Ready to Take Flight

IMG_1272I always thought travel would play a huge role in my life. When I was young, I was fortunate to have parents who took me places during summer vacation. I loved our regular camping excursions throughout Western Canada and the US, and I was fortunate to experience Disneyland. Disney World, too. Every few years, we were able to go to Europe to visit relatives on my Dad’s side of the family; mostly around Munich and Austria, but I do have vivid memories of a trip to the Mediterranean and the former Yugoslavia.

My hunger for travel grew during my university years. During the summer semester breaks, I spent time exploring Canada and Europe. My first solo European trip involved a ten countries in twenty days adventure aboard a Contiki bus full of Aussie and UK “pub enthusiasts”. OK, as it turned out, it wasn’t quite my style of travel – but I did return to Europe a few years later for a summer backpacking adventure.

Perhaps the highlight of my travels was a year spent in Australia following graduation, coupled with time spent in Bali, New Zealand and Fiji. When I left for Australia, I felt the world was my oyster. I hadn’t yet established a career. In fact I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, except for one thing: travel and experience everything that the world, and the people of the world, have to offer.

Then, a funny thing happened.

I returned from Australia, not having met the beautiful Australian woman of my dreams to marry (which of course would also allow me to say down under!). I stumbled into a career in marketing, which mostly for the better, has engulfed much of my life. My career path, however, has not been straightforward. While I have traveled a bit over the last number of years, for a variety of reasons my adventures have not been as grande nor as adventurous as I would have liked.

The time has come to change that. For me, I am happiest when I am focused on true, genuine and awesome life experiences. “Experiences” is the key word. It’s a cliché, but life is short, and it’s time to start living it.

Recently I have been inspired by the local travel blogger community, through Toronto Travel Massive, as well as my good friend Jason Baker who is getting set to go on an adventure and share his experiences through The Imperfect Traveller.

I am working on an overall life bucket list, which I will post on this blog shortly. In the meantime, here are some travel-related highlights of what I currently have on the list.

Within the next year:

  • I will visit Chicago
  • I will travel to Peru, for the first time, and do the Inca Trail
  • I will do a multi-day bike trek, in either Eastern Canada or Europe

Within the new three years:

  • I will travel to Costa Rica
  • I will travel to Europe to visit distant relatives (and ski the Alps)
  • I will travel to India
  • I will do an adventure trip with my parents

With the next ten years:

  • I will visit all seven continents. Yes, including Argentina.
  • I will climb Mount Kilimanjaro

There’s more, but I think this is a good start.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, it’s time to start planning my next trip.

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