We might not want to admit it, but Christmas is just around the corner and a whole host of adverts have sprung up to remind us that time is running out. They haven’t only just appeared though; most brands begin their Christmas marketing as soon as October and plan their strategies even earlier in the year.

While many of us retain a “Bah, humbug” attitude at the sight of Christmas cards adorning the shelves alongside Halloween decorations, behind the scenes hundreds of brands have been carrying out meticulous research into the Christmas buying habits of their target buyer personas.

The general consensus is that:

  1. The second and third weekends in November are especially important for transactions, with the third Monday of November last year showing the highest transaction rates for Christmas related email.
  2. The first Monday in December is the busiest day for pre-Christmas shopping every single year, which means it’s also the key time to roll out more targeted email newsletters and coinciding product campaigns.
  3. Internet traffic peaks just after Christmas and through to early January, seeing the highest spend so far. This can mainly be attributed to the mad dash to spend Christmas vouchers, so be prepared!
  4. Mornings generate the best unique open and click rates for Christmas emails.

As you can see, there’s enormous pressure on brands to craft a Christmas marketing campaign that stands out in the November/December rush and encourages an increase in sales, and there are some big names who have really hit the nail on the head this year.

John Lewis

Iconic John Lewis snowmen

Maybe it’s because I’m soft, but I really love the John Lewis ads. Last year chronicled a moody little boy’s impatience at the long wait until Christmas day but then, a twist! It wasn’t because he couldn’t wait to rip open his own presents, but rather give his parents theirs.

This year’s offering is no less heart-warming and follows a snowman’s journey across woodland, rivers and eventually the high street to buy his missus a fetching beret, scarf and glove set from John Lewis. But what exactly made it successful enough to have social media devotees blubbing into their cups of tea or running out to their local store?

The media reaction to the John Lewis adverts

It isn’t often that Christmas adverts go for an emotive storyline, instead showcasing their products in a glamorous light and angling – sometimes unashamedly – for your money. John Lewis on the other hand play on their cosy, homey branding and appeal to our more caring side, that great feeling we get when someone loves a gift we’ve bought them.

But their campaign doesn’t stop at the advert. After running a Channel 4 teaser trailer to raise anticipation they put together a social media plan that includes a competition to win a holiday to New Zealand, where the advert was filmed. They will also be sharing their marketing prowess with Gabrielle Aplin, the relatively unknown singer of the adverts backing track (a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love’). Throughout the festive season the song will be sold in store and online, a fantastic opportunity for the singer to make her big break.

Burberry

Burberry iconic advert

Though us mere mortals couldn’t afford a Christmas gift from Burberry in our wildest dreams, we can still admire their clever approach to Christmas marketing.

They’re the best example I’ve seen of employing consistent branding across the board, recently rolling out a gold themed Christmas campaign that encapsulates the brand’s hometown of London in a skyline of bauble-like balloons carrying presents, the Big Smoke’s most iconic landmarks and a realistic dose of Great British cloud, all illuminated in festive gold.

Although Burberry has forgone television spots for an in store, online and magazine campaign, it’s still reaching a huge audience through tactical implementation.

The campaign’s imagery will tie in with luxurious store décor and window displays of the same vein, targeted Christmas themed content over social media channels such as TwitterFacebook, and Instagramand a ‘Quick Shop’ section of their ecommerce site that means all gifts purchased will be wrapped in gold paper. And that isn’t all, the brand also plans to launch a branded Christmas card and host a series of events in the run up to the big day. Talk about covering every base!

Coca Cola

Iconic festive Coca-Cola illuminated lorries advert

Perhaps the most iconic Christmas marketing campaign of all time, Coca Cola’s “Holidays are coming” adverts have whipped the general public into frenzies of excitement since back in 1931. This year however, they’re stepping up their efforts on all platforms.

The Coca Cola truck will be brought to life for people in more than 60 towns, cities and supermarkets in the coming weeks, the classic Coke Santa will feature on all of the brand’s packaging and quizzes and polls will run across social media channels to boost Christmas engagement. Oh, and there’s also a #holidaysarecoming hashtag running on Twitter so that everyone can Tweet their excitement about both the campaign and festive season in general.

Coca Cola public social media response to festive advert

Debenhams

Festive advertisement of woman in red dress for Debenhams

I was as surprised as the next person when a Debenhams Christmas advert popped up, and for good reason – it’s their first ad campaign in 6 years.

