Thursday, December 19, 2013

WestJet sure knows something about marketing

A few weeks ago, WestJet – which I take is the Southwest Airlines (or a smiley-face version of Ryanair) of Canada – asked travelers in a couple of airports what they wanted for Christmas. Or, rather, a blue-hatted Santa asked them. What the airline did was to set up:

…electronic Santa chat boxes in terminals at the Hamilton and Toronto airports. Travelers giggle at the chance to talk live with Santa through a screen, and parents and kids alike tell him what they want for Christmas. (Source: Huffington Post.)

FaceTime with Santa!

Fun. A cute idea. I’m sure that a lot of folks got a kick out of it.

But rather than leave it at that, WestJet turned on the jets and did a little flash mob shopping, and some flash mob wrapping. Lucky passengers, those, who took the time to sit on Santa’s virtual knee:

When they get to baggage claim, tired travelers see their luggage -- and big blue boxes with their names on the front and their dream Christmas gifts inside. Faux snow falls, tears are shed, and a giant gingerbread man waddles around the luggage belt eating cookies.

One couple ended up with a giant flat-screen TV; one guy got exactly what he requested: socks and underwear. (Guess it’s not all that smart to joke with Santa. As they say, be careful what you wish for.)

Keen marketers that they are, WestJet pulled it all together in a snappy video that, of course, went viral.

And to all a good flight…

An altogether fun and clever marketing idea, well executed.

Good publicity for WestJet. Nice way to build customer loyalty. And, apparently, a reasonably good approximation of the authentic WestJet culture, which puts a premium on caring for employees and customers alike. (One of the corporate values is “fun, friendly, and caring.”) They’ve won all sorts of awards for most admired culture, customer service superiority, best place to work, etc.

Many companies, of course, pay lip service to caring for employees and customers.

After all, it costs nothing to throw a bunch of lame bullet items on a PowerPoint vision or mission statement.

And no company is ever going to admit that they don’t give a hoot about either employees or customers.

WestJet’s mission is “to enrich the lives of everyone in WestJet's world by providing safe, friendly and affordable air travel.”

Can you imagine an organization that would admit that their mission was “to enrich the pocketbooks of everyone in senior management”?

Still, ‘tis the season when it feels good to feel good, and WestJet’s Santa Claus is coming to the airport – blue hat and all – is a definite feel good. Except maybe for the poor schnook who asked for underwear and socks. I’m sure he’s kicking himself, big time. At least he’s got clean new socks to kick with.

Obviously, WestJet can’t do the same thing again next year, as passengers will be primed to ask for iPads and xBoxes, rather than Thomas the Train sets and undies.

My money’s on these marketers to come up with something equally fun.

Marketers may want to head on over to Social Media Today and check out Kimbe MacMaster’s review of WestJet’s initiative.

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