CASSIES Bronze: Western Union taps holiday traditions

The money transfer company spreads Christmas cheer with virtual card stores.

BRONZE: Events, Seasonal & Short-Term 

Situation Analysis Western Union is the dominant money-transfer player, but competes against more than 30 major retail competitors in Canada, along with online operators. For people who are far from their loved ones at Christmas, sending money as a gift is popular. So for the 2011 holiday season, Western Union announced a reduced fee of $5 (from $8) to send $50 worldwide. But since some competitors were offering fees as low as $2, the sale would not cause a stampede to Western Union.

Strategy & Insight The target was Canadians who send money to family and friends in other countries. The challenge was to turn what might have been a simple price promotion into something exciting, fresh and relevant. Before the internet, people enclosed money in holiday cards that went to loved ones by mail – and those cards were a way to stay close in spirit. The eureka moment? Find a way to rekindle this feeling and incorporate a high-tech twist to make it even more exciting.

Execution Virtual holiday card stores were set up in transit stations, streetcars, buses and on the walls of shopping centres. People would scan the QR code at the bottom of a card, taking them to a microsite where they could send it electronically. This included an invitation to send $50 for $5, all under the umbrella of “Spread the Cheer.”

Results At the end of the month-long campaign sales were up 30%, double the growth for the 2010 Christmas season. The website received 132,000 page visits – nearly triple the goal of 50,000. And the marketing spend was less than 2% of the revenue delivered.

Cause & Effect It could be argued that the $3 reduction in transfer fee led to the sales lift, but that is unlikely, since this fee was more like an equalizer in the intensely competitive holiday season. With no other variables in the market, it’s clear the break-through advertising plan was the cause.


Client: Western Union Canada
Marketing director: Joycelyn David
Agency: AV Communications
Partners: Marvi Yap, Anna Maramba
CDs: Loiee Pangan, Zeno Lam
Account manager: Caspar Sun
Media specialist: Joyce Lau