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persuasion notebook

Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

WestJet wants to make you cry.

Last year, a touching Christmas video turned into a marketing coup for the brand – now at more than 36 million views, its story of surprising passengers with gifts from Santa was the most-watched Canadian ad on YouTube in 2013. Now, the company has created an even more emotional story, this time for Father's Day.

In its latest video, the company decided to surprise Saskatoon resident Marc Grimard with five days off work and a plane ticket to Edmonton. WestJet teamed up with Ronald McDonald House, which was hosting Mr. Grimard's young son while he receives treatment in Edmonton for congenital heart disease.

To make it happen, WestJet employee Medel Villena offered to take over Mr. Grimard's job as a maintenance worker at Saskatoon Transit for five days.

The emotional video shows Mr. Grimard's reunion with his son and wife. It has already begun to build buzz for the company on social media, where people praised the heartwarming story.

The charitable effort is also powerful marketing for the WestJet brand. Companies have been creating more and more emotional advertising in recent years as social conversation online can drive a campaign's success. When people feel that a story reflects positive human values and makes them feel something, they are more likely to share it among their friends – promoting a company's message for free, and with a powerful personal endorsement.

And research has shown that emotional campaigns can lead to more long-term improvement in a company's bottom line, since stories that have an emotional impact stick with people longer than rational messages. That feel-good effect can be powerful for brands in the long run.

It doesn't get much more heartstring-tugging than a family reunited around a sick child. The company says it will donate up to five more flights to families with children staying at Ronald McDonald House, one for every 100,000 views the video receives.