5 Things Marketers Can Learn from the WestJet Christmas Surprise

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WestJet Airlines has been receiving huge praise for a recent marketing initiative that involved surprising numerous unknowing travelers with Christmas gifts. The entire process was captured on video and relayed by a rhyming tune reminiscent of The Night Before Christmas.

WestJet, a Canadian low-cost carrier, set up displays at the Toronto and Hamilton International airports featuring Santa on a screen with a camera facing outward. While travelers were waiting to board their flights to Calgary, Santa spoke to people personally and asked what they wanted for Christmas. Answers ranged from simple (socks and underwear) to extravagant (tablets and a big screen TV). While these unknowing individuals obviously thought this was silly holiday entertainment, WestJet had recorded and brilliantly coordinated to actually retrieve every person and family’s holiday wishes.

According to Mashable, “The more than 150 WestJet employees played the part of Santa’s elves, gathering personalized presents, wrapping them and delivering them to the Calgary airport before the unsuspecting recipients landed. Upon arrival, the travelers received nothing short of a holiday miracle at baggage claim.”

WestJet also agreed to donate flights if the video reached 200,000 views – a goal which they surpassed by leaps and bounds. The video has currently amassed over 14 million views and has spread through social media like wildfire.

Aside from its charitable nature, there are several components that make this charitable campaign as contagious as it has become. In looking at these details closely, other brands can learn a lot about how to create memorable moments for consumers and potential consumers.

5 Things Marketers Can Learn from the WestJet Christmas Surprise:

  1. Be timely. The holiday season is clearly the perfect time to execute a holiday-related push. By maximizing the spirit of gifts and giving, WestJet was able to conduct a perfect surprise for its customers.
  2. Tap into emotion. Tapping into peoples’ actual wishes, and then actually delivering on those desires, is huge. As is evident by reactions in the video itself as well as reactions from people sharing it on social media, WestJet struck an extremely emotional cord and subsequently created a truly memorable event.
  3. Include an element of surprise. One of the biggest reasons this is as effective as it is is due to its shock value. As travelers relayed their desires to Santa, they certainly never expected to actually receive the gifts they were mentioning. The element of surprise also adds immensely to the emotional layer noted above.
  4. Nurture relationships with current customers. You’ll notice this campaign wasn’t about attracting new customers with gifts; it was about rewarding guests that were already flying WestJet. By nurturing that segment, they’ve now created an emotional bond that will most likely keep these flyers loyal to the brand for a long time to come.
  5. Coordination is key. This undoubtedly took a humongous amount of planning, timing, and extreme coordination. Without it, the gifts wouldn’t have all been procured, wrapped, and organized in time for the guests to retrieve them at baggage claim. Having a plan and knowing exactly how it will be executed is crucial to success.

How has your perception of WestJet changed as a result of their Christmas surprise?

Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller contributes a monthly column on Social Media for the Hospitality Industry. Debbie is the President of Social Hospitality where she provides clients with writing, editing, and social media services. She is also the Social Media Manager for Search Engine Journal and the Digital Communications Manager for HyperDisk Marketing. Prior, Debbie worked for a destination marketing organization and now has 8 years of hospitality marketing experience. Debbie has also taught social media courses and speaks at industry events. When she's not online, Debbie enjoys spending time with her spoiled dog children; watching movies; reading; and drinking copious amounts of coffee or wine. +Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller


Covering trends related to hospitality and social media, technology, marketing, branding, customer service, engagement, SEO, blogging. Founder: @TheBigDebowski
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  1. says

    Certainly this was a lovely surprise for the recipients! Of course we know that this was a marketing ploy as well as a ‘thank you’ to existing customers. I’ve always preferred West Jet to the other airline and that is because the other one did a very bad thing to me and if I had a choice I would never fly the other airline again. What a clever thing to do! And think of the pleasure it brought to so many unsuspecting people! But next year, people might remember and ask for a Jaguar???

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