WestJet Takes Flight to NYC Using Experiential and Social Media Marketing

I enjoy learning about and experiencing innovative, well-executed marketing campaigns. In my opinion one of the best examples in a long time occurred on the streets of Toronto, and online, this past Friday. WestJet teamed up with agency Mosaic for an integrated experiential and social media campaign to promote the launch of WestJet’s new 7 times daily service from Toronto to New York City’s LaGuardia airport.

Given the intense competition from firmly established Air Canada and Porter Airlines, the latter of which offers direct flights to NYC from the conveniently located Billy Bishop City Airport, WestJet needed to launch with a bang – and did they ever. On Friday, 100 Statues of Liberty took to the streets of Toronto, visiting high traffic areas to give away valuable prizes to passersby – notably, 150 prizes for 100% off the base fare for a round trip to NYC and 23,000 promo codes for 20% off of the base fare.

The contest leveraged Facebook and Twitter to generate excitement and and provide hints on where people could find the Statues of Liberty. People also had an opportunity to win five free flights on Twitter by tweeting @WestJet and #NYCASAP.

  • @WestJet: Enter to WIN a flight to NYC! Follow @WestJet & send a Tweet that mentions @WestJet & includes #NYCASAP. Rules: http://fly.ws/nycasap
  • @MKRoberts: Sure would love to go to #NYCASAP with @WestJet 🙂
  • @Osfreddy: @WestJet I want to win @WestJet promo on #NYCASAP please I need to see my dear friend that just had a baby. Thanks @WestJet

Ultimately, this campaign will be best judged on whichever metrics WestJet has established – presumably including passenger loads and the redemption rate for the 23,000 promo codes. However, there are several reasons why I really like this effort.

First and foremost, the tone and execution of the campaign were well-aligned with WestJet’s DNA. They have already established themselves as being a customer-centric company, and they’re not afraid to joke around and have fun – I’ve noticed it in their ads and whenever flying WestJet. Complementing this, the company is firmly established on social media. They know how to use the platforms correctly as mechanisms for both promotion and engagement.

Further, a very significant value offer was provided. It’s hard to resist 100% off the base fare for a flight, with a reasonable chance of winning, even if taxes have to be paid – or the opportunity to receive a promo code for 20% off. WestJet wasn’t giving away swag, they offered tangible value.

Also, it’s an excellent example of integrated social media and experiential marketing. People were actively tweeting (I counted several hundred tweets in the last hour alone) – often identifying where some Statues of Liberty were.

  • @savagecookie: RT @lindacam75: @WestJet Found lady liberty at yonge & bloor! #NYCASAP! #Toronto http://pic.twitter.com/SecQuXpl
The message was simple and concise, helping to make the tweets easily shareable. There were A LOT of retweets, people shared the promotion with their followers.
  • @shepherd_group: Booya! RT @amydehaan: I would love to win this!! RT @WestJet – We’re giving away 5 flights to NYC via Twitter today! #NYCASAP
  • @AmyDeHaan: I would love to win this!! RT @westjet – We’re giving away 5 flights to NYC via Twitter today! #NYCASAP
It was a fun campaign. A lot of people wanted to get pictures taken with the statues, as evidenced by the number of pictures being shared.

  • @IamVenusMonroe: Hanging with lady liberty x 3 lolz #NYCASAP http://pic.twitter.com/rdpsiiFs

In addition to the Statues of Liberty, another iconic NYC figure also made an appearance!

  • @AllisonChoppick: RT @ashmarshall: And then that just happened… #NYCASAP http://pic.twitter.com/qjMR081i
Unfortunately I didn’t win, but here are a couple of happy people who did. Bravo, WestJet.
  • @sabrinakareer: Ran into these #NYCASAP ladies this morning and scratched a card giving me 20% off a flight to NYC! #Woohoo http://pic.twitter.com/waMuKi4f
  • @lditkofsky: Just won a free trip to NYC!! Thanks Westjet! #NYCASAP

Robbie’s Home on Howe – Experiential Marketing and Social Media

Experiential marketing enables customers to engage and interact with brands, products and services, allowing for personal experiences that aid purchasing decisions. Max Lenderman, Director of OuterActive at agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, mentioned in his best-selling book “Brand New World” that experiential marketing is often used in India, a country in which few families own TVs, and that it is poised to become more prominent on a global basis over the coming years. I agree.

Recently, at an event hosted by the BC Chapter of the American Marketing Association, furniture retailer Urban Barn, in conjunction with ad agency and design firm Spring Advertising, PR firm Elevator Communications, and retail consultancy DIG360 presented details of an innovative experiential marketing and social media initiative.

Faced with the prospect of a significant drop in sales at their Howe St location during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, due to street closures and excessive Olympic crowds, they transformed their retail store into an interactive experience. The store became a fully functioning home, inhabited 24/7, by Robbie, the store manager. People had an opportunity to walk through and experience “Robbie’s Home on Howe”, while also enjoying Olympic events on several TVs that were set up.

To support the initiative, a microsite was created, and advertising was placed on the store front as well as inside. Awareness was in part generated via social media, notably via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. At the end of each day, Robbie recorded a video diary.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w42iKtNXwE]

The initiative was also promoted at Urban Barn’s 38 stores across Canada.

Urban Barn did not set a specific sales objective to measure ROI. I believe doing so would have been quite difficult, particularly given the unique nature and circumstance. However, qualitatively speaking, it does seem that “Robbie’s Home on Howe” was an effective brand building exercise. Urban Barn tracked over 2000 people going through on a daily basis, and even had to hire a bouncer to control crowds. The store became a destination.

“We set out to attach Urban Barn’s name to something memorable and unexpected and without a doubt this was achieved,” states Brianna Doolittle, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Urban Barn. “Over the course of 17 days we were able to touch thousands of people with an experience that will stick with them, and we feel confident that next time they need some furniture or accessories for their home they will think of Urban Barn.”

Urban Barn’s effort also received significant PR coverage, both locally and nationally through mainstream press, as well as through social media.

I believe we are truly at new frontier in marketing and advertising, and it is great to see companies like Urban Barn that are willing to take a risk and experiment. Urban Barn has remained active with the connections created with customers through social media, and they are currently working with their partner agencies on follow-up strategies.

I look forward to seeing what they do next!