Making merry: How brands share the Christmas cheer

With the festive season kicking into full swing, as Christmas party invites fly into inboxes and stores dressed in colourful decorations, brands are launching their Christmas campaigns to get in on the seasonal good cheer.

CMO has filled our virtual sack with Christmas campaigns from the supermarket chains and big retailers to department stories and even the postal service to see how they’re sharing the message of Christmas this year. And we’ve canvassed some industry insiders and experts to share their reactions and analysis on this year’s batch of Christmas campaigns.

Clemenger BBDO Sydney CEO, Pete Bosilkovski, told CMO, Christmas gives retail brands an opportunity to break out of functional/price based messaging and focus on more emotive, optimistic messages, and an opportunity to emotionally connect with Australians. 

“As a nation we’ve had a tough year considering the drought and its toll on people, rising costs and prices and the most recent bushfires have added to the difficult year," he commented. "Some Christmas cheer from retailers that ignites moments of togetherness and optimism, reminding Australians Christmas is a time to spend quality time and celebrate with family and friends, is what’s at the heart of all these messages.”

Here, we round-up some of the biggest and brightest Christmas campaigns to see how they stack up.

Christmas campaigns round-up

The retailers: Officeworks, Priceline, BigW and eBay

Officeworks has launched its Christmas campaign with the message it’s a serious Christmas destination. It includes two Christmas catalogues and its first ever printed Christmas gift guide plus an online and in-store gifting destination for customers to shop its range based on popular brands, based on trending products or the personality of the recipient.

Priceline has launched its Christmas campaign with new brand ambassador, Chrissie Swan, featuring a TV commercial of the reality TV celebrity doing her Christmas shopping in the store. 

The BigW campaign is based on the message ‘the real superheroes of Christmas are the parents’ and leads with a TV commercial. The reverse treatment of the film takes viewers on a journey, starting with the big day and travelling backwards through the busy season until mum realises that it's Christmas already. Plus there’s a curated range of thousands of gifts under $50 in the Gift Spot, carefully considered to help customers with convenient and affordable gifting ideas.

eBay US has launched a Christmas-themed advertising campaign telling customers to 'chill' this festive season and promises to avoid ‘Christmas Creep’ by not talking about Christmas too early.

The report: GroupM Australia and New Zealand CEO, Mark Lollback

“One recurring theme I see in Christmas ads this year is the act of thoughtfulness, which is really what it should be at Christmas," he says. "While most retail ads are trying to sell a product, great Christmas ads do a good job of selling a feeling. It’s an emotional time of year for a brand to demonstrate its values and the role it can play in consumers’ lives.

"A successful Christmas ad sells the idea of celebrating moments that matter and togetherness. It’s more about how it feels to give and receive gifts at this time of year and the effort that people go to show friends and family, and even strangers, that they care, but it doesn’t need to be worthy - it can be light-hearted and fun.

 “Some of the Aussie ads this year, like the Aldi Miracle Ham, play on Australian quirkiness, and there’s a bit more self-awareness and humour about the burden of preparing for Christmas can put on people. When you look at the US eBay ad, the UK IKEA ad and even the BigW ad locally, these retailers are finding ways to bring humour to Christmas and make it easier to celebrate."

The supermarkets: Woolworths, Aldi, Coles, BWS

Woolworths’ ‘Picked for Christmas’ campaign celebrates the passion of The Fresh Food People in picking only the best to bring your festive feasts to life, and the ‘Woolworths Christmas’ depicts a fantastical garden cottage, reminiscent of Santa’s workshop.

Woolworths 2019 campaignCredit: Woolworths
Woolworths 2019 campaign

ALDI Australia tells a story of generosity and togetherness when a little old lady’s Christmas goes from lonely to joyful, thanks to a magical fairytale ham.

Coles has almost 250 new and improved Own Brand products including new Christmas food lines to help make an inspiring and convenient Christmas event.

Now in its fifth year, BWS has launched its ‘100 Days of Summer’ campaign using Australian influencers, mostly from reality TV, which kicked off at the start of November to mark the start of the festive season.

The comment: Spinach executive creative director, Frank Morabito

“When creating Christmas campaigns, many advertisers attempt to weave emotional stories of sharing, giving and love around their brands. So it’s no surprise these themes are present in most of the work here. But ’tis not the season for uplifting messages only," he remarks.

"‘Tis the season to get noticed, to be relevant and well-branded. It’s a difficult juggling act and only a few of these ads get close to pulling it off. The one that truly stands out, has the potential to create a bigger story online and leaves me fulfilled is the Aldi ham.”

Department stores and chains: Myer and Australia Post

The Myer ‘Christmas is where we are’ campaign is built around the Myer Global Positioning Stocking, a Bluetooth-enabled stocking that is paired with a mobile device or tablet so kids can track Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve on an interactive map, along with the department store’s usual Giftorium, Santalands and iconic Christmas windows.

Myer's 2019 campaignCredit: Myer
Myer's 2019 campaign

Australia Post ‘Spread the Merry’ campaign is encouraging Australians to be more thoughtful and highlights how no-one should feel left out at Christmas, showing how even a little gift can go a long way to brightening someone’s year.

The comment: Clemenger BBDO Sydney CEO, Pete Bosilkovski

“This Christmas, occasion has become a new creative/brand building tentpole moment in the marketing calendar for brands, like what the NFL Superbowl has created for US based brands. It’s an opportunity for brands, in particular retailers, to let loose creatively - and have a break from short-term tactics -  and focus on brand building via emotionally-led creativity," he says.

"This resurgence was led by UK based retailer, John Lewis, whose Christmas marketing redefined this marketing occasion creating a huge sense of anticipation around its advertising. Australian-based brands have followed suit, having a bit of fun, with Myer and Aldi leading the way.”

Managing holiday risk

Of course, while the festive season has the potential to bring in lots of customers and a boost in sales, and a chance to be noticed by customers who may not be familiar with a brand, there are risks too. A word of warning to brands from customer intelligence outfit, Crisp, is not to overlook customer experience during the holiday season.

Its 2019 Crisis Impact Report finds 69 per cent of brand crises spread internationally within 24 hours and 53 per cent of consumers expect a response within an hour to a mishap or problem. Yet all is not lost because if something critical goes wrong, it found 90 per cent of consumers say they’re likely to shop with a brand that responds well to crises.

Whatever the approach brands choose to take this year, Affinity creative director, Russell Smyth notes a decent dose of Christmas magic in one form or another.

“They’re all saying it’s a magical time, and we’ve got a chunk of that magic for sale. There’s kooky magic from Aldi, with a ham designed for people who really, really like that first layer of skin on a ham. There’s fairytale magic from Woolies, with magically growing fresh food and magical looking employees creating a magical Christmas spread. Myer goes for some high-tech magic from a father figure who goes a tad MacGyver, as opposed to Australia Post with a little low-tech mirrorball magic to pull at our heartstrings.”

It’s fair to say the Christmas season is heavy on meaning and emotion, but this doesn’t mean it needs to be serious, as Ogilvy chief strategy officer, Toby Harrison, says. 

“Sometimes it is what is missing that matters more. It’s well validated that pulling on the heart-strings does open up the purse-strings at Christmas time, and given the holiday is already an emotionally charged period, it just makes sense to leverage this," he adds.

"But ‘emotion’ doesn’t have to mean ‘crying’. Whilst ‘sad-vertising’ may go down well back in the UK, we just aren’t that sentimental here. So, there’s plenty of mileage to be had in just giving people a laugh. That’s what seems noticeably absent this year.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: 

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