and not those who were affected by the situation.

And for Royal Jordanian, it seems that the Trump travel ban is a gift that keeps on giving. It followed up the initial advert with a seemingly vandalised ad with the word “Ban” doctored to say: “Bon Voyage” and the words “Fly to the US with RJ now that you’re allowed to” once the ban was blocked. The laptop ban that followed also provided fodder for Royal Jordanian, which approached the situation with the same level of creativity.

Royal Jordanian ad

Such techniques may seem risky, but if pitched at the right level of humour over serious issues, these situations can help companies stand out from the crowd. After all, laughter is the best way to deal with these crazy times and even though Trump’s time in office has come to an end, there’s always something in the news cycle to tap into.

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