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It may still be mid-November but most of the major brands have already launched their Christmas campaigns, ensuring they don’t miss the increasingly early Christmas shopping season. We’ve compiled some of the best campaigns from recent years, celebrating the brands that know how to make young consumers feel warm and fuzzy towards them during the cold winter months.
Over the past decade, the John Lewis Christmas ad has become an annual signifier of the beginning of the Christmas season. They’ve achieved the rare feat of creating a marketing campaign that consumers actually look forward to and seek out. While young people aren’t the main target market of the department store chain, the adverts have broad appeal and benefit from the FOMO trend: you need to see the ad to be able to join in with conversations at school, college, work, or on the group chat. The annual ad is so popular it’s even spawned several Christmas hit singles – a true sign of a British institution.
Ikea is another brand not typically associated with the youth market, but their choice to work with grime artist D-Double-E on their 2019 Christmas advert (their first ever Christmas ad, no less) suggests they have a younger audience in their sights. The ad forgoes the festive schmaltz in favour of humour and originality, which makes it much more shareable and memorable for Gen Z, an audience just as likely to see online ads shared in their social feeds as during a TV ad break.
Burger King were able to tick off two major objectives with their 2016 Christmas campaign, the Whopper Exchange: encourage consumers to try their flagship product, the Whopper, and do their bit for charity over the festive period. They encouraged people in the UK, US, Brazil, Russia and Mexico to take their unwanted gifts to Burger King on Boxing Day and donate them to charity in return for a free Whopper. The kitsch campaign ad (below) also helped to push Burger King’s distinctive, edgy brand voice.
Online fashion retailer ASOS were ahead of the times with their innovative 2012 #bestnightever campaign. They collaborated with top pop stars such as Ellie Goulding and Azealia Banks on a series of interactive performance videos, where viewers could purchase the products worn by the artists. The global campaign showcased a selection of the ecommerce brand’s party clothing. Following the launch of Instagram Shopping last year, we can expect to see lots of brands using shoppable ads in their 2020 Christmas campaign.
Netflix caused controversy in a surprising way in 2017 when they posted a viral tweet that mocked “the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days.” While the post may have offended some followers, it helped to drive conversation around the film, no doubt also driving curiosity viewings and raising awareness that Netflix produces its own original movies. A Christmas Prince became a seasonal favourite, and anticipation has grown each year since for the video platform’s new festive films.
In 2018, Iceland made a huge impact with their Christmas ad, even though they were never able to show it on TV. Their advert, created in collaboration with Greenpeace, was banned for taking a stand against the use of palm oil, which was considered a political statement. Iceland turned this into a powerful PR campaign, which attracted widespread media coverage and social sharing, gaining at least as much reach as it would have had on TV. It also tapped into the environmental movement, as people, especially Gen Z, are increasingly informed and passionate about issues such as the damage caused by palm oil.
In 2019, Walkers shelled out on possibly the biggest celebrity name associated with Christmas (after Jesus and Santa): Mariah Carey. The singer behind the classic “All I Want for Christmas is You” not only stars in their Christmas TV ad fighting with an elf over the last packet of pigs in blankets-flavoured crisps, but also appears on their packaging. By associating themselves with a celebrity and a song that is already a huge part of Christmas culture, Walkers have fast-tracked their way to creating a classic Christmas ad.
John Lewis aren’t the only ones who can tug at the heartstrings at Christmas. Amazon have created their own annual series of uplifting, heartwarming ads for the festive season, featuring their iconic brown boxes singing classic tunes. Their 2019 ad featured a diverse selection of customers singing along with the boxes. For an online business like Amazon, it’s important to show the brand’s real world impact. As the ecommerce site has become one of the top Christmas shopping destinations, ads like this play a key role in softening its persona and ensuring people don’t see it as a faceless digital brand.
In 2016, Coca-Cola partnered with Snapchat to recreate the Christmas card concept for a younger generation of consumers, and to transform their classic ‘Holidays are Coming’ ad for the social media era. They created a branded Snapchat Lens that enabled users to become part of the famous ad. They also partnered with LadBible to explore the history of Holidays are Coming and how it inspired the image of Santa we have today. By taking their campaign to the places Gen Z spend their time online, they ensure it reaches a relevant audience at a time when they’re open to engaging with ads.
Another brand who has created a moment that is now seen as a signal of the start of Christmas is Starbucks, who release their festive red cups and special products in November each year. This tradition is a PR’s dream, as publications race to post the first reviews of the new products each year, and influencers race to upload the first red cup selfie to mark the start of the festive season. The iconic cups make an already Instagram-friendly brand even more so.
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