Spotlight on KLM Style

Airline wins top marks with an adorable mascot and swanky comfort bags

By Si Si Penaloza

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According to Le Paws, a leading canine talent agency, up to one in three adverts features a dog. So why do we fall–hook, line and sinker–for ads that feature floppy ears on muppet-like pups? Our response is raw, emotional and pure, much like our unconditional feelings for our furry best friends. Dogs aren’t simply used to advertise canine products like biscuits or flea treatments; they star in campaigns for beer, insurance, supermarkets and phone plans. We remember the product or service more fondly because we relate to the dog.

That’s why we love KLM’s new cute and clever dog-based campaign, which recently grabbed the No. 1 spot in branded video charts. The Dutch airline’s spot shows off Sherlock, a detective Beagle stationed at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, who finds and delivers items that passengers leave behind on planes. Even the most jaded jetsetter has fallen for this plucky new mascot. Anyone who says flying is an inhuman experience hasn’t had a missing carry-on item returned by a Beagle sporting a KLM blue vest.

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In the now infamously viral video, the trained pup traces the scent of left-behind personal effects— a pink iPhone and some headphones—and chases down the owner while they are still in the terminal. Awe, gratitude and rubdowns abound, warming up even the grumpiest of too-cool millennials (yep, more than 10 Million YouTube viewers at last count).

Unfortunately, iPhone-sniffing Beagles are not the next big thing in air travel. The spot was coyly and cunningly contrived by ad agency DDB & Tribal Worldwide for the Dutch airline. Still, the video serves as a KLM tribute to the smarts and service of Beagles and service dogs in general. During the 90-second video, Sherlock bounds around, fuzzy ears and floppy jowls flapping adorably in slow motion. He frolics through the airport, and we fall in love with him as he rides the baggage claim conveyor belt. Sherlock retrieves a stuffed animal and reunites it with its rightful owners. He even pauses to pose for a selfie with a passenger.

Although the Beagle delivery service isn’t real, KLM’s new lost and found service is still better than most, in that it fields social media requests in real time from passengers trying to track down missing items left on planes. In the style department, KLM wins top marks too. Instead of teaming up with the usual suspects in classical luxury houses – Bulgari, Ferragamo and Givenchy – the airline emphasizes its Dutch origins by partnering with contemporary Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf and Marcel Wanders for its onboard amenities. According to KLM, customers have indicated that they appreciate KLM’s typically Dutch character, so they decided to fully embrace Dutch design.

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The striking Viktor & Rolf-designed comfort bags are given to passengers travelling in Business Class on long-haul flights. Two distinct styles are available for men and women, containing a Viktor & Rolf branded toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eye mask, lip balm, pen and ear plugs. The fashion duo’s collaboration with KLM proved immensely popular: mere hours after the airline announced the Viktor & Rolf amenity kits, early bidders started popping up on online marketplaces like eBay.

KLM also serves meals in Business Class on both short and long-haul flights on tableware designed by Marcel Wanders. The designer (of Moooi and Droog Design fame) has created porcelain, glassware, cutlery, linen and a tray for the airline in his signature shapely style. In designing the new service elements, Wanders respected the working procedures of cabin crew and the weight and space restrictions of air travel.

I’ve come across some pretty posh airline amenity kits in my travels, and the luxe treats in each can often make or break comfort on a premium flight. KLM’s kit has a handy strap that transforms the bag from an amenity kit to a legit designer wristlet. So if your luggage was delayed, you could totally rock this as a clutch while you waited for your in-transit Kate Spade to arrive at your hotel. I honestly wish more airline collaborations would take on this upcycling challenge. What a novel idea – design something that passengers want to collect and use again in their civilian life.

Then again, KLM is great at this; they’ve given out the most highly collectible and highly valued aviation swag since the 1950s. KLM’s signature end-of-flight farewell gift of a Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutch house filled with Dutch gin (also known as genever) has been a hit since inception, spawning appreciation groups and associations the world over. Every year on October 7th, KLM celebrates the anniversary of the airline’s founding in 1919 by presenting a new house. Over the years, the cultural artifacts have become desirable collectors’ items, generating a lively trade among passengers. A few longtime KLM loyalists boast entire Delft Blue cities, aggregated over a lifetime of travel.

This being the digital age, there’s even an iPhone, iPad and Android app dedicated to the houses; a whole new way to keep track of your KLM miniatures collection. Simply download the app to view the archive of all the Delft Blue houses ever produced. It’s like Lego for grown ups!