Christmas advertising: The gift your brand has been waiting for?

It’s that time of year again, the time when you can put up your Christmas tree and still be classed as normal, when shops start playing Mariah and you aren’t reasonably able to complain. And – if you are anything like me – you head straight to YouTube to revel in the most magical time of the ad year: the release of the John Lewis Christmas ad (and the hundreds of others that represent the who’s who of retailers across the globe).

In the UK alone, the bill for this seasonal merriment comes to an estimated 6.8 billion GBP. But whilst there will always be a debate on whether this activity delivers ROI through December, I want to, instead, make the case for why this level of investment pays off in spades when it comes to something equally vital and longer-lasting – the strength of your brand.

An opportunity to reclaim the brand narrative

Strong brands stand for something in the hearts and minds of the people who engage with them. They create a movie that plays in their customer’s head; a movie made up of sentiment, associations, the messaging in the marketplace and the sum of their experiences with that brand. And at Christmas, we have the opportunity to reinforce this more single-minded narrative. It’s the chance to be truly focussed in your message; two minutes where your values, your personality, your higher-order purpose take center stage – without needing to tackle the logical proof points or product features – and at a time where your audience’s tolerance for sentiment is through the roof.

Christmas 2019 Ad | John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners

An opportunity to win mind share

They used to say that there was no such thing as bad publicity (although I’m not sure we’d still say that now), but there’s no denying that being known is definitely something to strive for when it comes to brand strength. Being able to not only access but hold the attention of your audience is a marketer’s dream. But in a world where even my mom has figured out you can fast-forward ads, there are only two times of year when advertising gets a helping hand in the struggle for mind share: the super-bowl, and Christmas. Both times of year where we don’t just sit through the ads, we seek them out online and then we use them for social currency, trading our thoughts on the bits we loved with friends and colleagues.

An opportunity to co-brand with the biggest brand there is

There’s a complex art to getting the right brand partnerships in place. There’s the forensic evaluation of equity and values alignment, before the lengthy negotiation of ‘who’s logo goes where?’ and ‘why isn’t mine bigger than theirs?’ So when the opportunity to co-brand with the biggest brand of all, Christmas, presents itself – and all on your terms, it’s too good to pass up.

We know that now, more than ever, consumers are looking for meaning and purpose in their brands and Christmas has that meaning baked into its DNA. Community, belonging, warmth, giving and family – when a brand associates itself with the depth of feeling that comes with the holidays, they naturally transfer some of this meaning to their brand.

Our relationships with brands, the good ones, go beyond an exchange of money for a product. The brands we consume and associate ourselves with help us to tell a story to the world of who we want them to see us as. And the opportunity that Christmas provides to further strengthen that story is too good to pass up.

Am I saying that a fantastic Christmas ad can fix all brand ills? Absolutely not. You need the well-defined brand in place to begin with, and even the baby dragon of John Lewis can’t overcome a bad product or poor customer experience. But it’s an advantage, and one worth investing in.

Lauren Kelly is a senior client director based in our Sydney office.

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