Canada-based WestJet recently demonstrated that video is undoubtedly where the magic happens. Its “Real-Time Giving” video has stunned both the brand and the market by earning an unprecedented 28 million views on YouTube in mere weeks.
Skeptics seem to be convinced that the video will be unable to change the company’s bottom line as consumer decisions in the airline industry seem to be price-based rather than brand-based. WestJet and other marquee players like Turkish Airlines are disregarding this characterization of the market, as Turkish Airlines’ big, splashy campaigns featuring the who’s who of the sport’s world demonstrate.
What skeptics may miss is that while the video may not have a direct bearing on the company’s sales immediately, it’s worked a miracle for the WestJet brand. Not only has it helped position the WestJet team as ‘the one’s who care” in the Canadian market, but it has helped brand recognition skyrocket across the globe. This is crucial for WestJet because of its recent decision to step into the international market.
What helped trigger this massive viral outbreak was perhaps the “pusher” video the company released alongside its “Real-Time Giving” viral sensation. The video features WestJet’s Vice President Richard Bartrem urging viewers to share the “Real-Time Giving” video. He claimed that WestJet would give away free flights to people in need if the video hit 200,000 views. The video also helped align the brand’s philosophy with the surprise stunt.
“We can run a terrific, affordable, safe, on-time airline, but we think that’s not enough, you need that little extra piece, and that little extra piece is having a little bit of fun” Bartrem quips toward the end while discussing the “surprise”. Even just having your VP standing by a conveyor belt looking as excited as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning at the prospect of surprising his customers, goes a long way.
While the pusher video helped spark the fire, what made WestJet’s video so astoundingly successful was primarily the company’s ability to define its brand through quality content. In order for owned media to translate into earned media and tangibly augment brand image, content has to come across as an authentic representation of the brand. One of the worst situations a brand can find themselves in, is having its campaign viewed as a publicity stunt aimed at racking up some more dollar bills.
WestJet’s video is an extension of its core philosophy—“sure it’s our aircraft that fly you places, but it’s really our people who get you there.” The company has won awards for customer service, for positive company culture and has engaged in a plethora of charitable endeavors. This is exactly what the video reflects; WestJet is full of great people who are willing to go the extra mile to put a smile on their customers’ faces.
This isn’t the first time WestJet has gotten creative with its marketing strategy. The airline recently collaborated with Disney to transform one of its aircrafts, and the maiden voyage of the “Magic Plane” turned out to be a special one. WestJet had Disney themed goodies for passengers, many of whom were youths from local boys and girls clubs and even had a team of employees bid the plane adieu from the runway with glittering signage, which read, “Have a magical flight!”
Building a brand has everything to do with making your owned content work for you. WestJet was able to produce quality content which reflected its mission, culture, and persona—the company leveraged the digital space in a productive manner. WestJet may not see an immediate jump in sales, but the airline has succeeded in getting its name out there, creating an emotional connection with potential customers and solidifying WestJet as the brand that brings a little magic to the skies.
Building a rock-solid brand is crucial in this day and age where “who you are” and “what you represent” is becoming as important a consideration to the consumer as “what you’re selling”. As WestJet’s video demonstrates, there is no better medium to get your brand where it needs to be, than online video. There is simply no other medium which enables a campaign aimed at 200,000 views to hit 27 million screens in a fortnight. Take a leaf out of WestJet’s book and embrace the potential gains of going viral.