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Festive feels: winning the heart of the Christmas consumer

Posted by Symon Dickinson - Creative Director at PHMG on

Christmas is not only the most wonderful time of the year: it’s the most lucrative. With millions in consumer spend at stake, advertisers are pulling out all the stops to create spectacular campaigns designed to stir the emotions – so join us as we take a look at how this year’s biggest contenders are winning over the hearts and wallets of customers.

From Marks and Spencer’s to Macy’s… Tesco to Target, festive adverts from the world’s biggest and best-loved retailers have hit our screens, with several key themes becoming apparent. The first is a tried and tested technique that never fails to inspire a collective consumer awe – the introduction of a cute and cuddly character. Over at Aldi, last’s year’s mascot of Kevin the Carrot has come back out to play, only now he has the chance of a kiss under the mistletoe from his new love interest Katie. M&S have made a star of beloved bear Paddington (a clever tie-in to the marmalade-eating ted’s sequel currently gracing cinema screens), while the much-heralded John Lewis has dreamt up Moz for this year’s again-anticipated ad – a not-so-scary monster who befriends the boy from above his bed. As well as giving consumers a lovable, easily recognisable face to identify their brand with, this also creates gift opportunities and revenue through sales of the ubiquitous cuddly toy, making it a clever endeavour that invites spend in more ways than one.

While Aldi, M&S and John Lewis are asking us to make new friends with their characters, other retailers are very much embracing the old. Whether it be sprouts, singing and shouting relatives… or trees, tinsel and tipples with friends, three big players have celebrated the little traditions that make Christmas special – Tesco with their showcase of all the settings in which we cook our turkeys; Target Australia with a jolly montage of preparation for the big day; and Sainsbury’s with a specially composed track sung karaoke style by real shoppers, entitled ‘Every Bit of Christmas’. By showcasing holiday scenes we’re all familiar with, these three stores have made themselves truly identifiable to shoppers – making consumers likely to adopt the retailer as a brand who understands them.

But beyond the cooking, decorating and present-buying, there’s one thing that Christmas is really all about, and that’s spending time with loved ones. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a host of big names have put family and friends at the centre of their campaign, focusing on the way the holidays really bring people together. Boots and House of Fraser put forth the unbreakable bond between sisters; Debenhams creates its own fairytale-inspired, 21st century love story between a pair of train-crossed lovers, and Waitrose created heartwarming new friendships among a group of pub-goers who get snowed in. In addition to all these is Macy’s, a retailer inextricably linked with Christmas thanks to its association with classic festive film, Miracle on 34th Street. Partnering for the first time with internationally renowned agency BBDO, the brand’s ad tells the story of two coastal families living on the beach and in the remote lighthouse, who unite thanks to a young boy’s new lamp. With the tagline ‘the perfect gift brings us together’, the beautiful two-  minute film makes it clear just how powerful the right present can be.

Despite such varying themes, these ads all have one thing in common – they all tug on consumer heartstrings. Christmas and the holiday season is a time rife with emotion, with so much excitement, nostalgia, anticipation and happiness associated with the occasion. Yet encouraging these types of feelings is about more than just fitting with the time of year. Consumers are proven to make buying decisions based on the emotional part of their brain, often not consulting the logical side at all – making techniques like those seen in the ads we’ve discussed some of the most powerful in marketing. Not only do they employ highly emotive storytelling themes of love, friendship, family and even fear, they all use music to enhance their message – Macy’s with a beautifully stripped back version of the Black Keys’ everlasting light; John Lewis with Guy Garvey’s dulcet tones on the Beatles’ ‘Golden Slumbers’; and Target with the undeniably catchy ‘Must be Santa’ sung by Bob Dylan.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a talking carrot… a bit of Christmas karaoke… or a little boy’s new lamp. Whatever the campaign this Christmas, it’s sure to give viewers the warm and fuzzy feeling that sends them straight to the registers.

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