Christmas: The gift of marketing content

It’s that time of the year again; big brands are set to fight it out as they release their Christmas campaigns. And it’s an extremely busy time for B2C marketing professionals (although many of these brands will have been planning their festive promotion and activity months ago!).

However, this year I’m sure many brands will be adapting their communications strategy and content following an unsettling year with the Covid-19 pandemic. How will the likes of John Lewis and Coca Cola tackle this year’s campaign – with sensitivity? Or will they feed consumers’ appetite for escapism?

With the UK coronavirus numbers rising, and increasingly stricter regulations and restrictions likely throughout autumn (and possibly longer), Christmas is certainly going to feel different this year. How do the big brands that we love and cherish during the festive season tackle this?

Boots chief marketing office in the summer explained how this year Christmas will be about “flexibility” with uncertainty in respect of consumer behaviours and shopping habits playing a big role. Here are a just a few areas which I’m sure marketing agencies have reviewed and considered before deciding on their clients’ Christmas activity.

Digital – Footfall in department stores has dropped dramatically this year; in August alone footfall fell more than 30% when compared to the same period in 2019. Shopping patterns have changed with consumers looking to purchase online, as well as more frequently than before the pandemic.

A consumer study also found that more than a quarter of UK shoppers plan to start Christmas shopping earlier than usual (Source: eBay), which means many retailers and brands might be pulling their marketing spend and bringing plans forward in line with consumer habits.

What’s apparent from this is how important the digital marketing channels are going to be, such as email marketing, SEO, social media and digital advertising. In-home media usage has gone up, TV viewership has climbed and the use of social and streaming services have risen too. So, will stores like Fenwick’s, known for its annual Christmas window display, go all out this year with in-store branding or will they allocate this spend to online? It will certainly be interesting to see how budgets shift for 2020.

TV – Christmas without TV adverts is like Halloween without candy! The coronavirus pandemic has caused a considerable drop in advertising spend. In August The Guardian reported that UK advertisers pulled more than £1.1 billion spend during lockdown. Seemingly TV has borne the brunt of huge marketing cuts with spend down 37% year-on-year. Big brands such as McDonald’s and Amazon have cut traditional media spend.

What impact will this have on Christmas TV advertising? We all have our favourite festive advert, whether it be John Lewis’ touching storyline, Iceland’s political campaigns or Coca Cola’s infamous truck. We’ve already seen the public share some funny ideas for the John Lewis Christmas ad on Twitter, with the official John Lewis and Partners account joining in.

At a time of uncertainty, a traditional festive and heart-warming ad from John Lewis is exactly what we need, but one thing is for sure, it needs to be delivered with the right tone and messaging (and of course the perfect song!).

Compassion at Christmas – It’s been a bleak year, and it’s incredibly important for brands to get the tone of their content right. It’s a year for compassion and purposeful messaging. For marketing agencies it’s probably one of the hardest briefs they’ve ever faced.

My prediction is that many of the adverts we start to see in October, November and December will be that of a sense of coming together at Christmas (albeit somewhat virtually), thanking key workers, and kindness – but hopefully with a sparkle of creativity too to differentiate each brand.

As we enter October, it won’t be long until we see the festive advertising in full swing and from a marketing perspective, I’m excited to see which brands cut through the noise and stand out in what is going to be a busy seasonal period.

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