WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video and some lessons for charities

I couldn’t resist blogging about a brilliant marketing and customer stewardship campaign – WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video. If you haven’t seen it yet, get out your Kleenex and here it is:

When I looked at the video yesterday it had received about 7 million hits and within 24 hours it had jumped to over 15 million. As I was typing this up, it jumped by another million. By the time you read this, who knows how many views it will have had – but certainly many times more than the 800,000 that the company had envisioned.

Kudos to Richard Bartrem, WestJet’s vice president of communications and community relations, for this heartwarming and creative campaign that does a stellar job of cementing WestJet’s brand in people’s minds. Mr. Bartrem’s modest comment to Forbes was, “We’re pretty thrilled.” No doubt!

Not only has the video gone viral and has been seen around the world in over 200 countries, it has made the news across North America and as far as the U.K., Australia, Japan, Poland and Malaysia.

What I found really special about the video were the comments of the viewers on Youtube who said things like:

  • The most heartwarming ad I’ve ever seen
  • WestJet, that’s advertising done right. Next time I get a chance I’ll fly WestJet!
  • Wow, I already love WestJet and fly with them when I can.  I’m amazed at what they do for their customers.  WestJet, you’re awesome!
  • WestJet, the only way to fly.
  • This is amazing. Who knew that a corporation today would ever go to this much trouble to make dozens of customers happy. KUDOS to WestJet.

Forbes reported that the campaign had been planned since August and was filmed in November. It was quite a logistical feat, involving some 150 WestJet employees.

One of the greatest benefits, that may not be obvious to the average viewer, is what the campaign must do for staff engagement and morale. You can clearly see that the “WestJetters” involved were having a lot of fun as they gathered and wrapped gifts and celebrated with passengers at the baggage carousel. You can bet that WestJet employees feel proud of their company, their service and that campaigns like this, which are clearly fun and playful, also help staff retention rates.

So what are the lessons here for non-profits in all of this? One big lesson is about building donor loyalty. In the charitable sector, our “customers” are our donors, volunteers and other supporters. Just like WestJet we need to keep our customers happy and engaged. Excellent donor stewardship mixed with personalization, creativity, fun and the element of surprise can go a long way towards this. And in case you don’t think charities have a donor loyalty problem, here’s a sobering statistic: commercial business customer retention is 94% vs. non-profit donor retention of 41%. We can and should pay attention to those for-profit companies that are doing a good job in this area.

Campaigns like WestJet’s don’t just spread outwards, they spread inwards, and affect how employees feel about their work and their company. So here’s another big lesson that non-profits and charities can learn from WestJet – how to foster employee satisfaction, engagement and control. WestJet has been named one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures four times by Waterstone and ranked as the third-best employer in Canada by Aon Hewitt in 2011. As one leadership expert wrote, “Good managers know that happy employees are both loyal and productive employees.”

It’s no secret that staff retention rates in the charitable sector in Canada are pretty abysmal and this has a profound impact on our abilities to achieve our missions. This is not a tiny part of Canada’s economy. According to Charity Village there are more than 165,000 nonprofits and charities operating in Canada. Together they contribute 7.8% of GDP and represent 10.5% of the labour force.

So here’s the bottom line — to be successful, you need to make your customers/donors and your employees feel good and there’s no harm in getting a few lessons from those who are doing it right.

Three great non-profit campaign videos

Last week I attended a Net Tuesday event with Steve Rosenberg of Pull Focus Film School about campaign videos and what works and doesn’t work.

I thought I’d share a few videos for non-profits that I love and that use humour, surprise, and quirkiness to great effect.

The first is the now-famous “Follow the Frog” campaign for the Rainforest Alliance which features great writing and the “hero’s journey” in a new and fun way.

The second is the very catchy “Dumb Ways to Die” video from Australia which, at the time of this posting, had over 61 MILLION hits. This is astounding for any video, let along a safety video. Kudos to its creators. Warning: the song gets stuck in your head!

And finally, “Meathead” which was made by two of my classmates at Pull Focus Film School, Ali Rashti and Russell Bennett. It was great fun to watch part of the film being made and to see Ali’s creative genius. That’s Steve’s foot on Russell’s head! (Click on the link to view it on Vimeo because the embed code doesn’t work.)


Getting started with online videos for your charity or nonprofit

The following article was written by Heather Wardle, CFRE at the request of the editor of Gift Planning in Canada, July 2013.

Nearly all nonprofits recognize the significance of the video revolution and the powerful storytelling potential that it offers. Creating and sharing videos has never been easier or cheaper, yet studies show that online video is underused by charities.

In June, YouTube published the results of the first-ever survey on nonprofits using online video. Of those surveyed,

  • 80% said that video is important to their organization today
  • 91% said they want to make more video
  • 62% said they designate very little or no staff time for video production and distribution

Is your organization using video to tell its story? If not, what’s holding you back?

Many charities are intimidated by video, thinking that they need a lot of money, staff time, expertise and specialized equipment to create video content.

Here are some tips on how you can start today using the tools and resources you likely already have at your fingertips.

  1. Think about your video strategy — who you want to interact with, what you want to say and what your call to actions will be.
  2. Find a video-maker in your midst. You likely have a staff member, volunteer or intern who would love to create videos as part of his or her role. Find someone who already has some video experience or train someone who has the interest. There are plenty of online classes and local workshops.
  3. Start with the equipment you’ve already got. Smart phones, digital cameras, tablets and laptops with web cams can all be used to shoot your video. In addition, most computers come with free editing software, such as iMovie and Windows Movie Maker.
  4. Get your field staff to film and photograph your charity at work. Donors love being able to see their gifts in action.
  5. Create a photo and video archive and a back-up system to store your materials. The cost of a back-up hard drive is less than $200. If you have a system for filing and tagging your visual resources from the start, you’ll save a lot of time later on.
  6. Get your feet wet with small, simple projects. Use your iPhone or digital camera to film little clips of your organization’s work and share them via your charity’s Facebook page, blog and website. Or use your photos, add music and create a video slideshow.
  7. Sign up for YouTube Nonprofits at YouTube.com/nonprofits This is available free to registered charities in Canada and the US, and allows you to create your own branded YouTube page, to have call-to-action overlays on your videos, and live streaming of your events.
  8. Make sure that your videos get viewed by making them sharable, embeddable and searchable. YouTube’s Playbook for Good gives advice on writing descriptions and tags.

Nonprofits yield more than 4 billion views on YouTube – one view for every 2 people on the planet! So far only 22,000 charities and nonprofits have signed up to YouTube’s nonprofit program. If your charity isn’t one of them, I hope this article will inspire you to build your video program today.