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

WestJet vs Air Canada: My Experience

A few weeks ago, I posted  that I was going to Edmonton on a business trip, flying there on WestJet and returning on Air Canada. From my observation, consumers have somewhat different perceptions of Air Canada and WestJet. WestJet is often regarded as a young, fresh upstart that has provided travellers with a friendly alternative to Air Canada. Their advertising campaigns really project a strong human element on the brand – an employee-owned company in which staff really will go the extra mile to satisfy customers. On the other hand, Air Canada comes across as being more corporate and less sensitive to the needs of travellers. Case in point, the PR fiasco they faced as a result of how they responded to the severe winter storms that hit Canada in December 2008, with disgruntled travelers as a result of many delayed and cancelled flights.

I thought I would take the opportunity to compare my experience with each airline on my Edmonton trip, from a marketing perspective. I should mention, I have done a fair bit of flying before, mostly with Air Canada and other international airlines. The WestJet flight to Edmonton was only my second with the airline.

WestJet

It may be a small thing, but one thing stood out for me right from the get-go with WestJet. The itinerary confirmation I received by email included the line “Have a great flight!”. At the gate, their staff was open and friendly, joking as I was the last person to board the flight. The crew on the flight had the same demeanor, and wow was it ever refreshing. On the flight, I really enjoyed the convenience of having access to satellite TV, giving my choice in viewing pleasures.  All in all, it was a pleasant flight and an enjoyable start to the day. WestJet lived up to expectations, based on my perception of the brand.

Air Canada

My flight back to Vancouver the next day was very routine, the staff at the airport and the crew onboard the flight were friendly. On it’s own, a good experience. However, when compared to WestJet, Air Canada didn’t quite measure up.

Upon further reflection, it’s the small things that WestJet did, and the conveniences they provided, that made a difference. “Have a great flight!” being included on my itinerary. The staff that told jokes. Access to satellite TV. Going the extra mile.

WestJet vs Air Canada: Comparing Brand Experiences

It has been awhile since I’ve flown, and I earlier this morning I booked a trip to Edmonton for next week. My flight to Edmonton will be on WestJet, and my return flight will be on Air Canada.  Over the years, much has been made about the different experiences consumers have with each airline – particularly given the emphasis WestJet places on customer serivce.  I intend to write a blog post comparing my thoughts on each brand next weekend.

I just received my confirmation emails from each airline. WestJet’s subject line said “Have a great flight!”. Will that be an indicator?

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