As P.R. stunts go, the Santa video from Canadian airline WestJet did everything it should. It was heartwarming in advance of the holidays, surprising unwitting passengers with gifts they had requested from a Santa sitting inside a kiosk at the start of their flight. It made the company look like it believes in great customer service ("A WestJetter would say 'it was more than mere fun,' " the narrator reads out in a holiday rhyme, "miracles do happen when we all work as one").

And of course, the video went viral, spreading not only good cheer but the WestJet brand, with more than 9 million views at the time of this writing.

It also succeeded on another level: It got employees in on the act. Rather than outsourcing a holiday spot to an ad agency or involving few people who work for the airline, the company brought in more than 150 WestJet workers, who hurriedly shopped for, wrapped and delivered the gifts that passengers had "asked" Santa for while they were in the air. Employees got to delight and surprise customers in a way no on-time flight or extra bag of peanuts ever quite would. The hope, surely, is that they'll want to have that experience again and again.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

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