Canada’s second largest airline, WestJet, has set the bar incredibly high in the low-cost arena this festive season with its heart-warming "Christmas Miracle: real-time giving" campaign. With more than 32 million YouTube views in more than 200 countries, making the news in at least five of these, the campaign that touched 250 unsuspecting passengers on their voyage from Toronto Pearson to Ontario airport has far surpassed the brand’s expectations.
With a Christmas campaign in 2012 that saw them score 700,000 YouTube views, the airline had modestly predicted hits nearing 800,000 this year on their campaign that had been four months in the making. It is precisely this humility and the very human integrity and personality of the brand that has accentuated the emotional impact of this heart-warming five-minute clip.
Although the airline announced that it was not for the sake of the brand, but with a unique focus on spreading cheer amongst their "guests," (brand vocabulary that itself reveals something of the business’ people focus), WestJet has received an unprecedented leap in attention on the world scale. As a result, the brand is naturally benefitting from the increased exposure of its core values in the public domain, and hence understanding of what the brand stands for, as people are encouraged to spend time with the brand that they would never have done normally.
From a brand perspective, what the campaign demonstrates is employee behaviour completely aligned with the brand’s stated mission of “enriching the lives of everyone in WestJet’s world” (sic) and that fulfils the human quality that the low-cost carrier prides itself on. It allows the external world a view into the inner workings of WestJet’s corporate culture, one that is built around truly caring for its people and customers as they seek to create the best possible guest experience.
From an emotional, human nature perspective, the reasons for the campaign’s success are patently clear – there won’t have been many dry eyes amongst the 19 million views. Its small scale, confined to one airport and a select number of passengers, made WestJet’s initiative all the more memorable and powerful, as the impact they had on individuals ‘ lives became greater.
The brand has undergone an almost unbelievable level of dedication, making an out of the ordinary effort with their random act of kindness as they looked to create a "remarkable experience." The campaign really pulls at the heart strings of the audience and builds genuine emotion as it captures the overwhelmed reactions of the passengers whose Christmas it has improved. Apart, perhaps, from the fondly nicknamed “pants and socks guy,” who may be regretting his most humble request…
This time of year is one where brands look to make a parting flourish and gesture towards their loyal following to see their goodwill carried through into the new year. This campaign by WestJet, however, is so much more than a hollow end-of-year gimmick or a purposeful tear-jerker.
What the brand has succeeded in showing is that it is embodied every day by its people, who are real and who provide a service for real families, who often do not possess the means to buy everything they would like to. The brand is going above and beyond and adding value through a simple act of genuinely listening to its customers, even when they least expect it. It constitutes a stellar example of a brand living and breathing its brand values as WestJet revels in its fun, caring and passionate side, appreciative of its guests’ needs, whatever they may be.
Julia Bland is an Analyst, Brand Strategy, at Interbrand London.