Airplanes, Dragons, Climate Change and Higher Ed | Converge

Airplanes, Dragons, Climate Change and Higher Ed

It’s Sunday evening and I’m on a flight to Detroit for a connection to a campus for a presentation. The inflight WiFi isn’t working, so I decide to page through the April 2019 Delta Sky magazine. Remember when reading something in print was ALL you could do on a short flight?

It didn’t hurt that the Kingslayer himself, Sir Jamie Lannister, was on the cover with the caption: “Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is preparing for winter on Game of Thrones—and helping to combat climate change here on Earth.”


As I page through the magazine, several things catch my eye that make this issue a great example of relevant and engaging content strategy as well as brand alignment. Enough to inspire me to write a blog on a Sunday night. And not just any Sunday night, but the Sunday night—my Facebook feed reminds me—the final Game of Thrones season premier.

Connecting Brands with Personal Voice & Outcomes

A few pages in, a full spread features Delta CEO, Ed Bastian, discussing how Delta is committed to being a leading corporate citizen of the world and how they are “doing their part.” Ed walks through the commitment of Delta to the world we live in, the history of Delta that endures to this day, and the culture that demands we strive to be a force of positive change in our world. He then describes some key things we should know about Delta’s sustainability efforts including:

  • Working to achieve a 50% reduction in emissions by 2050, using technology, operational and maintenance improvements and the use of bio-fuels.
  • Jet fuel accounts for 98% of emissions and they are retiring their most fuel-intensive aircrafts, replacing 25% of their mainline fleet over the next three years with newer fuel- efficient jets and reducing fuel burn by decreasing the weight planes must carry.



Later on, we learn that Delta became the first U.S. airline to offer carbon offsets to customers and are the only major airline in the world to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 2012 levels. At travelers can estimate their own carbon emissions based on how far and often they fly.

By choosing to lead positive change, by featuring a known celebrity passionate about combating climate change on the cover, and by having supporting proof points, Delta does an excellent job of connecting its brand voice in a personal manner with outcomes that are impactful.

Choosing a Subject Matter who Supports and Personifies the Brand

The cover story goes into detail through the center spread—of course touching on the final season of Game of Thrones—but it digging deeper into the person beyond Sir Jamie Lannister. We learn about Nikolaj and his passions and interests. We learn about The Lion’s Share, his newest conservation initiative where advertisers donate a half a point of their ad budget whenever an animal is used in an ad. Those contributions are then used to benefit wildlife around the world.


By choosing a theme of social good, having an impactful and timely subject matter, and digging into personal interests, the whole magazine supports and personifies the brand that Delta is speaking to.

Utilizing Storytelling with an Omni Channel Approach in Higher Ed

In this issue, I also found ads for three higher ed institutions—a law school in Minnesota, an MBA program in Colorado, and a Big 10 school. Two of these ads show typical pretty campus photos with the institutional logo, name and URL. The third school, however, is an advertorial (an advertisement in the form of editorial content) which executes the concept of story-telling and amplification of brand perfectly.

Michigan State has done an impressive job supporting their ongoing “Spartans Will” campaign and how Spartans are more than just Sparty the mascot, they are impacting the world. Instead of a campus beauty shot with the school logo, the full page ad tells the story of Danny Ducat, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, who is looking for ways to train photosynthetic microbes that can naturally harness the sun to make bioplastic compounds. Translation? Michigan State researchers are exploring how the sun’s power can help create biodegradable plastics that don’t require fossil fuels.

For the win: MSU. This is an incredibly thoughtful piece that supports the idea of the global good, showcases what MSU is doing to affect change, and tells a story that links directly to the key content theme of the entire publication.


Lessons Learned

Every day we have the chance to share our brand messages through thoughtful strategic content and tell our stories in meaningful ways to those that we engage with. But it’s not every day you see it come together so powerfully across different verticals.

What a great example of how to use many channels to impact and educate our audiences in ways that are meaningful, authentic, and effective. Kudos to Delta, Nikolaj, and MSU on synergist contributions to the greater good…and, of course, a great plane read.

Ann Oleson
Ann Oleson
April 18, 2019