Last Christmas, WestJet owned the holiday season with the company's airport gift giving surprise video, which went positively viral and set the tone for what would transition into the year of 'sadvertising.'
From Budweiser's Friends are Waiting to Cardstore's World's Toughest Job brands were eager to bring their audience to tears this year in an effort to duplicate the emotional impact of the now iconic WestJet spot.
Throughout 2014, the trend continued. Marketers tripped over one another to find their own 'WestJet moment.' Brands were dying to create content with a specific purpose in mind: to surprise and delight an audience even better than WestJet did.
So why did so many of these campaigns fail to have the same kind of impact?
Simply put: they started in the wrong spot. In marketing, it's the end goal that ultimately matters. If you're taking another brand's big win and making that your starting point, you're starting in the wrong place.
Consider the sequence of your thinking: Do you want to do something nice for kids in need this holiday season? Reconnect long lost friends overseas? Or are you simply chasing that WestJet moment? Then figure out the why and who first and then you can worry about the what and the how. You should also have a firm grasp of your ultimate objective.
WestJet's Christmas Miracle video worked because at its core it was designed to make holiday wishes come true. It was genuine, substantive, and found an amazing way to showcase the original intent while triggering an emotion connection with the audience in an authentic way.
Perhaps most importantly, it was an original idea. While this rule rings true in Hollywood, it's also equally true for your brand's content: The sequel is rarely as good as the original. You don't need to see Grease 2 again to know that.
So don't skip to the end. Start at the beginning with a new idea. The holiday season naturally gives you a surplus of natural material to work with. Work withing these opportunities rather than forcing them into a big splash.
WestJet produced a next-level ad last Christmas – but (dare I say) even they couldn't recreate it this year? Their recent Spirit of Giving spot located in the Dominican Republic was certainly joy-filled and emotional – but the difference this time is that we, as viewers, were expecting it. And this is exactly how it felt – consumers were expecting a big splash, so WestJet tried to give them an even bigger one than before.
It all comes back to knowing your consumer. What do they care about? What will benefit them? Ultimately it's about creating a moment that is meaningful to your audience. This is what grows and maintains an authentic audience connection, and if this isn't what you're aiming for with your content in the first place, then you're doing it wrong from the start.
In some cases a big move can make headlines – be it JC Penney's recent #JustGotJingled or Air Canada's latest tear jerker – but whenever this happens marketers are quick to play copycat. By doing so, brands are hindering their own creativity.
As we head into 2015, consider what you can do to embrace your company values and create original content which drives towards results. If you've ever uttered the phrase "Where's my WestJet moment?" consider making a New Year's resolution to find a new starting place.
Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.