Westjet's Christmas Miracle Real Time Giving

Word of Mouth Wonder in WestJet Christmas Miracle

Can Westjet Christmas miracle teach us a thing or three?

On Tuesday December 10th I saw the Westjet Christmas Miracle: Real time giving video appear on my Google+ notifications. It had been shared by Karen Cokenour (I always look at her posts as I trust them to be full of value). She in turn had shared from Alistair Lattimore who had picked it up from Mashable (article shared over a million times at time of going to press!) and so the links go on.

I decided to look into it a bit more closely. Taken on simple face value, it has given me the same wonderful “feel good” factor and goose bumps that are being felt by people all round the world. Looking at it from a marketing perspective, my humble opinion is that it is quite simply one of the best marketing constructions I’ve ever come across.

This video had been viewed about 12 million times on Tuesday, and four days later that figure has increased to over 22 million. Each person may well have shown it on their device to several others, so the impact spreads further than the “hits”. There are 24,655 comments on WestJet’s YouTube page, of which the resounding majority are full of wonder at the generosity and admiration for the excellent marketing idea.  All of this shared love will no doubt contribute to a positive lift on WestJet’s bottom line in 2014 and beyond. But what have the company achieved in this Christmas campaign? Why does this campaign work so well? I think the latter is down to a few key factors that we recognise as keys to success:

1) Engagement: People engage with people don’t they?

Emotion is a powerful driver, and our response to the travellers who had tears in their eyes and joy in their smiles as they received their unexpected gifts can’t fail to affect us and make us feel a part of this festive real time giving. As Andrew Bender in Forbes put it “If the unbridled emotion of 250 unsuspecting passengers receiving their Christmas wishes doesn’t warm your heart, you may want to consider a Scrooge-ectomy”.

Almost any marketing and social media campaign depends on creating an emotional response to engage their target audience. No company invests a sizeable sum without analysing firstly what they want in ROI, and secondly the actual results.

And the giggle factor? From jolly Santa Claus and his gentle banter with passengers to the wonderful man who only asked for socks and underwear, we chuckle and smile along with the scene playing out in front of us. Do we want to share this feel good moment? Of course we do!

2) Relationship Building: Will they succeed? Do we care?

How can they pull it off we ask ourselves? Once we get what they are doing, from the moment of capturing people’s Christmas list in Toronto to actual delivery of gifts on to the baggage carousel in Calgary, there is that question mark over how they are going to make all these dreams come true. WestJet hooks us in as we see each piece of the jigsaw fall into place.

We WANT them to succeed as we see 150 WestJetter volunteers careering round the stores, wrapping presents, getting them from A to B. Logically we know that they are not going to fail or they wouldn’t be publishing the video BUT we still invest our energy in wanting to see it all come to fruition. That’s a powerful reason for sharing. It’s the kind of story you share over a coffee with friends, on the phone with your Mum, at your desk in the office….. Ah the wonders of word of mouth recommendation!

So, already they’ve got us engaged with their story. We feel  involved with them and care about the success of their quest, so are now forming a relationship with the company. This is all marketing gold dust. But what benefit does that actually have for WestJet in the longer term? Does it have something to do with trust, authority and the fact that this will be talked about for many years to come?

3) Trust and Familiarity:  

One of the key elements of success is repeat, consistent messages that build our trust in a brand. This is the second Christmas cracker that the company has pulled, so there is history there. There is a sense of fun and joy in what the company aspires to do and this seems to be borne out in the way they look after their staff and customers.

To be fair, I may not be their ideal target as I live in the wilds of Cumbria, but there are going to be many who travel and now put WestJet high on their radar the next time they are looking for a flight. Existing customers are also more likely to repeat their business. They have also now become a household name around the world.

4) Credibility

Perhaps I am more interested than some may be in the background to WestJet as I have been looking at this from a professional perspective, as well as pure joy at their Christmas surprise. I did a bit of research on the culture of the company, and I like what I see.

They have come up tops in the Randstad Award two years running. According to Randstad, WestJet is seen as the company offering the most pleasant work atmosphere, the most interesting job content, the strongest management and good training opportunities. The Randstad Award rewards and encourages best practices in building the best employer brands, and is the only employer award where winners are chosen entirely by workers and job seekers. WestJet garnered the number one spot based on polling conducted by ICMA International in February and March of 2013 (source Canada’s Commercial Newswire).

In addition to this, one of the most inspiring and clever additions to their Christmas Miracle campaign was the extra video entitled Westjet Christmas Miracle: Why? This is where Richard Bartrem (VP) gives the background to the campaign. To me this adds some extra credible authority to what they have done as the company culture feels genuine. Another tick box in social media success. And despite a few cynical comments about the motives, I can’t see what there is to criticise. Only the most naive would think there is no business goal in creating this masterpiece, but why the heck shouldn’t they reap the benefits of a stunningly executed, pleasure-giving, marketing coup. I wish them all the happiest Christmas, and wonderful success for 2014. They have most certainly brightened my year, and I’m sure it has brightened Richard Bartrem’s who had hoped for about 800,000 hits. Smashed it!

Is this campaign one of the finest examples ever of viral marketing? What do you think?

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