What Does a Christmas Miracle Cost? Or Does it Pay for Itself?

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Calgary-based airline WestJet lit up the social networks last weekend with its inspirational viral video, showing passengers who lined up to tell “Santa” what they wanted for Christmas – and then watched in disbelief as their gift-wrapped holiday wishes rolled down the baggage claim.

It wasn’t just the “magic” we saw in the eyes of a little boy unwrapping a brand-new Android tablet, or Mom and Dad getting the camera they always wanted. Much of the true magic happened for us as viewers with our hearts pounding in time with the WestJet volunteers as they raced down store aisles clutching lists, cutting from hidden camera operators to frenzied shoppers to careful gift wrappers. Not every wish was able to be granted (no world peace this year, rats), but the company did successfully deliver 357 gifts, ranging from socks and underwear – which, to be fair, the recipient did say he could “really use” – to a “really big” big screen TV.

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WestJet won’t disclose exactly how much was spent to make its holiday wishes come true, but we can wager that given its months of planning and two major corporate sponsors, it was on par with the efforts that many companies pour into holiday marketing campaigns around this time of year.

Many retailers rely on the holiday sales to bolster year-round numbers, making it all the more important to capitalize on customer’s feelings of good will and evoke positive feelings about the brand. Businesses who are bold enough to step outside of the marketing “machine” and make a case for nontraditional spending might benefit from asking what else their marketing budget could accomplish. What good could they do for their customers? And would that say more about them as a brand than a flashy new ad campaign?

Given the viral success of WestJet’s video, it’s definitely worth asking the questions.

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