WestJet has done it again.
You may remember this airline from their video campaign that went viral during the holiday season – they asked passengers awaiting a flight what was on their Christmas list, and while they flew across the country, employees on either end worked feverishly to make every wish come true. It was sweet and inspiring, even if some thought it was entirely contrived.
This Father’s Day, they’re at it again. Make sure you have some tissues handy, because even grown men are tearing up at this:
I’m already known to be a little bit sappy about commercials, but this one really got to me. And it got me thinking about what it teaches us about our businesses AND our marketing.
We can all agree that giving back to the community is and should be an essential part of the cultures of our firms. We all do it in different ways, and for different causes. But there are a few things about this particular version of "giving back" that we can all learn from:
- It’s more than just a donation: Although organizations need funds, and we should help them financially, they also need action. What I loved about this was that WestJet chose someone who really needed help, and helped that person in the best way for THEM, not in what worked best for WestJet. Although I’m sure the Grimard family can use financial assistance with their sick son, what Marc really wanted more than anything was the chance to just be a dad and spend time with him. And WestJet did whatever they could so that could happen seamlessly.
- It teaches us to "pay it forward:" WestJet does something else here that’s important – they get their employees involved. Medel wasn’t just asked for a donation for someone he could identify with – he volunteered to train to do Marc’s job, and then did that job for a week. He’s directly involved with WestJet’s good work, which pays it forward, and his example also encourages both WestJet employees, and Marc’s fellow government employees, to look at how they can pay it forward as well. That kind of effort has a beautiful domino effect.
In our own firms, how can we do the same? Is there a charity that we work with regularly that we could identify a unique means of supporting, that would give the charity what THEY need, instead of just what we want to offer them? Is there a way that we can work with the recipients of the charity’s work, as well as the charity itself?
And although I’m a major advocate of doing good work for others as anonymously as possible, there are some business lessons to learn here, which we could also use in marketing our firms.
- Be authentic: This is the most important. If you read though the user comments on the YouTube video, you’ll see that WestJet puts their money where their mouth is. They may be a low-cost airline, but they’re not a low-service airline. They’ve developed some real customer loyalty, and it’s reinforced by this type of activity. So while you may be tempted to do something nice for the sake of good publicity, it needs to be more authentic than that. What good works are you and your firm doing because they are the right thing to do? Then, leverage that.
- Record & share it: I’m assuming that since WestJet is low-cost that they have a low budget for advertising (I could be wrong, but that’s the sense I get). Even with a big budget though, these days, there’s more stock placed in the organic publicity found in social media than in your typical ads. So WestJet made sure to document their good works – not in a way that promoted WestJet, but in a way that brought awareness to the Grimard family, their partner, the Ronald McDonald House, and lastly, WestJet. It’s always better to SHOW people who you are than to TELL them who you are, and this video speaks volumes.
- Leverage like crazy: WestJet didn’t just stop with this video though – you’ll notice that they also have a video of Medel’s week at the Transit authority, doing Marc’s job. Medel showed a lot of personality in the first video, so that motivates you to want to get to know him better – and there’s great value in humanizing your company, which WestJet does here. Not only are they invested in the community, and the Grimard family in particular, but they’ve got this nice guy, who’s also a father, working for them, and he’s exactly the kind of guy that the company represents.
- Viral motivation: WestJet is on people’s radar thanks to their holiday stunt, but there’s more motivation to help this video go viral – the more views it has, the more they donate to the Ronald McDonald House (an awesome organization, by the way). So they’re empowering us to:
- Participate in the process by viewing and sharing – we feel like we’ve donated too, just by watching a video.
- Be their brand ambassadors – they’ve done a great thing in the video, and they’re doing a great thing with the video, and their audience will want to share that.
This is such a beautiful way to give back to the community, while at the same time being a massively smart marketing move. WestJet gives us the warm and fuzzies with this video, engaging us with their charity work, making us feel that we know who they are through Medel, and making us part of the giving process. They make us want to say nice things about them, to give them our business when we can, because they’re "people we know, like, and trust," and they’re doing that all with a YouTube video, donating an employee’s time, and two round-trip tickets. The best part is that they’re doing it because that’s the type of company they are – and shouldn’t we all want to be more like that?
Take a look at what you and your firm are doing in the community, and how you might be able to learn from WestJet.