Giving Back: WestJet’s Newest Christmas Miracle

by Leslie Goldstein

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holiday season and all of the shopping and preparations that are still ahead of me. It always feels like these tasks are so daunting, but once you get into the spirit of the holidays your muscles loosen up and you just dive in.

The spirit of sharing and giving has become synonymous with the holidays and to some (or many) too contrived and commercial. Against this seasonal backdrop, I have chosen WestJet’s Christmas Miracle digital marketing campaign to exemplify a successful and strategic approach to promoting its brand and connecting with its online community.

WestJet shared their second of three annual Christmas videos on December 8, 2013. According to their blog post, on the second day after the WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-Time Giving video was shared, it had gone viral, hitting one million views, and they had CTV, CNN, ABC, The Daily Mail and The View all knocking on their door. Websites like Mashable, The Huffington Post and Devour.com all featured this video. In fact, according to social media statistics outlined in SimpliFlying’s case study of this campaign, the article about this video was shared on Mashable’s website over one million times.

Although WestJet’s blogger, Greg Plata, acknowledged that there was speculation about why this video had been produced, namely, to promote awareness of their brand – that WestJet and its owners are a caring company, committed to giving back to their community – they emphasized that, “At the end of the day, it was about creating a remarkable experience, something that would live with our guests far beyond their WestJet flight – and we wanted to share it with all of you, too.”

Watch WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-Time Giving – December 8, 2013

Even if WestJet’s sentiments are genuine, I believe that the strategic intent of this video and their Christmas Miracle digital campaign is about creating brand awareness for potential customers, keeping their brand top of mind with their existing community and strengthening these relationships. This video also helps keep the WestJet brand top of mind for those who will be travelling beyond the holiday season.

What WestJet has done quite well in their video though, is connect with their community by showing their human side. By capturing the volunteer efforts of employees shopping for gifts, wrapping them and being fully immersed in the customer experience, the viewer feels that WestJet genuinely cares about its customers. At a time when commercial airlines are charging its customers more for checked baggage, adding fuel surcharges and diminishing in-flight services, this heart-warming story goes a long way to demonstrate WestJet’s caring and fun-loving culture.

Now, I know that sharing a Christmas-themed video in early December is deliberate and that pulling on the emotional heartstrings of viewers is integral to their digital marketing campaign, but this video has amassed over 36 million views on YouTube so far. Compared with other North American airlines, WestJet’s Facebook page yielded almost six times the engagement of other airlines. The same outcome has been seen on Twitter, where the number of retweets (almost 7,000) far outweighed the follower interaction of tweets compared with its competitors.

Following the runaway success of their 2013 video, WestJet recently shared its new Christmas video, “WestJet Christmas Miracle: Spirit of Giving”. The premise of sharing the Christmas spirit is similar to last year’s theme, but this year WestJet focuses on giving back to the community of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, which is one of its destinations.

What is more compelling about this story is how WestJet is investing in a community that is in need of better housing, tools and appliances such as washing machines – basic things that directly affect the livelihood of these residents of Puerto Plata. The appeal of this digital marketing campaign for me is how WestJet goes beyond their backyard to continue their culture of care, while promoting their brand and connecting with their online communities.

This digital campaign has been successful in communicating WestJet’s culture of caring considering their new video was recently uploaded to YouTube on December 1st. On WestJet’s Facebook page, the post and video has garnered 10.5 thousand likes, 1.5 thousand comments and 1 million views. On YouTube the video now has almost 2.3 million views. On WestJet’s Twitter feed, the video has been retweeted 320 times and counting.

Watch WestJet Christmas Miracle: Spirit of Giving – November 30, 2014

What has resonated with me more about this latest video is the inclusion of another video in which WestJet explains why they chose to recreate the 2014 Christmas Miracle in the Dominican Republic. Their ongoing working relationship with citizens of the Dominican Republic has generated other community projects that have helped to improve their living conditions and livelihood. Within the context of connecting further with their online communities, the inclusion of the backstory and scenes from the “making of” WestJet’s newest Christmas Miracle video provide customers and fans of this brand ample opportunity to tell and re-tell a richer story.

Watch WestJet Christmas Miracle 2014: Why We Did It – November 30, 2014

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