Featuring a woman “coming home for Christmas” via snowy landscapes and brightly decorated houses to a dramatic backing track composed by Jo Blankenberg (of Harry Potter, X-Men and the Hunger Games fame), it highlights the joy of the simpler aspects of the Christmas season, a sensitivity that we can all relate to when despairing over late night shopping crowds and the struggle for money.

As well as tying in with a shop and website revamp to ensure consistent branding across all outlets, Debenhams again utilises social media to encapsulate a far larger crowd than by television alone, featuring an on-site campaign that encourages people to share photos of ‘fabulous Christmas moments’, the Twitter hashtag #christmasmoments and a weekly prize giveaway for those who share Christmassy content. And if there’s one way to boost social media engagement it’s through a competition!

However, for all of the successful strategies there are those that seem to have fallen flat with consumers and even caused unintentional uproar…

Chanel No. 5

Iconic Chanel advert of a man leaning on a wall in black and white

Discontinuing its Audrey Tautou campaign from the past two Christmases, Chanel have this year decided to change tack and employ Brad Pitt to stand against a white backdrop and recite a poetic script to the camera in the TV spot, ‘The Journey’.

The result? Although beautifully shot by Atonement director Joe Wright, the ad received a backlash from viewers who didn’t understand it and even confusion at perfume counters when men made the mistake of thinking the advert showcased an aftershave. Following this initial reaction Chanel rolled out a version of the ad that featured Pitt interacting with a woman in the hope of adding more context, but to no avail. The hashtag #chanelno5 is still populated by mixed reviews.

Asda

Asda's homely festive advert

Dubbed ‘the accidental provocateur’ by Marketing Week, Asda’s advert has been lambasted as being unashamedly sexist, totting up a massive 186 complaints to the ASA.

It features a hardworking mum frantically preparing for Christmas while her husband and children either get under her feet or do nothing to help and, yes, I do kind of agree with the masses, but in my experience the responsibility for Christmas prep does fall on the matriarch of the family, a fact that the data Asda accumulated during their campaign research will support.

Boots

Boots advert with a woman in her festive living room

Debenhams isn’t the only big name to undergo a spot of rebranding this Christmas, Boots have too, but with noticeably less success.

Foregoing their usual “Here come the girls” campaign they have this year whipped up something altogether more meaningful and, well, festive, utilising the new tagline ‘Let’s feel good’. For the most part people were enjoying the advert, until the point when a little girl points a hairdryer at her King Charles spaniel, lovingly whispers “Let’s make you into a unicorn” and starts styling it’s fur.

By the 13th of November the ASA had received five complaints concerning “dog cruelty” and the brand being “irresponsible,” on the basis that the blow dryer could hurt the dogs eyes and the segment itself lead to children emulating the little girl, resulting in a spate of dog bites from disgruntled pets.

There has been some debate over whether these complaints have been blown out of proportion or are legitimately voiced, but I think the main thing to remember when crafting your own Christmas campaign is to check and double check which elements risk displease your audience. After all, you can’t please everyone.

And so, the main Christmas marketing lessons we can take away from this post are:

  1. Employ consistent branding across all of your favoured outlets, ensuring that you utilise the same imagery, taglines, typography and graphics to cement your festive image into the eye of the consumer.
  2. Include a dynamic social media strategy that incorporates hash tags, giveaways and special offers related to your Christmas campaign, and special Christmas themed content to spark conversation.
  3. Tie in that rebrand you’ve been considering to make it really memorable, but plan every feature carefully or you may end up in the same boat as Boots!
  4. Take a humorous route similar to John Lewis for a twist on the traditional Christmas sales pitch that will get your customer base talking.
  5. Incorporate a feature similar to Burberry’s ‘Quick Shop’ option on your ecommerce site to turn what can be a stressful buying experience into an effortless one.
  6. Consider your target buyer personas when formulating the direction and launch date of your Christmas marketing plan; sooner rather than later isn’t the mantra for everyone.

Have you come across a great Christmas marketing campaign that I haven’t featured, or maybe one that you think could have been approached better? Leave a comment below 🙂

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Posted By charlotte

Charlotte is responsible for pushing the envelope of great content to support the Tone digital push. Follow her on Twitter @charlotte_tone or Google+