If you're Canadian, you've likely seen the WestJet video. If you're not Canadian, or you've been living under a rock (or an igloo... haha, get it? Igloo? Self-deprecating Canadian humour...) you can see the video here. Be warned -- you'll need a tissue.
This is brilliant, for a couple of reasons.
1) It's instantly viral
Who doesn't love happy people? It's easy to share amongst your Facebook and Twitter friends.
In fact, that's the point, and WestJet doesn't shy away from it: ""In a social media environment, the sharing of it almost becomes the point itself: 'Look what this company did, I find it engaging, I want to tell you about it,'" said Richard Bartrem, WestJet's vice-president of communications and community relations. "It goes exponentially from there. It's very alluring to marketers to say how can I engage in that?"
2) There's a "standout" factor.
When everyone in your industry is great, it's harder to be considered even greater. WestJet does not have that problem. They're an airline, so by default, their competition sucks.
Quick -- name an airline you like. Heck, I'll settle for naming an airline you tolerate (and this is coming from someone who has status with both United and American Airlines.) Facts are facts, and right now, the fact is that people hate airlines.
This is a classic "when your opponent is drowning, you throw them an anvil." WestJet's primary competition right now is Air Canada... one of the most hated companies in Canada. What's the easiest way of making Air Canada appear even worse? By appearing to be awesome.
3) It's reputational immunization.
What the heck is reputational immunization? It's the act of immunizing yourself against a bad reputation.
Chances are good that for most of the companies you interact with on any given day, you're neither hot nor cold about them. They're just -- there. Part of your landscape. You buy groceries, and you have favourite brands, but if your favourite brand is unavailable, you shrug and buy another. In terms of positive/negative scores, most companies float around "zero."
When a crisis hits, that company dives into the negative. Major food recall? That peanut butter company now has to work very hard to convince consumers to trust them again. CEO gets caught doing something unsavoury? Same thing. Major brands spend most of their 'crisis communications' planning on how to get back to the surface. Once they get to surface level, they park there.
What WestJet has done takes public sentiment and parks them WAY above the waterline. This is important for two reasons: a) people like to do business with companies that they like, sure. That's called Marketing 101. But b) ready -- here's my main point:
THEY JUST BOUGHT THEMSELVES A FREE PASS!
This is WestJet's "Get out of Jail Free" card. It's beautiful.
Remember, this is an industry that can lose millions in shareholder value for breaking a customers guitar.
The next time WestJet gets caught doing something stupid (and sadly, yes, it will happen), they get a free pass.
Imagine something stupid - like, stranding a plane full of passengers on the tarmac for 6 hours. If this was United, Delta, or Air Canada, it makes headlines, and costs the airline a fortune. But if you're WestJet, you can come out and say "We feel awful that happened. We care about our customers and don't want this to ever happen again."
And guess what - people are going to believe them! It's genius!
WestJet has already made that deposit in the credibility bank. They've put points on the board.
It's awesome, it's brilliant, and kudos to the WestJetter who put it all together.