Marketing

5 Things We Can All Learn From Christmas Marketing.

5 min to read

We all know the drill. As early as October, we can sense it in the air. Nobody says it yet – nobody wants to seem too keen, but it’s on every marketer’s mind.

“Christmas is coming,” somebody eventually whispers.

And then the floodgates open. And it’s rather like being hit with a giant festive sledgehammer.

“IT’S CHRIIIIIIIISTMAS!” We hear Slade yell through our radio speakers. Santa pops up everywhere you look. Michael Bublé’s Christmas album gets played at least ten times a day, and before too long our tv screens, billboards and coffee cups are covered in lashings of festive cheer. Every year Christmas marketing becomes an almost comical competition as brand after brand tries to compete for the best campaign. Whilst M&S brought all the sass this year with Mrs Claus, Aldi took the word ‘cute’ and amped it up about 50 times to produce Kevin the Carrot.

But what is it about the ‘season to be jolly’ that gets brands so hot and bothered? Well, the proof is clearly in the (Christmas) pudding, as figures estimate that for every pound spent on festive advertising, companies can make a £24 profit. Which explains exactly why they do it.

So what can we learn from Christmas marketing campaigns? Read on to find out!


The more you tug on people’s heartstrings, the better.

Whether it’s tears of joy or sadness, emotional advertising has proven itself to be the key to an effective Christmas marketing campaign. Luckily, the biggest brands seem to have nailed this by now, with teddy bears, dogs and even carrots toying with our hearts this year.

We can only guess at how this year’s team at Aldi must have reacted to agency McCann UK’s proposal.

“Imagine…a carrot.”

“A carrot?”

“Yes. A really cute carrot. Battling the perils of the kitchen.”

“Genius! Get to work!”

The brands that have smashed their Christmas campaigns in 2016 are the ones who have surprised and delighted customers instead of adding to the holiday chaos. And they’re certainly the ones that will continue to succeed as we step into 2017.


Your advert doesn’t really have to bear any relevance to your product.

It just has to be impressive.

The agency behind H&M’s Christmas marketing campaign went and got Wes Anderson to direct an entire mini film sequence on a train, complete with Adrien Brody and a festive dining cart. Beautifully shot, as would be expected for such a great director, but did it sell H&M very well? Debatable. At one point they highlight a jumper for £14.99, but it isn’t exactly obvious. Nonetheless, creative agency Adam & Eve/DDB were responsible for both Buster the Boxer and this H&M film and have just won Campaign’s “Advertising Agency of the Year” for the third time running, so what do I know? Clearly if you’re a big enough brand, you can get away with quite a random festive campaign.


The British public is a tough crowd to please.

It’s been a rough year for everybody, but does that mean that the British public have shied away from critiquing this year’s advertising? Of course not. Within seconds of the John Lewis ad being released, swarms of people took to social media and voiced their opinions – approving or otherwise. And some of them didn’t hold back.

“Every child everywhere will now be asking why the little girl’s dad is building the trampoline and not Santa,” one of the more cynical viewers voiced in a tweet, “Dreams have been dashed today.”

Yep, that’s right – John Lewis are dream-dashers now. And the criticism didn’t stop there. Dozens of articles were released after the ad came out saying how John Lewis had “ruined Christmas” by making out that Santa didn’t exist. Poor John Lewis have now got quite a lot of explaining to do.

Yet even when an ad really hits the mark, people still aren’t satisfied. Burberry’s star-studded ad ‘Tale of Thomas Burberry’ had so many viewers interested that people have since been demanding that they expand their ad into an entire film. Nice idea? Yes. Practical? No.


A ‘dark social’ strategy can be very effective.

‘Dark social’ refers to any social sharing that can’t be measured by web analytic programs – such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Greggs decided to turn to this ‘dark social’ for their marketing strategy this year, allowing only 250 fans of their annual festive food range to join an exclusive VIP WhatsApp group entitled ‘Festive Bake Lovers’. But did such exclusive strategy work? It sure did. Articles declared that Greggs had ‘won’ marketing as scores of people tried to join the group. Hardcore pasty fans united and shared their love for festive bakes, whilst the rest of the world were left wondering exactly how they could get a slice of the action for themselves!


Bigger isn’t always better.

According to the Advertising Association, UK advertisers have spent an estimated £5.6 billion on marketing in the run-up to this year’s Christmas, which is £300 million more than last year and the most ever spent in the Christmas period. But is it all worth it? Not always. House of Fraser came under a lot of scrutiny this year for their larger-than-life festive campaign. Whilst their ad was flashier than a 1980s disco, it failed to hit the mark, particularly given that their tagline: “Christmas is Coming For You” made people feel like they were being mildly threatened by a department store.

TK Maxx, on the other hand, kept it simple. Funny and honest, their ad featured a family attempting a rather unexpected Christmas ‘sing-song’ around the piano (gurgling granny and all), and the ad has since exploded across social media. Whilst an expensive budget might allow for a show-stopping display, sometimes it can be just as effective to stick to good old humour.

So there you have it: Christmas marketing – the good, the bad and the ugly. Do you agree with everything we’ve said? Let us know in the comments. Happy Christmas from the Kubix team, and be sure to keep in touch over the festive season!