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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn

Top Tips for Creating Christmas Campaigns

The topic for the latest The Marketing Meetup IRL event in Edinburgh was Christmas campaigns, and presenter Laura McLachlan (Director of Marketing and Fundraising at Worldwide Cancer Research) shared her thoughts on what makes an effective Christmas campaign.

Photo is of a presentation being given to a group of marketing professionals. The presenter is Laura McLachlan of Worldwide Cancer Research

Laura gives us her top Christmas campaign tips

Given Laura's role I expected the content to focus on fundraising, but Laura took us on a whirlwind tour of great and not so great advertising across sectors, and I came away with lots of great insight and reflections. There's was a lot of audience participation and group discussion!

Here's just a few of the things we discussed to help make your festive marketing more successful than a cracker joke...

Observe the Christmas Code

Marketing professionals have a moral code they need to uphold at Christmas time. It's easy for us to get swept up in the tinsel (or the targets), but we need to remember that there are people involved. With that in mind:

  1. Don't actively encourage excess. Not only does this put people at risk of financial issues, it can fuel the idea that we all need to keep up with extravagant giving which is often unrealistic and unnecessary. As a practical example, 'buy now, pay later' should be offered as an option, but not in a way that encourages people to spend far beyond their means.

  2. Be clear on the terms and conditions of your festive offers. Don't make claims about an offer which don't stand up (or worse, could be deemed unfair by regulators (e.g. Pretty Little Thing's "time-limited" discount)).

  3. Don't exploit children's interest or attention. You might have a product to sell, but if you start saying you're Santa, that Santa's not real (how could you?) or anything of that sort, expect parents and carers to turn against your brand, and the media to leap on it. Leave the magic in Christmas.

What makes a great Christmas campaign?

Having talked about pitfalls to avoid, the discussion moved onto the common components of a great Christmas campaign:

  1. Relatability and cultural references. People engage with content they can relate to, and so knowing your audience is crucially important. In the UK, dark nights, crisp mornings, families, Christmas trees and food all featured.

  2. Nostalgia. Anything that made you think back to your own childhood, or to previous Christmases heightened engagement. (Interestingly, Coca Cola's older ads, really aimed at an American audience, had little relatability for most of us BUT they did evoke feelings of nostalgia for attendees and were voted a top campaign.)

  3. Characterisation, narrative and storytelling. Less "sell" and more "be part of a story".

  4. Music (over dialogue). The choice of music went a long way to how engaged watchers felt.

Why did these work?

In the end it was all about emotion. The common components of a great campaign all drove an emotional response. Did we like the characters? How did the music make us feel?

And crucially, "emotional" did not have to mean "sad". Some great Christmas ads do pull at the heartstrings, but there are also great examples of humorous campaigns (the Irn Bru snowman being a stand out example) or campaigns that have brought a few tears of joy.

What is important is that the emotion provoked is appropriate for your brand. Irn Bru absolutely nailed this, giving us a Christmas ad completely aligned with its playful brand.

Play the Long Game

So what does this mean for brands? Firstly, it's not as simple as knocking up a great creative film. If all the key components above are on point, then this goes a long way. But one great ad in isolation does not a successful Christmas make.

Key to Laura's presentation was research conducted by Les Binet and Peter Field, titled The Long and the Short of It: Balancing Short and Long-term Marketing Strategies. This research highlights the pitfall of focusing so closely on short-term campaigns for results that you fail to plan marketing activity which delivers long-term impact.

In this Christmas context, this means that audiences need to feel the emotion you provoke about your brand in the long term, not just in a few weeks in the run up to Christmas (again, Irn Bru for the win). Your Christmas campaign should, figuratively speaking, be the fairy on top of your Christmas tree, the last chocolate in your Advent calendar, or the bow on top of the present.

The best campaigns recognise this, and they are the latest in a long line of emotive brand marketing executions. They drive increased revenue over the long term, as well as create a nice festive spike. And those that focus on the fast return, the short, sharp and loud blast, might get media coverage, or shared on socials, but they don't drive sales in the long term.

It just goes to show, effective brand marketing is for life, not just for Christmas.

If you'd like help to create campaigns that drive results, let's talk. Mince pies optional!

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