The Kings & Queens of Christmas Marketing

In 2013 UK house holds spent over £22bn on Christmas and with retailers all wanting a piece of the pie, there is a big marketing war. But who does the best?

There are literally hundreds of Christmas marketing campaigns, from almost every company out there. These campaigns often blend into the background and go relatively unnoticed, but there are a few companies that have done such a good job of their marketing, that their adverts are considered to be part of the festive season. These companies and their marketing teams really are the kings and queens of Christmas marketing! In this article we’re going to run through some of the advertising from companies that have managed to achieve this status.

Coca Cola

The first thing many people think of when you mention Christmas advertising is the Coca Cola adverts. The most iconic of which, in recent years, is the ‘Holidays are coming!’ advert, which for many signals the start of the Christmas season.

These adverts were first created in 1995 (20 years ago!), by W.B. Doner and was worked on by Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects company behind Star Wars and lots other Hollywood special effects movies.

Coca Cola know that they carry such a big Christmas reputation that they even include it as part of their YouTube description for their video!

“Watch out, look around, something’s coming, coming to town! Celebrating its 20th year, the Coca-Cola Christmas truck is appearing on TV screens across the nation. This can only mean one thing: it’s the official start of the 2015 festive season! Get in the holiday spirit and watch the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas advert. Holidays are coming!” – Coca Cola

Coca Cola have capitalised on the association their lorries have with Christmas and, in recent years, have been running tours of the country where you can see the lorry. To see where they will be this year, click here.

Almost everyone is aware of the ‘Holidays are coming!’ adverts that Coca Cola created, however a lot of people aren’t aware of the influence that they had on Santa Claus himself. When you think of Santa these days, you think of a rosy cheeked, fat, jolly man, however up until the 1930’s he was drawn in a variety of different ways, including in a green outfit. It was however Haddon Sundblom who painted Coca Cola’s first, modern day, Santa Claus and set the standard for how he would be styled moving forwards. Sunblom continued to paint Coca Cola’s Santa until 1964, however it is still used in their advertising today and Sunblom’s style of Santa has been adopted by the rest of the world.

With such a longstanding association with Christmas, it’s unlikely that anyone will beat Coca Cola in the fight to be Christmas royalty.

John Lewis

If Coca Cola are the current Christmas royalty then John Lewis are definitely the next in line for the throne. John Lewis, who really only entered the Christmas advert game in 2007, have taken a slightly different approach to Coca Cola and focus more on love, friendship and emotion in their Christmas advertising. The music used in their adverts varies, but has always been selected to evoke emotion, often including softly sung covers of other famous songs, including Elton John’s ‘Your Song and Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’.

The first advert in 2007 was minimalistic in comparison to their adverts since and was actually quite contrasting to the message that they have sent since. Using the products that they sell, they organised them in such a way that the shadows were shaped like the people who they could be bought for.

In 2008, John Lewis’ head of brand communication got more involved in their advertising and he took a big part in the message and style of the advert. This advert and the adverts since, have shied away from a consumerist message. This advert did this well by showing different demographics and then displaying their, one, ‘perfect’ gift.

Since the style of advert was changed to take focus away from the actual products, John Lewis hasn’t changed their approach and have kept their Christmas adverts focused on the love and emotional side of Christmas.

With their adverts doing so well and being watched by so many people (the 2015 advert has been watched over 20 million times so far), it’s undeniable that they have perfected their Christmas marketing.

John Lewis have since started expanding on their adverts by offering in store activities and supplements to capitalise on the popularity of their ads. This year’s advert was ‘the man on the moon’ and John Lewis have set up a telescope in their Oxford Street branch, for people to use for stargazing, as well as educational resources and merchandise for the advert. They are even going one step further and are supporting Age UK by donating 25% of the price of their merchandise to them. They are also promoting Age UK on their website and are running the hashtag #manonthemoon to help raise awareness.

The others

With Coca Cola and John Lewis dominating Christmas advertising in the UK and seeing a surge in their sales as a result, it’s easy to see why other companies are trying to replicate their success.

Recent contributions include Sainsbury’s WW1 Christmas football match recreation, which followed a similar format to the John Lewis adverts, pulling on everyone’s heartstrings. This advert caused quite a bit of controversy at the time, but there is no denying that people remembered it and were talking about it.

Marks and Spencer have also been wading in with their Christmas advertising, which focuses far more on fun and excitement, with upbeat music, flashing lights and excitable children jumping all over the place. This advert focuses far more on excitement, rather than on love and family. A similar approach is being taken by Asda, so it will be interesting to see if this type of Christmas advert can take over as the style of choice.

Whatever happens moving forwards, one thing is for sure, the Christmas market will continue to grow and those with the best advertising will reap the rewards.