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Published October 14th 2016
As we draw ever closer to the holiday season, we can look forward to pumpkin spiced lattes, cheap TVs, massive turkeys and great presents.
Behind the scenes, brands will be as busy as Santa’s little elves, preparing to make the most of our good spirits by creating the best holiday marketing campaigns their creative minds can think of.
A good holiday marketing campaign can see dramatically increased sales, and drive brand awareness through the water cooler effect.
A bad campaign can be spectacularly bad PR. If a brand is seen to cynically cash in on our time of love and merriment, public sentiment can become as scary as a creepy clown.
With that in mind, we’ve collected some of our favorite holiday marketing campaigns that demonstrate how to successfully theme your marketing around a holiday.
Halloween is brilliant. You get to dress up, watch scary movies, bring out your inner artist on a pumpkin, and either eat loads of sweets or drink loads of beer, depending on your age.
With such a fun holiday, there is less risk to brands that choose to get involved. The holiday is a little bit scary, and a lot of fun. Ads should reflect this, and the best do.
Television manufacturer LG used hidden cameras and a floor made of monitors to promote their new product.
The opening of the video sees the fake floor being built before text states the new IPS monitors have ‘lifelike colors’. As the false floor is installed, the ad asks “How lifelike? We put it to the test”.
A series of people get into the elevator, only for the floor to appear to fall away. It works well as a Halloween marketing advert because we’re in on the joke.
The people are scared, we are amused but it also shows off how lifelike the monitors are.
It is relevant to Halloween without featuring cliched ghosts and zombies, and it stands up as a video even if it wasn’t an ad. Perhaps this explains why it’s had over 25 million views.
Another funny holiday marketing campaign: last year’s Halloween effort from Chipotle Mexican Grill.
The advert highlights the restaurant’s brand values of good ingredients and fast food.
The customer enters a fictional restaurant similar to Chipotle, but where the food is based on ‘traditional’ fast food, complete with additives and preservatives. These “scary ingredients” provide the Halloween theme.
The video was supported by Chipotle’s long-running Halloween promotion, Boorito, where customers get a $3 burrito by wearing costume.
This year they added a twist, getting customers to add something unnecessary to their costume to qualify, reinforcing the message of the marketing campaign of unnecessary ingredients.
Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people, and brands have to appeal to a multitude of markets and faiths.
There are universal themes, however, and that is what unites the best holiday marketing campaigns. Family, spending time with loved ones, peace, harmony, and the act of giving. Essentially, it’s a time when we all get a little warm and fuzzy inside, even when it’s freezing outside.
The ad begins in a Microsoft store at Christmas and briefly shows a note being played on a keyboard app on a Microsoft tablet. Then the staff head out onto the winter streets of New York.
It turns out the Microsoft employees are leaving the store to walk down 5th Avenue to “deliver a special message to some old friends”.
When it was revealed the employees are serenading their Apple store counterparts, world peace broke out. Only kidding.
It works well though, as we assume the tech giants are sworn enemies, while the ad brings the message of spreading joy and holiday cheer. Plus, you know, kids singing carols.
You want warm and fuzzy? How about Canadian airline WestJet’s 24-hour project to spread holiday joy?
The video starts by introducing the concept, with a screen in the command center stating “T’was the night before Christmas”.
The voice-over provides the facts a normal marketing campaign would: WestJet covers 10 time zones in over 90 destinations. The video shows London’s Big Ben, the streets of NYC, and various other destinations to highlight this.
The holiday campaign itself centers around the staff of WestJet performing these 12,000 mini miracles – random acts of kindness – over a 24-hour period.
Again, it shows the brand entering into the spirit and engaging into the act of giving. It shows off their friendly staff and the destinations they fly to, and all the while feels thoroughly uplifting and Christmassy.
WestJet actually has a history of these sort of holiday marketing campaigns over the last few years.
Many brands have realized the extra awareness to be had by turning a marketing campaign into an eagerly anticipated yearly event.
The coming of the red cups is so important that people were outraged last year when the cups were plain red.
Starbucks ran a competition in each country that encouraged customers to share pictures of their cups on social. It seems likely the customizable nature of the cups was part of this wider marketing plan aimed at social media.
Finally, we turn to the UK, where Christmas marketing is dominated by department stores and supermarkets trying to out-cute each other.
The John Lewis ads have been running since 2007, and often feature a folk-tinged cover version as a soundtrack. They always pull at the heartstrings and embody the holiday spirit.
2011’s effort – the long wait – is the year John Lewis went for a longer format of 2 minutes. It’s my favorite of the lot. A young boy impatiently counts down the days until Christmas. He wolfs down dinner on Christmas Eve to get to bed early.
Come the morning he leaps out of bed, runs past his own presents, picks up a gift and runs into his parents’ room. The tagline appears. John Lewis: for gifts you can’t wait to give. Genius.
It’s heart-warming, amusing, and turns your expectations on their head. They must have some great gifts in John Lewis for that kid to be so excited about giving one.
Whatever the occasion, great holiday marketing campaigns need to avoid the hard sell and retain the spirit of the holiday.