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Christmas marketing: The storytelling gift that keeps on giving

Christmas marketing is massive.

It's become a deep-seated part of modern Christmas tradition in the commercial world. Each year, consumers all over the UK wait with bated breath for the release of the most popular festive ads.

It's safe to say that mammoth brands like Coca-Cola, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, and Aldi have revolutionised Christmas marketing in the last 15 years or so, rooting themselves firmly as leaders of a Christmas marketing phenomenon.

They are all comforting landmarks of the Christmas countdown, a signifier that the majority of the UK gets to switch the working week for a prolonged few days richly packed with family time, chocolate selection boxes, cheese, and Monopoly.

But what makes these ads so effective? Let's explore these marketing gifts that keep on giving, and dissect the key takeaways we can handpick from these marketing examples.

The psychology of the Christmas ad

Psychology says that popular Christmas ads are so effective because 'they're the prototype for the broader concept the company is working to associate' (Psychology Today, 2023).

Essentially, these brands work hard to associate themselves with Christmas through consistent marketing of their festive stories. Most of us associate Christmas with positive emotions, and therefore the brand is perceived positively by association.

Brands capitalise on this positive association by creating these Christmassy worlds and fantastical winter ads that capture the eyes (and hearts) of the nation.

Emotional narratives = relatable content. It's as simple as that.

Coca-Cola are the Christmas marketing originals

What do Coca-Cola and Christmas have in common? Absolutely nothing. There's certainly nowhere in the Christmas Nativity where baby Jesus was sipping on a can of Coke. However, chuck a dash of glittery Christmas marketing and heavy exposure of varying Santa Clauses, and you've got yourself an enterprise that redefines Christmas.

They're Christmas by default: The cursive typography, the staple red/white brand colours. Coca-Cola's branding alone contains all the ingredients for killer Christmas marketing campaigns.

And as Coca-Cola associates itself with every holiday, it creates a different world for its product based on the time of year. So essentially, festive Coca-Cola is its own franchise thanks to its annual consistency.

But this didn't happen overnight, of course. Coca-Cola have been capitalising on Christmas since 1931. It may have taken them a while, but now their Santa Claus ads are giving Saint Nick himself a run for his money.

Have you seen the new John Lewis advert?

John Lewis has anchored themselves as one of the flagship Christmas marketers thanks to their heart-throbbing adverts. They even call themselves 'the voice of Christmas.'

Their ads certainly aim to tug on the heartstrings, and it's extremely effective.

Over the years, we've seen animated bears hibernating, cute children giving their parents Christmas gifts, and a lonely elderly gentleman camping out on the moon.

John Lewis really do get creative with their narratives, and ensures each year is drastically different from the next, to keep their audiences anticipating the latest ad.

They use popular songs that we all know and love, to hook attention and turn heads.

John Lewis magnifies largely the concept of 'altruistic happiness' - prioritising the selflessness of giving gifts, over receiving them.

The common theme in all their ads? Family and togetherness. The common vehicle driving these themes? Emotional narratives.

The ads tend to create a story that transports the concept of giving a gift, and then they swoop in with a wholesome ending.

Our favourite

Over to you The Beefy Boys, a tongue-in-cheek swipe at the big boys, an emotional story with a young boy and an elderly couple. All seems right with this advert, until the twist at the end. Shot by Squashed Robot who now have Phil Beastall at the creative helm (you may remember his Christmas film, Love is a Gift.]

We love the sentiment, style, and comedy of this advert, it's had hundreds of thousands of social media views so far.

What do these marketing campaigns have in common?

Christmas marketing campaigns are centered around emotional narratives.

We all have a different idea of what Christmas is. For all audiences, it means something emotionally, financially, socially, and culturally. These brands handpick their buyer persona's connotations of Christmas and create a world around their festive pain points to market themselves.

The most successful festive marketing campaigns surpass Christmas itself and instead focus more heavily on the associations we have with Christmas.

They are all...

  • Emotive
  • Relevant to the times
  • Relatable
  • Narrative
  • Consistent

The takeaway? Storytelling works.

We all love a good story. As social beings, it's in our nature to share stories - we've been telling stories since the dawn of time.

It's no surprise then, that the most successful brands tell stories with their marketing.

It doesn't have to be Christmas to tell a story. The magic of Christmas just allows more scope for brands to be extra creative and fantastical with their narratives.

Emotional narratives work at all times of the year. Play on the heartstrings.

That doesn't mean you have to try and force your audience to run sobbing into a Kleenex. It also doesn't mean you have to splash out on thousands on animation or SFX or use sad Elton John songs in your ads. Storytelling can seep into all forms of your marketing, even if you're on a tighter budget.

You can tell stories in all forms of your content, at any time of the year. Whether it's a carousel of customer feedback on your homepage or a series of 'team backstory' reels, you can keep your audience engaged with stories.

Any kind of narrative in your marketing is storytelling. Storytelling is one of the most effective marketing moves you can make.

By using storytelling in your marketing, you are...

  • Humanising your brand
  • Making your brand more interesting
  • Engaging your audience
  • Creating a world around your brand

Tell stories that mean something

You're not marketing to robots (yet). You're marketing to real human beings with real emotions and real issues. Use your marketing to play on these emotions.

Change up your wording to stir emotion in your specific customer. Create narratives and stories that will really speak to your buyer persona, prompting them to engage with your content.

Create narratives around your brand. Tell the world your story, and create stories that subtly market your product or service as the protagonist - not just at Christmas, but all year round.

Want help to tell your story?

At Method, we've got the tools and resources to help you show off your brand and tell the world who you are.

Whether it's rewiring your site, a sparkly new logo or you simply need a fresh pair of eyes on your marketing campaigns - we've got a varied selection of tools and skillsets to make the forefront of your business look all new and shiny. Book a call with James for a chat, or pop us a message.

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