Corey Evans' job has involved playing Whacka- Mole at the Calgary Stampede, taking batting practice at the Rogers Centre and competing in a lobster-banding contest. But that doesn't mean he's just playing games.
As manager of sponsorship and community investment at West- Jet, Mr. Evans' role is to extend the brand's colourful personality and use other tactics to turn customers into a loyal fan base.
Last December, Mr. Evans' inventive WestJet Christmas Miracle campaign did more than delight WestJet customers. It made headlines and set the global social media sphere ablaze.
The campaign saw WestJet passengers boarding flights in Toronto and Hamilton share their Christmas wishes with a virtual Santa. WestJet "elves" then secretly went into a shopping frenzy. When the passengers arrived in Calgary a few hours later, they were surprised and delighted to find their dream gifts.
"We wanted to do something special for our guests," Mr. Evans explained. WestJet's brand recognition also achieved a valuable Christmas bonus.
A video, released on December 9, went viral. "We just passed 35 million hits on YouTube," Mr. Evans says. "And we've received many messages from around the world where people tell us the video made their day."
Marketing professionals are also chiming in with praise. Ryan Gill, president of Calgary-based creative agency Cult Collective, believes the campaign truly deserves the extensive media attention that has gone beyond Canada's borders.
"All brand leaders desire the benefits of positive word-of-mouth and advocacy, but very few have the courage to do something that is actually buzz-worthy," he said. "The Christmas Miracle was authentic and enjoyable, especially coming from WestJet, whose customer-oriented brand reputation perfectly fits the idea."
The WestJet Christmas Miracle video captures the atmosphere of joy that marked the company's wildly successful real-time giving campaign. This marketing effort will be among the cult brand examples showcased at The Gathering, a business conference to be held this February. Supplied
Mr. Gill has extensive experience with marketing efforts that go beyond traditional campaigns, as the Cult Collective recently evaluated more than 100 brands from across North America.
WestJet was identified as one of the leaders, along with Harley- Davidson, NHL, Madden (EA Sports), Saskatchewan Roughriders, Red Bull, GoPro, Las Vegas and Urban Outfitters. Representatives of those companies will share insider knowledge and ideas in a series of sessions at The Gathering, a business conference and award gala hosted by the Cult Collective, and Mr. Gill says tickets are still available.
Presented by The Globe and Mail, The Gathering takes place February 19 and 20 at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and Mr. Gill sees the event as a chance to celebrate brands that have been successful in engaging consumers in innovative and meaningful ways.
"In our evaluation of potential cult brand inductees for The Gathering, we've interviewed dozens of senior marketing executives from the top brands across North America," Mr. Gill said. "The most important aspect we've been able to determine is that cult brand leaders have the courage to behave differently."
For details about The Gathering, taking place February 19 and 20 at the Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alberta, or to register and purchase tickets, visit www.cultgathering.com.