Back in the 1930s, Coca Cola displayed the ultimate brand power by changing the color of Santa’s outfit from its traditional green to red. The brand then kicked off the Christmas TV phenomenon began back in 1993 with the famous “Holidays are Coming” Coca Cola advertisement that we all know and love – the bright red Coca Cola truck, getting into town, brightening the children’s eyes.
If Coca Cola set the trend, other brands soon caught up. In recent years the Christmas TV advertisement has become big business in terms of brand presence and recognition. Brands including John Lewis, M&S and the supermarkets fight for the top spot every year as the all-important festive season approaches. The whispers, the anticipation, the predictions, the months of creative and strategic preparation, the millions of marketing dollars spent, the teasers, it’s all led to this.. All the major retail brands in UK are competing to offer the most incredible and visible Christmas TV spot of the year.
If it all sounds a bit familiar to American people, it’s absolutely normal. Just move the timeline by about three months and replace the word “Christmas” with “Super Bowl,” and you’ve got an idea of what’s become the U.K.’s biggest annual advertising popularity contest. But unlike the Super Bowl, the British Christmas advertising peak is a relatively new phenomenon, sparked by one retailer that saw an opportunity to make a big holiday splash, that’s now become a race to find out what brand will “win Christmas.” The brand responsible is retailer John Lewis. The company had been spending big on Christmas ads since at least 2007 but it’s really when it teamed with agency adam&eveDDB in 2009 that the “John Lewis Effect”—in which retailers and brands of all stripes aim to go epic for Christmas—began to form.
But what does this mean? Even if you take everything away that this is a religious event, what impact does this have for marketing campaigns around this time of year, and anything that is connected with ‘Christmas?’
It demonstrates that with the ubiquity of options of where to buy your ‘stuff’ from, marketers need to be more and more intelligent with the way that they can get people to buy from their brand. It’s not even about what is the cheapest place to buy your Christmas presents, it’s about what that brand means to you, how it makes you feel and the TV spots, especially at this time of the year, can align you with something emotionally more so than at any other time, which is why they are such big events. People cried when the John Lewis advertisement came on, does anybody cry at the soda drinks communication when summer is coming?
Where will this trend end? More and more money, time and planning will be spent on the festive launch, creating the feeling of being part of something really strong. It’s not difficult to imagine that in the future, the campaigns will be launched as feature length films, which gives even more opportunities to publicize the brand and in the end, make more money. It may seem that Christmas will be one of the main platforms for brands to engage their consumers. Christmas is becoming an entertainment background to get noticed. And after seeing all the big blockbusters popping up during the vacation, expect the retailers to create their own long feature films.