WestJet Christmas

WestJet Christmas‘Tis the season for the marketing skeptic in all of us. We just can’t seem to help it. When a company sinks a large amount of money into a marketing stunt during the holiday season, one just can’t help but wonder how much they think it will affect their sales. These advertisements tug at the heartstrings and cause tears to well up in the eyes, but those in the marketing and advertising fields await articles about increased social media mentions, positive brand association, and an uptick in sales in comparison to rivals. But what if spending money on a viral video still wasn’t going to translate into a significant increase in sales, and a company did it anyway? Perhaps our hearts would grow three sizes.

Recently, I wrote about the new wave of marketing for airlines (click here). But the holiday season is an opportunity for the creative marriage of airlines and YouTube to really shine. WestJet already “won Christmas,” according to Entrepreneur Magazine and other sources, with over 19 million views on a video about a Christmas miracle in which they provide gifts from Santa to real passengers who told a machine what they desired most before they hopped on their flight. When they reach the baggage carousel, instead of their luggage, wrapped gifts with their names appear. Follow-up videos explaining the purpose of the “miracle”  as well as bloopers from Santa combined have received over 1.1 million views.

But here’s the crux of the matter. According to several business professors, despite the emotional resonance of the ad, it will probably not increase WestJet sales. Airline tickets for a product that are usually bought based on price alone, making it an industry in which emotional ads, while they may create more positive buzz for a brand, will not affect a purchasing decision in the spur of the moment. And yet, WestJet made the decision to do this stunt anyway for the second year running, and to use video views to raise charity dollars.

But what about perhaps the most famous Christmas advertisement on the other side of the ocean? I’m talking about the John Lewis Christmas commercial, or “advert” for our British friends. In the UK, the television commercial produced by John Lewis has now become a seminal part of the holiday season. And there are plenty of sources claiming that this year’s production, a £7 million piece entitled “The Bear and The Hare“, increased John Lewis’ sales significantly. However, let’s assume that WestJet already grew our heart three sizes and consider it from a non-cynical perspective. Studies show that John Lewis is actually not topping the emotional engagement of their 2011 advertisement yet, so it was a risky bet. And it’s also important to remember that John Lewis didn’t simply start sinking huge pots of gold into these “adverts” when the iron was hot in 2013. They’ve been running them consistently since 2007 as a cherished part of the holiday season, even through the recession, including 2009, which must have been a tough monetary decision in a year that saw them down 50% in sales through August.

It’s true that there’s a lot to be gained for airlines’ Christmas viral videos and department stores that tug Christmas heartstrings. But there’s something to be said about taking an opportunity to show your customers you’re truly thinking about them once a year.

About Ryan Perry

Ryan Perry has taken his 10+ years of business ownership and hands-on marketing skills and focused them on online marketing. In April of 2009, he started Simple Biz Support with an emphasis on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Ryan is propelling local business websites to the top of Google, Yahoo and Bing resulting in increased market exposure and revenue for his clients using a variety of internet marketing tools including blogs, article submissions and video. Additionally, Ryan speaks and vlogs (video blogs) about internet marketing, educating business owners how to effectively use various SEO tools and techniques to promote their business on the internet. Ryan currently resides in Santa Rosa, CA. Connect with Ryan on Google+