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Humans are for life, not just for Christmas

John Lewis, Aldi, Sainsburys are all big players in the Christmas advert domain, and every year we debate which brand gets the coveted crown. But what we want to know is why businesses seem to save their more human approach to communications for Christmas?

Talking about the 2022 John Lewis Christmas ad, Dr. Annmarie Hanlon claims that the period from October to January brings around 70% of year sales. And this is not unique to the department store powerhouse. Brands around the world prepare months in advance in the hopes of creating an advert which is sharable, memorable and, of course, profitable.

In her run down of the best Christmas ads for Time Out, Alice Saville says:

It’s that time when mega brands pretend to be all-round decent normal guys by making poignant festive adverts about the value of togetherness, love and buying shedloads of festive tat.

The power of human 

I mean, it’s such an odd phenomenon. All advertising and marketing communications should be about making connections with humans. How can you not when you’re trying to get them to do something? But time and time again, Adland tends to feel more sentimental (McDonalds), more people focused (Waitrose) and more magical (Asda) at Christmas. 

When Proctor & Gamble assessed its own work it discovered “[…] work yielding an emotional response was eight times more likely to be successful than work eliciting indifference. They looked at 300 TV ads, 85 online videos, 100 Facebook posts and 50 in-store displays to conclude that messaging which generated positive reactions enjoyed the greatest impact.” 

Creating emotion in humans drives impact. It makes communications “sticky” and memorable which helps people recall key moments. It doesn’t work because the communication is emotional, it works because the emotional reaction in us makes it memorable.  

So what are our main takeaways? 

It makes sense to take what we love from Christmas ads and apply it to all our communications throughout the year – like the gift that keeps giving. Here’s what we’ve learned: 

  1. Start with strong human insight – Start with insight and execute with empathy. It doesn’t have to be weepy, it could be quite fun like Sainsbury’s observation of demanding guests and under appreciated Christmas cooks in Once Upon a Pud
  2. Make it real and relatable – The best Christmas ads feel familiar and are executed in line with a strong and authentic brand personality. Define your personality and ensure there’s traits in there that make it feel distinct and memorable. Aldi get this right with their Kevin the Carrot 'Home Alone' parody, the right balance of tongue-in-cheek and heart-warming tradition. 
  3. Tell a powerful story – Stories help us simplify the complex in a human way. Some of the best Christmas ads take the time to tell powerful stories with a punchy narrative. Think John Lewis’s ‘The Beginner’ or National Lottery’s ‘A Christmas Love Story’. Find stories that resonate with your target audiences and show what you’re about.  

By considering these takeaways and creating an emotional response within our comms, we can make the spirit of Christmas last all year. We will forge stronger connections when we embrace the human gifts of empathetic insight, authentic personality, compelling stories. 

After all, humans are for life, not just for Christmas. 


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