All posts tagged featured post

WestJet’s Culture Starts at the Top

Like some of you, I fly a lot.

People who don’t get to travel often see it as a rather glamorous benefit of speaking. It’s not. It’s not really horrible, either. It’s just another form of commuting, albeit one that involves removing one’s belt as you go through the process. Along the way, I’ve certainly had some memorable trips. A couple of weeks ago when I was flying to Calgary for the Art of Leadership, I had one of my most memorable.

For those who don’t know, WestJet has always had a reputation for better customer service when compared to most other Canadian airlines and they’ve certainly showed a little more personality as they’ve done it.

I assume that their Brand Belief is something like, “We believe air travel should be fun.” 
It’s an easy thing to say. But with over 8,000 employees it’s not that easy to execute.

With millions of cranky, twitter-enabled consumers on alert, ready to call out brands that don’t live up to their communicated promise, consistent execution by every individual involved in the process is critical to success. One snarky comment by a WestJet employee having a bad day can damage the reputation that everyone else in the organization has worked so hard to establish.

Sure, there are a million variables that can contribute to success. One of the most important, though, starts at the top. If the Senior Management can’t embody the brand, how can they expect the 8,000 people under them to?

Gregg Saretsky, CEO of WestJet, knows this.

On my flight to Calgary, he introduced himself.
He thanked everyone for flying Westjet.
He welcomed questions and complaints.
He helped the crew serve beverages.
He held a contest and gave away a free flight to a lucky passenger.
And he willingly let me interview him about why he did what he did.

He gets it. Here’s why:

He identified himself.
You want accountability? He welcomed complaints and while there didn’t seem to be any, he certainly gave me the impression that he would take of any that were shared.   Too many CEOs hide behind the title and demand customers go through traditional channels. He put himself out there and made himself accountable for things he had little control over.

He lived the brand in front of his staff.
When I asked him about why he does what he does, Gregg simply said,
“Leadership is about showing what you believe in not saying what you believe in.”
People learn how to behave from those above them. I think you know how WestJet expects people to be.

Real customer feedback.
No focus group in the world could give the same clarity of feedback as someone who’s experiencing your product as they tell you about it. Go ahead and survey all you want but every once in a while, get out of the corner office and talk to your customers. They’ll tell you what you want and need to hear.

He promoted the business to a captive audience.
Gregg prefaced the “win a free trip” contest by explaining there were a number of ways that one could fly for free on WestJet and described their loyalty program and credit card. But he worked his way up to it and had permission to do it because he worked so hard to establish our trust before doing so.

WestJet really does care. Unlike many of their competitors, they have the guy at the top to thank for it.




Is Liberty Village the next Madison Avenue?

Word on the street is that two large Canadian agencies will be making their new homes in the west end’s Liberty Village. I don’t think they’ll be here until the spring but I hear that Cossette and Draft FCB will be moving in next door. As they should.

King West certainly is the current Ad-Central with a bevy of agencies including recent additions The Hive, Grey Canada and others. It’s also nicely fitted with the Spoke Club, Zoe’s, and Jimmy’s. (Best soy latte in the city if you ask me.) There’s a lot of post production close by, it’s kind of accessible for clients, and it’s socially active. I certainly see why it’s appealing to be there. Hell, I was there for a few years and loved it.

But I think Liberty Village will be the next big agency community.

Come one. Come all. 

Teehan + Lax are already there.

As is Extreme Group. Cartilage just moved in. There’s also Jam3, Fuel, Spafax, Secret Location, OpenFile, Fresh Squeezed Ideas, Plastic Mobile, Curiosity, Channel 500, Indusblue, Matchstick, Tucows, Crucial Interactive, Geneva, soho vfx, Three In A Box, and a host of others. Not huge places but they’re all doing some pretty interesting things.

Agencies always want to be the first, even when it comes to location. Canada’s Madison Avenue used to be at Yonge and St. Clair before people started making their way down to Bloor Street. It went deeper and deeper before stopping at its current location along King / Wellington. Maybe Liberty Village will be next.

Because it’s a self-contained village, I find the sense of community pretty powerful here. You just get a sense that there are a lot of people doing a lot of great things.  Maybe they aren’t but it certainly feels that way. Throw in a few more hundred advertising pros and it’ll be amplified even more.

Will Jimmy’s open a second location or will the ad masses accept Balzac’s and Starbucks? Will the Marketing Awards be held at Lamport Stadium next year? Will West Elm double its revenue as late night workers sprint in to buy anniversary presents?


As a side note, I’m unofficially proud to say that I’ve also made Liberty Village my home.

I’m launching a content marketing agency that works with brands and media properties. It’s called The Tite Group and we have an office at 219 Dufferin. There’s a lot happening. We’re heavily involved in Dx3 Canada. We’re really busy with new clients. And there are amazing things on the horizon.

It’s unofficial because we haven’t had time to finish our web presence. An official launch will occur at a later date.

So mum’s the word, okay?

This 71 year old knows more about social media than you and I do.

