Christmas marketing campaigns… Love them or hate them, they’re a fact of life for most marketing professionals. Whichever camp you fall into, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites from Christmases past to help inspire you this season.
Mentioning ‘the C-word’ in October is usually enough to get you ostracised from your friends and colleagues. Sure, there may be one or two happy elves working in the background to organise the office party in August, but generally speaking, you’re likely to incur a whole world of wrath with a mere mention of mistletoe before late November.
But this year, we need Christmas.
First, it represents a beacon of hope amidst all the chaos…
Second, as a marketer, you need Christmas (and the consequent Christmas marketing campaigns). Sure, we’re all living a bit more frugally as the hardships of coronavirus kick in, but most people are still likely to spend on Christmas cheer; their pounds will just be spread more a bit more thinly.
Let’s take a look back at the ghost of Christmas marketing campaigns past, and revisit five creative crackers to inspire you in the forthcoming festive season!
TV x EVENTS x PR
Holidays are coming…
The ‘Coca-Cola Caravan’ advert first aired on US TV in 1995 and quickly became an iconic Christmas moment in households around the globe. Indeed, many families still refuse to accept it’s Christmas until they see the advert.
But why would a marketing titan like Coca-Cola limit this campaign to the small screen?
In 2001, the company started sending out real-life ‘Caravans’ to spread festive cheer in cities across The States. The UK followed suit in 2010, and the life-size lorries have toured every year since, securing press and social media coverage along the way.
TV x WEB
The joy of connection…
New for 2021. Coca-Cola partnered up with Cameo this year to help create that ‘real magic’ for everyone to experience. Cameo is an online service that lets people hire celebrities, to create videos – and this year they’re offering competition entrants the chance to win a message for Santa.
The accompanying TV adverts show the magic of connection, with a community all coming together to build a chimney for Father Christmas made from re-used cardboard boxes. Truly heartwarming.
PR x EVENTS
Every time a bell rings…
If you’ve never seen the iconic Christmas film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life‘, make this the year you put that right. A classic tale of hope, redemption and the importance of family and friends, Virgin teamed up with the charity Rethink Mental Illness to spread the movie’s message.
They used 750 litres of yellow paint to spray the entire screenplay along 14 station platforms from London to Edinburgh; a total length of 7.5km. Volunteers fundraised for the charity at the stations, while also raising awareness of mental health and the importance of intervention to help those in distress.
Surprises in store…
Pret A Manger knocked it out the park in 2015 with a brilliant double-edged Christmas marketing campaign. First, they revealed their Christmas menu in unique style, literally wrapping up an entire Central London store with wrapping paper and inviting customers to tear their way into the giant gift to receive a free festive sandwich.
But here’s where Pret melted even the wintriest of hearts. They used the launch to announce that they were donating their entire Christmas marketing budget to five homeless charities, in addition to donating 50p from the sale of every sandwich.
Now that’s the Christmas spirit at work.
A hashtag adventure…
In 2014, Ted Baker launched one of the most innovative Christmas campaigns in recent memory through Instagram.
Even the hashtag itself was a clever play on words: #TedsElfie.
The idea was to locate Santa’s missing elves by clicking through various clues and accounts on the platform to win Ted Baker goodies.
Read more: 5 Fabulous Valentine’s Day Campaigns
The brand positioned the images on their account to create a larger ‘mosaic’ image. Individual squares would then lead to other accounts that the brand had created, with new mosaics to explore.
For intrepid Instagrammers willing to invest a bit of time in this social media ‘treasure hunt’, there were opportunities to win loads of goodies, including a trip to see the Northern Lights.
A British tradition…
It’d be churlish not to include John Lewis in a festive round-up. Let’s face it: they’ve mastered the Christmas marketing campaign to the point where their annual TV advert has become a national institution in the UK. Their heartstring-tugging tales generate a national fervour usually reserved for World Cups and GBBO finals.
The first John Lewis ad, produced by their now-regular agency Adam & Eve was in 2009, but 2012’s snowman was where it really started to… er… snowball. The cover version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power Of Love, by then-unknown singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin, powered to number one in the charts.
Then, in 2013, ‘The Bear and the Hare’ took it to a new level. Ever since, we wait with bated breath in November to see what dreamy concoction the department store will bring to us this year.
Our favourite, though, has to be 2014’s Monty the Penguin.
A combination of storytelling and emotion makes their Christmas campaigns both memorable and shareable.
TV x IN STORE
You shall go to the ball…
Debenhams recreated the Cinderella fairytale for the modern world in 2017, using the hashtag #Findmyshoe in the YouShall campaign.
This TV advert used social media trends to update the classic fairytale, with our present-day Cinderella and Prince Charming using social media to find each other.
The ads cleverly coincided with the brand’s ‘Found It’ messaging in store, which emphasises that customers can find the perfect gift at Debenhams.
TV x ONLINE x PR
Channel your inner child…
In 2020 McDonald’s released their ‘Reindeer ready’ campaign urging people to find their inner child and over the Christmas period. The advert encouraged viewers to relive the Christmases of their youth and find the joy and wonder of the season.
To support the advert, they created an online Festive Hub, with an audiobook and activity sheets for families to enjoy together over the Christmas season.
They also donated to the charity FareShare for every download of the ‘Forever Young’ cover used in the advert, which created an additional positive PR story.
What’s your favourite Christmas campaign? What’ve we missed? Tell us in the comments below!