The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

When Hijacking Culture Is Copyright Theft In Disguise …

Love it or loathe it, but Wordle has captured the world’s attention. Whether it will continue to do that now the NYTimes has bought it, is anyones guess, but right now, it’s peak popularity.

Hell, even I love it and I HATE word games.

Crosswords? Hate.

Scrabble? Hate.

And yet whether it’s the last thing I do before I go to sleep or the first thing I do when I wake up, I’m playing the days challenge. And I’m brilliant at it. Hahaha.

Anyway, I was on Twitter when I recently saw this from Air New Zealand.

Look, I get it’s a competitive world.

I get brands are looking for anything that can help them stand out.

And I get ‘hijacking culture’ is a cheat way of doing this.

But there’s 2 reasons why this approach is tragic rather than magic.

First is it’s Air New Zealand.

Of all the airline brands out there, they are a pioneer. An innovator. A leader.

They’ve created, influenced and changed the airline industry in ways few have come close.

From being the first to make ‘in-flight safety videos’, entertainment to creating economy seats that turn into beds.

Ripping off Wordle doesn’t represent any of this.

If anything, it does the opposite.

But then, when I see the work they are putting out these days, maybe it all makes sense.

When a nation that prides itself as explorers and adventures has their National Airline promote their role in a post-covid world as being ‘we fly for you’ … you have to question if they realise what they’ve done or if they made a conscious effort to ditch the approach that made them great and forward thinking in favour of the sort of bland, contrived, unrealistic and meaningless twaddle of big corporation 90’s advertising.

Like this.

From 1991.

God I hope not. They are better than that and NZ needs them to be better than that.

Which leads to the other reason.

Hijacking culture.

What’s interesting is that so many brands do it.

As I said, I get why … but 99% of them have failed to understand how it really works and so we now live in a world where the approach is so common, it doesn’t surprise anyone.

If anything, it un-hijacks culture.

So how does it really work?

Well having worked with the brand and agency that arguably created the approach – or at least mastered it – the secret is to do something that adds to culture, not just steals from it.

Which means having an actual right to be there.

Then do something that opens things up, not just repeat what’s already happened.

Adding a point of view to the situation not just adding more noise and clutter to it.

Of course, even with all that, it still doesn’t mean it will work … but its definitely going to be better than the desperate amateur hour that so many brands favour.

Who think it makes them look cool but forgetting if you’re trying to be that, you’re definitely not ever going to be that.

22 Comments so far
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This is a really good post Robert. I love your point about needing to add rather than steal from culture. I don’t know much about airlines but I do know Air NZ had an excellent reputation. Despite never flying them, this ad has made me feel less positive about them. As you say, you expect great brands to be better than this, even with their social content.

Comment by George

You used an ad featuring the music of a member of queen as an example of something bad. Who are you? In other news. That wordle rip off is terrible.

Comment by Bazza

its a fucking plane crash version of wordle.

Comment by andy@cynic

God, that’s vicious.

Comment by Rob

It may be the most 90’s song ever written. That is not a compliment.

Comment by Pete

It’s not the best, I’ll admit that.

It is also after Freddie died, so I’m going to put it down to grief.

Comment by Rob

i hate wordle. i hate brands who have to steal shit to try and look interesting. I think brands who steal wordle to look interesting are the most fucked up and boring of them all. pricks.

Comment by andy@cynic

campbell. you cant even spell your name properly. what fucking hope have you got with wordle?

Comment by andy@cynic

Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t seem to be a fan of Sudoku.

Comment by John

This is a maths test reference isn’t it John.

Comment by Rob

3% of it is.

Comment by John

The worst bit is you just gifted me a higher score than I actually got in Mrs Kirk’s maths class.

Comment by Rob

I must have messed up the paperwork.

Comment by John

Looks like you’ll be kicked out of NZ soon then Rob.

Comment by DH

Seems so. And it won’t be on an Air New Zealand flight, I’m guessing.

Comment by Rob

youll get lee to bung you another fucking freebie.

Comment by andy@cynic

Genius doesn’t always steal.

Comment by John

This is perfect Rob -> “99% of them have failed to understand how it really works and so we now live in a world where the approach is so common, it doesn’t surprise anyone. If anything, it un-hijacks culture.”

Comment by Pete

Gretsky was right.

Comment by John

lee is fucking quiet.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is this the same AOR as the in flight videos?

How do you manage consistency?

Comment by Piotr

To tell the truth, I absolutely agree with you and I share your point of view regarding brands. Unfortunately, it is so widespread when some of them are guided by dishonest and tricky methods, being absolutely trivial in that way. You are absolutely right that ‘hijacking culture’ is a cheat way of standing out, but I think that it is a road to nowhere and it will never help any brand to consolidate its positions. Unfortunately, such an approach only deprives brands of uniqueness and can only entail negative consequences. In my opinion, a practical and effective method for brands to stand out is to remain themselves and try to find creative solutions, developing strong sides, but move away from ‘hijacking culture’. I think that it is the key to have success in the competitive world.

Comment by Marina @ NMPL

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