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Last year, WestJet pulled off an elaborate scheme whereby flight passengers met with a virtual Santa at the gate to share any Christmas wishes. Upon arrival, these passengers were beyond delighted to discover the very gifts they had just wished for circling the baggage carousel. The whole caper was filmed and edited into a story that has been viewed by over 37 million people to date.
Just last week, WestJet pulled it off again. This time, however, they chose to take their holiday plans to a small, poverty-stricken village in the Dominican Republic. Santa’s sleigh was staged in the middle of the village, where both children and adults could relay their Holiday needs and wishes to Santa via video. Not long afterwards, a huge party was held to which the entire village was invited. All of the gifts the villagers had requested were presented to them. This year trendy gifts gave way to far more practical items such as a washing machine, and even a horse. The video was again posted online for others to view and has been viewed over 2.5 million times just this past week.
Why does WestJet pull off such lavish and intricate campaigns each year?
Well, there is of course the huge publicity and exposure it brings. With tens of millions of views in a year’s time, it was certainly worth the cost of making the videos. They went viral because they tell a story that makes all but the Scrooges of the world feel good. And everyone likes that.
But in my opinion the more important point is this: In addition to the brand exposure, these types of campaigns make employees proud to work for a company. They also help make customers eager to continue their relationships. Does WestJet make mistakes throughout the year? I’m sure they are just as fallible as any airline. However, such a gesture around the Holidays makes employees and customers feel great about the brand. This then helps gloss over any of the small inconveniences and customer service mistakes that WestJet may have made.
I believe the real strength (and benefit) of these campaigns is that they nurture the relationships between WestJet, and its employees and customers. A common (and accurate) expression in the car business is “People do business with people they like.” By using stories that tug on heartstrings and leave people feeling good, positive and happy feelings are ingrained in customers and employees.
Don’t worry, I am not here to tell you that you should run out and try to duplicate these lavish campaigns. What I’m saying is that retention and loyalty can be nurtured through marketing efforts and acts of generosity. It is the Holiday Season after all, so this applies even more right now.
Such acts do not go unnoticed by the people that make your business what it is – your customers and employees. These type of acts can go a long way to help transform your business to a point that customers are not just happy to do business with you, they become your brand ambassadors. Nothing is better than a customer telling their friends and family to buy and service at your dealership.