7 Universal Branding Lessons From Christmas Adverts

You’d not be alone in thinking that 2016 delivered some unexpected political surprises on both sides of the pond. Your customers may share that thought. But uncertainty is no friend to retail therapy, so to lighten the mood and reinforce economic prosperity, we’ve collected some of the outstanding moments — for better or for worse — as distributed in video format by the forefront U.K. brands doing their best at storytelling this holiday season.

While entertaining to watch, you may also benefit from pairing several observations that apply to strategic thinking for SMBs / SMEs and enterprise organisations — we all need a laugh at the moment! Have you seen Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot Christmas advert?

 

Here are our favourites and others that miss the mark. Yet, lessons are learned all around.

Do you agree? Did we miss any?

 

1.  Brand Personification

Aldi is a leading global retailer and one of the world’s largest privately owned companies with over 7,500 store locations. But that hasn’t stopped them from adopting a brand voice in the form of an animated three-inch-tall carrot who desperately wants to meet Santa. A sure fire winner due in no small part to the theme song from “Home Alone,” the one-minute rhymed narration has had 1.8 million YouTube views in its first four weeks. Short and sweet.

 

Takeaway: Give your brand an irresistible personality. Humanize your brand, give it an authentic voice, enable connections with the character your brand embodies. Think of enduring 20th century mascots such as the Jolly Green Giant and Ol’ Lonely, the Maytag Repairman with nothing to fix. Consider 21st century successes like the sexy Old Spice Man and “The Most Interesting Man in the World” by Dos Equis.

 

 

 

2. Confusing Branding

For the holiday voice of Sainsbury’s, James Corden sings, “The streets are chaotic, the shops idiotic, there’s a queue for the queue…” Weirdly, it’s an animation about a frazzled dad stuck on a delayed train (“It’s a catastrophe! I’ll never get it done!”) who perhaps never heard of online shopping. We’re not sure what mileage Sainsbury’s gets out of 3:35 minutes of highlighting the hassle of Christmas shopping.

 

Takeaway: Don’t stray off message. To elevate your brand, stick to the core messaging so consumers can quickly see the call to action. Like too many different fonts and colours on the same page, a message can easily get lost in the shuffle…especially during peak times such as holidays and back to school. Be clear, be consistent, be focused, be unified in your messaging.

 

 

 

3. Feel Good Branding

At a rather lengthy 2:10 minutes, John Lewis’s Christmas Advert 2016 takes a risk that viewers’ attention won’t wander. However, there’s not a chance, as viewers really do want to see how this story concludes. Featuring the family pet, foxes, badgers, squirrels and hedgehogs, we see animals enjoying a secret midnight trampoline romp. With extensive social media and TV tie-ins garnering a remarkable 21 million views and counting, it’s less of an advert than a short movie clip with an uplifting soundtrack (“One Day I’ll Fly Away”) about Buster the Boxer. Highly shareable — and directly associated with the store’s toy department — it’s a distinct pull away from last year’s lonely, elderly man “sadvertising” theme.

 

Takeaway: Emotional branding has huge appeal. To successfully tap into creating a bond between brand and consumer is the most effective connection of all. Get it right, like John Lewis does here, and you’re golden. (Bonus: Word-of-mouth and shares are guaranteed!)

 

 

 

4. Branding Content Without a Point

Tesco chooses to introduce us to yet another “typical” shopper annoyed with the season’s chores. We get to hear the thoughts running through her mind (“It’s only November and my clothes still smell of Bonfire”) as she becomes overwhelmed by a mental to-do list, rendering her frozen behind the shopping trolley in mid-aisle. We certainly get a sense of place (the uninspiring inside of a Tesco store), but what’s the story line? The only point made comes at the end (for any viewers that have hung around) when she speaks Tesco’s tagline aloud, “Nah, bring it on.” Did they actually think this advert would get many shares?

 

Takeaway: Like any good story, your brand message must grab your audience’s attention in the first few seconds, or they’re gone. Many video views will be made on mobile and a good percentage[1] will be seen in public places with the volume turned off, so a woman standing still by her shopping cart cannot maintain audience interest.

 

 

 

5. Branding That Spins a Classic

Marks & Spencer re-purposes an age-old story, this one is about Santa and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve, and re-tells it with a modern spin. You needn’t have the Hollywood budget and Oscar-star studded cast that M&S can afford in order to accomplish something similar. The result is a compelling, contemporary tale with a feminist twist that some viewers are calling, “a hundred times better than John Lewis’s,” in the 2016 Christmas advert annual parade. Some 7.3 million views so far for “Christmas With Love From Mrs Claus.”

 

Takeaway: Dress up a classic tale is usually a good storytelling idea. Mrs Claus in a red sheath dress and high heels delivering gifts in her own helicopter works incredibly well. The advert manages to also provide a call to action that is on point for the brand, once we see what’s in the gift box Mrs Claus leaves under the Christmas tree.

 

 

 

6. Branding to Surprise and Delight

And the winner is…Heathrow Airport, connecting with everyone in their advertisement, “Coming Home for Christmas.” Anyone who has flown home for the holidays can identify with these two elderly teddy bears making their way from arrival gate to meeting point. Take a close look at Edward Bair’s passport — he’s 71, just like Heathrow Airport. Stay tuned for the surprise ending; there’s a lovely surprise.

 

Takeaway: Making authentic connections to human emotions are any brand’s surefire success. LHR does everything right in this year’s ad. Not a department store, not a supermarket, Heathrow Airport is the glue that speaks to both travelers and their hosts coming home for the holidays, so most everyone can relate to this tearjerker, even without the soundtrack.

 

 

 

7. Branding From Our House to Yours

Lidl Ireland packs a lot of emotion into one minute with “Homecoming.” See behind the scenes as a lovely, but unassuming family, prepares the country house and Christmas supper for a recently widowed Grandpa as guest of honor. At one minute, the length is perfect. No words are needed — go ahead, watch it without the sounds and see that it can still work.

 

Takeaways: Again, emotional branding that leaves people with a strong feeling is the hot button here. Will they smile or cry? That’s your choice. When you create material that’s so compelling that it’s eminently shareable, your viral brand is massively strengthened in customers’ hearts and minds.

 

 

 

Questions you may ask yourself about branding lessons from the pros:

  1. Does my brand have a strong brand promise?
  2. Have I fully communicated that brand promise well?
  3. Does my brand have a personality? Does it align with my product or service?
  4. Have I used my brand persona to grow audience beyond my base?
  5. Does my brand receive more than its fair share? Or does my brand under-perform?
  6. How do I know if it’s time for a brand re-fresh?

 

Want to clarify your brand promise, develop your brand personality — standout more effectively to increase your sales? Then take a look here at our online eprogramme which walks you through step-by-step ‘How to Build Your Brand’.

 

Alternatively if you want some in-person professional direction to build your brand then drop us a line to brand@personadesign.ie or give us a call T: +353 1 8322724 (GMT).

We’d be delighted to help.

 

Find out ‘How to Build Your Brand’ with the Personality Profile Performer™ programme

 

 

[1] https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/need-to-know/try-this-at-home/85-percent-facebook-videos-watched-without-sound

 

 

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