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 the best Christmas marketing campaigns from Christmases past to help inspire you this season.
Mentioning ‘the C-word’ before advent calendars are cracked open 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 thanks to those larger energy bills, but many of us are still looking forward to the festive season due it being the first since 2019 that we will be able to enjoy without any Covid restrictions.
Let’s take a look back at the ghost of Christmas marketing campaigns past, and revisit eight creative crackers to inspire you in the forthcoming festive season!
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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.
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Aldi has a knack of being in tune with public feeling, and therefore ensured that its 2021 Christmas campaign included a donation of 1.8 million meals to families in need in the UK, in acknowledgement of the hard times felt up and down the country.
It also built on our beloved Christmas stories with a fun (and pun-filled) take on Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’. The well-loved character of Kevin the Carrot was reprised once again to help Ebanana Scrooge realise the joy of Christmas, creating a charming campaign that fills us all with a little bit of much-needed Christmas cheer.
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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.
Pickles in the post…
When there was an European Branston Pickle shortage during the Covid years, tremors were felt throughout the continent as families contemplated how to make up for the shortfall on their Christmas cheese boards. Luckily, Branston Pickle had one of the best Christmas marketing campaigns up its sleeve to solve the problem.
They set up a pop-up shop in London, which shoppers could use to buy and post a jar of pickles to friends and family on the mainland, bypassing the clogged up post being delivered by Royal Mail. The pickle postal service also offered truly cheesy Christmas cards to accompany the pickle, and the option to package your precious gift in pickle-themed paper. Genius!
A hashtag adventure…
In 2014, Ted Baker launched one of the best social media 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.
Your wish is our command…
Christmas is a time when wishes should come true, an idea that delivery company UPS has taken to its heart every year since 2013..
Every year, UPS runs a #WishesDelivered social media campaign. To take part, you must post and comment your biggest Christmas wish using the hashtag. UPS then selects some very lucky people to have their wishes made true. For the added feel-good factor, UPS also donates $1 for every wish shared via the hashtag. Now there’s Christmas spirit!
You can watch more of the delivered wishes here.
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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!
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