What Can We Learn About Storytelling from Christmas Ads.
Revenue Growth, Ecommerce Strategy, Storytelling
Christmas advertising is the epitome of storytelling. Every year, marketers and consumers alike sit and wait in anticipation to watch the Christmas ads from the 5 big major players.
So taking a look at this year’s ads, what can digital marketers take away and implement for their own brands to supercharge performance all year round.
How many people cry at the John Lewis Christmas ads every year? The brand has been incredibly good at tugging on the nation’s hearts strings and creating overwhelming emotion in order to build a story into their campaigns. Previous campaigns have been heart-warming, nostalgic and touch upon some topics which hit close to home for the British public.
Sainsburys 2016 ad also uses emotion to help carry their ad. A large focus on children and a smattering of humour (who could forget the little girl dressed as a power plug) helps bring warmth and joy to the ad.
This use of emotion should not be limited to Christmas. We should be looking at emotion as being a core component of all advertising, all year round. Having this as the driving force will also stop you from being really product focused and will force you to think more about your audiences wants and needs.
Kevin the Carrot has been the face of Aldi for years and has been the driver of their Christmas adverts for just as long. They have given Kevin a cheeky personality and placed him in well known scenarios such as Willy Wonka’s factory (2023). It is this consistency in character and story telling which makes Aldi ads so beloved.
For ecommerce brands, we recommend having a central creative theme. That might be a particular strap line, use of the same models, colour pallet etc. Not every brand will be able to have their own Kevin the Carrot to drive their story forward, but there are other ways of building consistency across all campaigns and channels in order to build strong awareness, recall and reputation.
The power of a familiar face
Enter Michael Bublé. You may have spotted him in 2023’s Asda Christmas campaigns posing as a new quality assurance officer. There is so much power in having a strong brand ambassador. It establishes a sense of trust between the brand and the audience and strengthens the perception of the brand to those who may not have heard of you before. Now, not every brand is going to have a Michael Bublé sized marketing budget but there is still a way of creating a sense of familiarity.
The first thing you could do is take a look at brand ambassadors or influencer marketing. Do your research and be really selective about who you work with. The aim should be to create a long term mutual partnership. The second could be to look internally at your staff and finding someone who is comfortable in front of the camera to be the voice of the brand. Tala do this very well with Founder Grace Beverly. Trial creative on organic social first and then look to promote any well performing posts.
Audio will always relate to emotion. Music has such a huge impact on emotional connection, it should not be treated as an afterthought in advertising.
We have to assume that some users will be watching your ads muted. But some definitely won’t and the power that music and audio will have on these users is really important. Platforms like Tiktok and Youtube Shorts are also “Audio First” meaning that the content is never automatically muted; so by having a strong audible hook, you can influence view through rate.
Christmas ads use music like no other ad campaign. John Lewis curate their music carefully and artist will often chart with their John Lewis Christmas Covers because it has such a large impact on pop culture.
Some brands will also use recognizable voice overs. Actor Jim Broadbent for Aldi, Tom Holland made an appearance as the voice of Percy Pig for Marks and Spencer and Joanna Lumley for Westgate Oxford and unforgettably Matt Berry for The Natural Confectionary Company (not a Christmas campaign but still very effective).
Think about how you can influence your story with audio. Some brands won’t have the budget to license a big pop hit or hire an A-list V/O but please plan your audio alongside your video and don’t leave it until the last minute!
Christmas campaigns are memorable. We can often recall adverts from years previous and that is because they tell an emotional story which resonates with their audience. That's putting it very simply but if you want Christmas looking results all year round, that's the strategy you should be using.