Westjet Marketing Magic

By now many of you have likely viewed the “Westjet Christmas Miracle” video that has gone viral since being posted last Sunday evening. It paints a charming tale of how the airline cleverly created Christmas magic by greeting customers at the Calgary luggage carousel with individually wrapped gifts matching their Christmas wish expressed only hours before in the Toronto departure lounge. Customers had the opportunity to speak to Santa virtually after scanning their boarding pass, and while they enjoyed a restful flight, 150 Westjet employees went shopping and feverishly wrapping in Calgary preparing for their arrival. The final scene captured on hidden cameras was complete with dancing elves, falling fake snow and of course Santa. Talk about surprise and delight! The piece de résistance is of course the finale when one family receives a big screen TV via the oversize luggage delivery area. Pity the guy who asked for socks and underwear. If by chance you haven’t seen it, you can view it here. It’s sure to put a smile on your face, and perhaps a tear in your eye.

But this isn’t the first time Westjet has pulled off such a stunt. In December 2012 they created a flash mob turning a sleepy boarding lounge for the Calgary – Toronto red eye flight, into the North Pole in 60 seconds. Once the dancing elves, lights, music and merriment were in full swing, Santa handed out stockings with an iPod for every customer. View the video here:

While the dancing elves flash mob garnered over 900,000 views, this years Christmas Miracle views were well over 16.8 million within 5 days. Clearly, Westjet makes hanging out at the airport a better place. It’s this type of thing that makes a company likeable and special.

So why did it work so effectively?

1. It was unexpected. Airlines generally are in the business of taking our money, not giving gifts back. And they’re often better known for loosing stuff and causing anger, then finding the unexpected and creating joy.

2. It was emotional. Of course the professional cinematography doesn’t hurt, but the close up angles of teary eyed surprised and delighted customers can’t help connect viewers to the recipients, and in so doing reflect positively on Westjet.

3. It was in keeping with the brand. This is a big one. No other airline in Canada could own this idea authentically. Westjet consistently positions as a fun, feel good airline, where employees care. Framed from another perspective, could Air Canada have pulled this off? I don’t think so. In fact one Youtube viewer commented that Air Canada had done a similar stunt back in the fall. I searched endlessly on Google and Youtube for some evidence of it and could find nothing. Curiously, my search terms “Air Canada viral” led me to results listing the Westjet Christmas miracle first, then ranked second, an ABC news clip about how Air Canada had lost Larry the greyhound dog in November at the San Francisco airport, en route from Italy to British Columbia. Go snuggle your dog and then click here for that ABC news report:

4. It was timely and a great story. Arguably at this time of year traffic snarls, delays and lost luggage are more the norm at airports across the land. This video challenges that notion and associates the positive experience with the Westjet brand. People don’t share ads, but they share great stories. In fact part of the reason it went viral so quickly was due not only to online sharing, but also word of mouth in conversation as well as being picked up heavily by traditional TV, radio and newspaper media.

5. There was a social cause component. Westjet promised to give away free flights to families in need, in partnership with Ronald McDonald House, once the video views had reached 200,000 which easily happened within a day.

Is this all a clever and shallow ploy to boost sales for the airline? I don’t think anyone is going to go out and book immediately with them as a result of having viewed the spot, however over the long term, the company has very effectively reinforced their brand positioning as the fun and caring airline in Canada. And that’s a brilliant investment. –



Mary Charleson

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