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How #WestJetChristmas Miracle 2015 earns authenticity in the jaded airline space

Leading brands know who they are, and more importantly who they ARE NOT. They are conscious of what matches their style and resonates with their audience. They find authenticity in the space that they occupy.

Westjet is one of those brands.

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Westjet has been doing the Christmas miracle since 2012, an annual feel good campaign of sorts, that spreads good cheer in their community. There’s certainly no denying that they also benefit strategically from the effort in terms of publicity and earned media, but that objective is not the sole root of the exercise. Or at least it doesn’t appear that way.

Here’s a little primer for those who may not be familiar with the entire Westjet Christmas Miracle history.

In 2014 they helped an impoverished town in the Dominican Republic. Check out a video about the campaign here.

In 2013 they surprised guests flying from Toronto to Calgary with gifts that they had wished for earlier while talking to an online Santa in the boarding lounge. Those gifts famously rolled off the luggage carousel upon arrival in Calgary. View it here. 

In 2012 they did a flash mob at the Calgary airport, surprising passengers taking the red-eye to Toronto. This campaign was their Christmas Miracle venture. View it here.

Even Air Canada got in on the philanthropic act in 2014, with their own version of feel good marketing, when a couple pilots entered a well know Canadian expat pub in London, and bought a round for the crowd – literally a round trip return ticket home to Canada for the holidays for everyone in the room. Check out that video here. The Air Canada campaign was heart felt, meaningful, and no doubt deeply appreciated. I fly Air Canada often, frankly because they have a better schedule to some destinations, and also because their Star Alliance points program is linked to global carriers. But here’s the thing. Air Canada did not authentically own the “Christmas miracle” promotional space. Westjet did. Authenticity can’t be bought; it is something that must be earned. Individuals and companies earn authenticity through everyday actions, which collectively allow them to claim the space over time.

And that’s why this years #WestJetChristmas Miracle 2015 featuring employees carrying out 12,000 mini miracles in 24 hours was so powerful. Westjet empowered their 12,000 employees to commit random acts of kindness on December 9th, and then record them through words, photos and video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest. There were flights home for Christmas given away, a family vacation to Disney World, but also donations to dog shelters, food for soup kitchens, help for a senior to clean their apartment and put up decorations, random candy canes, toy donations, and many more. The campaign kicked off in London UK early morning, and carried on through 38 airports and cities through out Canada that the airline serves, as well as US destinations, the Caribbean and Hawaii. The company also encouraged citizens to commit their own random act of kindness and to share it on social media with the #WestJetChristmas hashtag. In encouraging others they boosted the reach up to 31,793 mini miracles from their 12,000 employee numbers. That’s pretty awesome. Now one week after the Dec 9 Mini Miracle day, Westjet has released the summary video. Within the first 12 hours of launch, it had achieved over 92,000 views. Watch it here.

Why does all this matter?  I think it all comes back to authenticity. Campaigns like this resonate with a target audience when they come from an authentic place. There’s something to be learned in that for your own marketing efforts. Know who you are, and more importantly, who you ARE NOT. Forget about trying to emulate your competitors. Customers will see right through it. And never loose sight of what you do well, and own it. Westjet owns friendliness and compassion in the airline space. That’s a valuable position, and not something easily earned. But they’ve done it through consistent actions.

So here are three questions to reflect on for your own marketing efforts: What do you do well? Why do you own it? How are you authentic in that space?

Mary Charleson

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