It’s officially 5 weeks until Christmas, which means Regent Street is now alight (thanks, Paloma Faith!), Santa’s Grottos are popping up in department stores across the land, and, of course, the traditional practice of brands vying for the coveted top Christmas ad spot is in full swing.
On-the-pulse brands will have begun preparing their Christmas campaign from the moment Christmas 2016 was officially over. This year, everything will have been working up to the moment the carefully placed ad hits the small screen, but is the effort worth the output? Considering the Christmas climate of late, we ask the question…is it time for brands to follow the classic Christmas banger and stay silent (night)?
It’s actually the job of some people to gather in a room and ask the question: how can we make millions and millions of people cry this Christmas? This is the emotional end goal of some Christmas ads and the companies that achieve this go home with a gold star (and a huge spike in sales for the Christmas period). John Lewis is very good at this. They’ve given us a loved-up Snowman, a Bear and a Hare, Monty the Penguin, a Man on the Moon (personal fave), Buster the Boxer and now the polarising Moz the Monster. Every year, we wait with bated breath to discover what John Lewis has up its sleeves. The wait is worth it – if company profits during the Christmas period are anything to go by, sales have surged by more than a third (35%) despite a tough festive period for most retailers.
Here’s a brand who has seen a window, opened it, and tries its hardest not let anyone else in, but other brands are slowly but surely creeping in. Those giving John Lewis a run for their money include Aldi, who this year brought back Kevin the Carrot, as he boosted Christmas sales by more than 15% and brought 1 million new shoppers to the discount retailer in 2016. Research has shown that Aldi’s 2016 Christmas campaign surpassed competitors “including Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Tesco when it came to enjoyment, likelihood to buy and brand affinity”. This year’s projections are set to be even better, proving the formula of piping up at Christmas, if done right, works.
It’s not good news for everyone, M&S were probably hoping to revive its falling profits via Paddington and the Christmas Visitor. Sadly this hasn’t worked out to plan with the retailer (and Paddington Bear) under scrutiny for dropping F-bombs. The UK’s advertising watchdog got involved, as did the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), to conclude what any sane person would, that there was, in fact, no swearing in the cookie-cutter M&S advert. No Sh*t. Christmas campaigns bring brands a boost in recognition but with this comes added scrutiny. Christmas adverts are a reason for people to talk and everyone has an opinion, as the recent Tesco Christmas advert also proves. The advert which depicts a Muslim family celebrating Christmas has amassed a high level of abuse online with many threatening to boycott the store. No brand can hide from the current culture of using social media as a platform to voice opinion.
It’s not just adverts that have faced a backlash. Not content with highjacking Jesus’ birthday and making it all about them, companies have now taken the one last thing that hadn’t been monopolised by marketers: the innocent advent calendar. Everyone’s been at it from Lego to Holland & Barrett but this week Greggs has taken the biscuit. You could be forgiven for thinking the British bakers could do no wrong, but that was until it photoshopped a sausage roll and replaced Jesus in a promotional image for its advent calendar. Greggs has subsequently had to issue an apology for offending those that were offended, in this same statement, a spokesperson made it clear that the advent calendar would still be going on sale this Monday. In the meantime, customers have been undeterred – and sales soared in Greggs stores across the country.
Someone we know who should have definitely stayed silent this Christmas (and in 2010) is YouTube sensation Zoella. Boots were forced to cut the price of the “Zoella 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendar” after a lot of customers complained about a) the extortionate £50 price tag b) the fact it only had 12 doors. The main issue is that Zoella and/or Boots seems to have forgotten who her target audience is: 12-year-olds who probably don’t have £50 to spare. This draws wider questions regarding the blatant capitalisation of consumers at Christmas. Boots has since halved the calendar price but not before the whole fiasco arguably caused damage to brand Zoella. Either way, both parties are on the not so nice list this Christmas.
Blatant efforts to pull at your heartstring with ads may set the Twitter-verse alight with divided opinion, and we’re sure a lot of fuzzy merchandising will be sold from now until Christmas but it’s clear consumers are becoming more enlightened. To that end, brands need to sell them a story (and product) they can (afford to) buy into. As long as Christmas continues to be the cash cow that it is, companies would be foolish not to continue to target consumers in this way.