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People often assume that I’m anti-Facebook just because I’m the only human being in Silicon Valley without a Facebook page.

Not true.

For consumer companies, Facebook offers one of the easiest platforms for brand storytelling. Take that photo of a customer smiling over the company’s product/service or that video of employees raising money for a worthy cause, publish on Facebook and voila! You instantly bring out the humanity of the brand.

Which got me wondering how well this concept travels with brands in countries with “controlled” governments.

I didn’t exactly pull Air Koryo, North Korea’s airline of choice, out of a hat. BusinessInsider published a story on Air Koryo back in March, highlighting that “Air Koryo is the only airline in the world deemed bad enough to earn a 1-star rating from Skytrax.”

Naturally, I thought here’s a brand worth a deeper look.

So let’s start with the Air Koryo’s hero photo that greets its Facebook visitors:

Air Koryo’s Facebook hero photo

We’ve got a plane ascending into the sky with the logo as a backdrop. Before I judge Air Koryo too harshly for its visual storytelling, it’s worth looking at a how a couple of the better airlines handle their Facebook pages.

Singapore Airlines Hero Photo on Facebook

Singapore Airlines Hero Photo on Facebook

Virgin America Hero Photo on Facebook

Virgin America Hero Photo on Facebook

After conducting what I call LATOLATO (look at this one/look at that one) analysis, I detected a pattern: people enjoying themselves (one with the help of what appears to be an adult beverage).

No such dynamic in the Air Koryo photo.

In fact, the concept of visual storytelling appears elusive to Air Koryo as the same theme plays out in its FB posts, though I did discover a recent photo that depicts real people:

Air Koryo FB page photo

Unfortunately, the caption for the photo again makes the plane the hero (the Tupolev Tu-204-300 P-632 is a looker):

  • “Air Koryo’s Tupolev Tu-204-300 P-632 pictured deboarding its passengers after a 2100hrs arrival from Shanghai Pudong Airport as JS552.”

Deeper in the FB timeline, we learn things like:

  • “Currently Air Koryo’s active Ilyushin Il-62M, P-881 has had a change of tail livery and a repaint of its fuselage. The new flag tail icon brings the tally to 3 different tail logos ordained on the North Korean Il-62s.

Can you imagine? Three different tail logos.

I think we can agree that this is not brand storytelling at its best.

As the final step in evaluation the Air Koryo Facebook page, I captured the company overview:


Air Koryo Korean Airways (formerly Chosŏn Minhang (조선민항 | Корё Ханггонг), short form Air Koryo) is the state-owned national flag carrier airline of North Korea, headquartered in Sunan-guyŏk, Pyongyang. It operates international services and charter flights. It is based at Sunan International Airport in Sunan, a suburb in north Pyongyang.

The Head Office of Air Koryo is located in the Sunan district, Pyongyang, and it has offices in Beijing, Shenyang, Macau, Bangkok, Berlin, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, Moscow, as well as sales agencies in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo and Taipei.

Fleet includes-

5 – Antonov An-24R and An-24RV aircraft
5 – Mil Mi-17D Helicopters
2 – Ilyushin Il-18D and Il-18V aircraft
2 – Tupolev Tu-134B-2 aircraft
2 – Tupolev Tu-154B and Tu-154B-2 aircraft
4 – Ilyushin Il-62M aircraft
1 – Tupolev Tu-204-300
1 – Tupolev Tu-204-100
1 – Antonov An-148-100B
3 – Ilyushin Il-76MD aircraft


Nothing wrong with providing key facts like where you fly. On the other hand, showcasing your fleet as “made in Russia” doesn’t seem like a brand-building moment.

I’m debating whether this should become an ongoing series. I could review the storytelling in a Facebook page for an airline in a communist country each month.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye out for that RFP to manage Air Koryo’s Facebook page.

We like assignments with plenty of upside.


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