What you can learn from 5 popular Christmas campaigns

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What you can learn from 5 popular christmas campaigns

The weather has started to get cold. The nights are drawing in quicker and the chunky winter jumpers have started to make an appearance. Then what do we eagerly await? Not just Christmas, but the Christmas adverts that make us laugh, cry and give us that warm tingly feeling that only comes with Christmas.

But hang on, Christmas is ages away! Why are we talking about it? Well, all the campaigns you enjoy each year don’t miraculously happen in December. Many of them are filmed during June and July, let alone looking at concept and messages! And if you’re thinking of pulling off the most magical campaign for your customers, you are going to need some tips right now.

Christmas ad campaigns have become huge in the last few years. Meaning it is not just the iconic coca cola ‘holidays are coming’ campaign that takes the spotlight. There were many strong contenders last year for best campaign, but what makes them so successful?

Let’s take a look back to December 2014, and the adverts that graced our screens.

John Lewis

John Lewis has been famed in recent years for producing big budget (try £7 million for 2014!), big profit making adverts. What makes the John Lewis adverts so different? They focus on a content advert rather than product selling.

Their 2014 advert focused on the story of a small boy who had a beloved penguin that went everywhere with him. But gradually the boy notices the penguin isn’t enjoying things as much as he used to. He can see the penguin feels lonely, and perhaps needs some more penguin company. Cue Christmas day, and a present for the penguin in the form of a lady friend. Mom’s crying, penguin is madly in love and boy is pleased he did well. I promise I only cried a little … okay a lot. It was an advert that definitely hit you right in the feelings.

By focusing on a narrative story. With a heart-warming message. They were able to raise their profits by 7.2% on the previous year for the advert launch week. Meaning they broke through the £100m barrier. Quite impressive for the story of a boy and his penguin.

So perhaps your business might not be expecting to pass the same barrier this year. But John Lewis has shown us that by using the simple stories we adore, of childhood, family and finding love. It can speak a lot more than showing the new television you could order.

Tread carefully when using this strategy. People only love these narrative stories when they actually believe them. Try too hard, and people will see right through the story and straight to the hard sell.


Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer is renowned for its celebrity filled, sparkly Christmas adverts. But last year they took a different turn with the #followthefairies campaign.

Their advert focused on the good deeds of the fairies, turning old things into new. So no champagne sipping celebrities? No, this campaign was nothing like the normal brand customers have come to expect from M & S. And that is the key. They had stepped away from their brand. Focused on small events such as creating real snow outside a primary school and giving gifts to night shift workers to spend their budget on Christmas Cheer rather than celebrity. This then drew in customers who were wondering what on earth was going on and why the change?

What can you take from this? Sometimes even the most established, long running businesses need to break from their normal pattern. To get sleepy customers to take notice. By changing their routine, loyal customers were more active than normal, and none customers followed their event efforts through the @twofairies and #followthefairies.



Sainsbury’s ran what was intended to be a reminiscent Christmas campaign. Which would hopefully be a follow on from the public support received for the ceramic poppies around the Tower of London. But instead ended in a completely split opinion.

Their advert featured British and German troops uniting in no man’s land to play football. They leave amicably, with a bar of chocolate being exchanged in the goodbyes. This bar of chocolate was made available in stores, with all profits going to the Royal British Legion. Which was intended to be a lovely Christmas campaign, focusing on the efforts of the soldiers, showcasing their long running bond with the Royal British Legion and benefitting a good cause.

However a huge debate started through social media channels, and then the press, on whether it was ethical to be promoting products using such a sensitive story.

This goes to show that though you may be genuinely working for a good cause this Christmas, you will not please everyone, every time. Even if you support a great cause or have a great message, it may not always be well received. You need to ensure you believe enough in your campaign to stand by it, and always consider the ethical implications.


B & Q

B & Q took a slightly different approach to those above, creating a campaign that worked all year round, but had added fun for Christmas.

The #Unleashed campaign is something they had been building all year long, and had gained quite a following on Twitter and Pinterest.

Their Christmas ad featured the same messages they had been sending out, with more silliness for Christmas, to ‘put the fun back into festive’. Showing every day folk pulling superhero poses for doing the most boring of tasks such as putting the Christmas lights up.

By keeping an ongoing campaign, they already had a good following to begin with, and by taking a more fun tone, they set themselves apart from the sentimental adverts that dominated the screens.

So what can B & Q teach you? Sometimes Christmas campaigns don’t actually have to be Christmas campaigns. If you already have a successful campaign, then it may be time to run with it, and push the boundaries on what you would normally do for your seasonal marketing.



My personal favourite this year was the Boots advert. It went a little unnoticed, as it was quite understated, but for me, that is why it worked.

Their campaign last year focused on ‘Because she’s special’ and the TV advert saw a night shift worker finishing her shift on Christmas day and heading home, quite tired and drained from working hard. At home, all her family can be seen dragging themselves, half asleep, to the living room to await her arrival. Mum gets back and see’s the effort they have gone to, to make sure she is welcomed home for Christmas, and everyone is smiling.

A very simple idea, not pushing products within the advert. But the campaign line ‘because she’s special’ gives you all the reasons you need to splash out on gifts. It also focuses on a reasonably untouched area for Christmas adverts, those who are working, and may not be spending the day with their loved ones.

For me, I think the show of appreciation is something a lot of us crave for, and we all love to make other people feel good (especially at Christmas) and this is the perfect combination of that.


Let’s not forget the other adverts that graced our screens. Such as Aldi’s ‘everyone’s coming to us this Christmas’. Vodafone’s ‘let it go’ advert using the soundtrack from hit film frozen. Homebase’s ‘everything you need to host a perfect Christmas’. Not on the high streets ‘choose a Christmas less ordinary’. Mulberry’s #winchristmas and Tesco’s ‘lights on’ campaign inspired by a customer!

All of these campaigns, as with any marketing, appeal to different audiences, but ideas and inspiration from these, or any of the other brilliant Christmas campaigns, could help you get on your way.


Struggling to turn your ideas into reality? Can’t quite turn on the Christmas cheer yet, but know you need to get moving? Book in with us for a no obligation meeting to see how we could help shape your campaign.

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