While various social media apps can help you be more effective or more productive or more accurate, a passionate desire to connect is far more powerful than any software package. A brand that has a genuine willingness to engage with their customers will trump one that doesn’t, regardless of the budget, websites, widgets or tools used.

You want proof? Don’t talk to the 21 year old social media evangelist who’s busy building their Google+ profile in the corner. Talk to 71 year old Evelyn Hannon.

Back when putting brochures online was considered breakthrough, Evelyn decided to launch a website for female travellers called

That was 1997.
And she hasn’t changed the design since.

Seriously. There’s no flash. No video. No HTML 5. Or, in her words, “…there’s no fancy shmancy”. Check it out. You’ll be amazed. It’s so old school, it’s retro. Her site is the Polaroid in a sea of iPhone 4 HD cameras. One look and you’ll think you got to it by putting a punch card into a mainframe.

What it does have, though, is a massive loyal community of active contributors.

• She has an e-newsletter with over 75,000 subscribers.
• She has 13,000 Twitter followers.
• She built a global database of female mentors.
• She’s been an imbedded blogger on a ship sailing around the world.
• People from over 200 countries follower her, read her and trust her.

She has no heavily researched strategy, she’s never checked out Google Analytics, she doesn’t read up on what the experts say she should do and her approach to engagement, refreshingly, doesn’t even use the word “engagement”.

All she does is care.

She cares about the subject of travel. She cares about helping women. She cares about being genuine.
She acts like a grandmother. Not surprising because, well, she is.

Evelyn reminds us that real communities don’t live on Twitter or Facebook. They camp out there. Real communities live because of a passion that is shared by those who belong to it. And when it’s strong enough, that community can exist anywhere.

Have a listen. You won’t just love Evelyn. You’ll love her approach.
Success may be a journey but this woman has figured out what to do along the way.

This is the future of Television. Or is it?

Television is caught somewhere between being a dying a medium and, because everything will eventually be delivered over IP, a rapidly growing one. Throw in the network acquisitions of Canadian telcos and it’s easy to see why the old boob tube is in a period of transition.

Well, one network that has clearly jumped the queue is internet television network Revision 3. If anyone has staked out a unique spot in the TV universe, it’s them.

I had a chance to chat with their impressive CEO, Jim Louderback recently. If you have any interest on where television (or the ads that pay for it) is headed, you should listen to this brief interview.

With close to 30 shows including Epic Meal Time and Digg Nation and over 80 million views a month, Revision 3 is redefining the modern day network. Here’s why:

Content people care about
It costs a lot of money to put a show on television so networks have to serve up programming that serves the most number of people possible. The result is lowest common denominator content that a lot of people like but may not love. Revision 3, on the other hand, delivers shows that people actually care about. Do you really love apps? Well, they have App Judgement. Into the “Unboxing” phenomenon? You can tune into Unboxing Porn. We all have specific interests that, given the choice, we’d watch over shows made for the masses.

A new approach to advertising
On mainstream TV, we either cut to a commercial break to see a big budget spot that is repurposed across a whole whack of shows or we’re forced to endure branded content that can leave us feeling dirty. Not so with Revision 3. They’ve managed to keep church and state separate while delivering more effective ads that are actually delivered by the hosts, a taboo among conventional networks. Plus, many of the advertisers featured could never afford to advertise on TV. Now they can.

The numbers
You want unaided brand awareness? 100% (yes, 100%) of viewers can name a show sponsor. That’s unbelievable. 93% can name 2 or more. More importantly, 57% of viewers have purchased products from the sponsors. When you pair specific content with advertisers that are closely aligned to that content, the numbers aren’t surprising but still pretty impressive.

The hosts
Normally, we get pretty people who are trained to be good on TV. Revision 3 chooses to get subject matter experts who are passionate about the content. It’s substance over style. The result is a more genuine host that the viewer trusts.

Social integration
Since it’s delivered through a browser, you can not only set up network preferences, you can also Tweet it, Digg it, Like it, share it, favourite it, download it, email it, comment on it, and check in for special deals. Don’t want to actually watch at No problem, you can tune in via tablet and smart phone apps or just watch on their Youtube channel. They even have Ambassadors who volunteer to help spread the word through their own social networks and face to face events.

Responsible production
Whether they appear on CBC, HBO, Netflix, or Rogers on Demand, there will always be a place for big budget shows like Boardwalk Empire and The Wire. Shows that have a smaller, more passionate viewer base will never be able to compete on production value. But with more importance being placed on the content, they don’t have to. Revision 3 balances both. Nice production. Low cost.

Is this exclusively the future of television? I don’t think so. It’ll augment standard TV and more importantly, it’ll help redefine what we watch, how we watch it and how it all gets paid for. Internet networks will continue to grow as more content is produced for smaller audiences. Many of the features that you see on internet networks will be seamlessly integrated into the shows you already watch.

I’m sure Revision 3 isn’t the last revision to the television model but as of right now, it’s certainly one of the best. To check them out, go to