THOSE Christmas ads: Take away more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling – there’s marketing gold too!

Christmas marketing campaigns

It’s that time of year again and it’s been that time of year since September. It was still a balmy 25 degrees outside and Christmas trees started materialising all over the high street as a stark reminder of the chaos that’s soon to be/already upon us.  For me, I don’t get the first festive pang until I’ve seen the John Lewis Christmas advert (and its often hilarious parodies, but that’s for another time).

Even though I’d rather chew my own foot off than claw my way through frenetic shoppers in the confines of a Christmas-on-steroids department store, John Lewis still somehow manages to bring a little merry cheer to our mildly bah humbug household.

Over the years, they’ve produced some brilliant Christmas ads. They may be on a par with Spectre to make but, the feel-good stories they’ve lovingly created have definitely been memorable.  If you want to apply some of the John Lewis magic to marketing your own business, here are some of the reasons why these ads have made such an impact.

Give it some heart

Never underestimate that feel-good factor. The Bear and the Hare is all about Hare’s love for his friend: Bear (who’s never seen Christmas as he’s always hibernating), and wanting  to share the delights of Christmas day with him. The Journey is all about the dedication of Snowman to Snow-woman and going that extra mile to find her the perfect present.

Adverts and marketing campaigns that promote and evoke very tangible, vivid, positive emotions rarely go wrong (unless they’re insincere or massively cheesy). For example, Facebook’s adverts are all about the strong ties of friendship, connecting people, and re-connecting people that might have drifted apart. The hungryhouse ad is all about socialising and spending time eating with flatmates. The Evian baby ads are all about getting in touch with your younger self – they’re also playful and funny.

Not every piece of promotional material needs to leave your reader with that feel-good feeling but when you’re telling your customers about your brand, you need to find that human aspect and bring it to life using it as a frame of reference. 

Make it relatable

The Long Wait ad sums this one up nicely. Anyone who has a kid or remembers being one knows the anticipation and excitement that builds up during the 24 days to C-day. The twist at the end of this ad is that we think the little boy is excited to open his presents but actually he’s been going stir crazy wanting to give a present. Twist aside, the point is, make your marketing relatable. What are the actual benefits of someone buying your service or product? If it’s very technical, break it down to its simplest benefit like NCR did nicely in its 2013 rebrand.

If I said to you, “NCR provides industry-leading, self-service solutions that optimise the customer experience, increase revenues and drives efficiency across multiple industries,” you probably wouldn’t care less. If I said, “NCR sells ultramodern tech that you use every day to make life easier,” you’d probably be able to relate to that a bit more.  (Incidentally, NCR’s tech portfolio includes things like smart ATM machines, self-service airport check-in kiosks, supermarket self-service check-out kiosks, mobile apps, mobile order and payment, digital navigation and more).

NCR is a B2B company but its whole message is around ‘Everyday made easier’ – not just for the end consumer, but also for businesses and employees. They’ve taken what is traditionally dry-as-a-bone subject matter and given it a relatable, human face: you use our tech every day, you don’t need an IT degree to understand it, it’s simple: our technology makes everyday easier.

Tell a story

All good marketers are great storytellers. And if there’s one thing that ties all of John Lewis’ Christmas ads together it’s that they all tell a great, yet simple, story. This year’s Man on the Moon ad tells a tale of a little girl who, using her telescope, spots a lonely old man living on the moon. Throughout the year she watches him live his sad, lonely existence. On Christmas day you think she’s forgotten about him as she has a merry time with her family but lo and behold, he spots some balloons attached to a parcel. It’s a telescope that he uses to finally see the little girl who is looking right back at him. She smiles at him and it brings a tear to his eye. The tagline is: Show someone they’re loved this Christmas.

It’s a simple, touching, powerful story and John Lewis seems to forego promoting any of their actual products (I’m not even sure they sell telescopes). But the first time I saw it, I knew it was their advert before their logo popped up at the end.  And you know every year they’ll weave a good story that people will be talking about and making parodies of, which only serves to increase their exposure even more.

So there you have it, 3 things you can take away from the John Lewis ads this festive season other than the anxiety of the shopping itself.  Happy holidays!