Design Method

How Christmas Revolutionised Branding


Christmas adverts have become as much of a part of the festive season as mince pies and Yule logs, particularly for those in the marketing game. Big industry players like Coca Cola, John Lewis, Iceland and M&S – to name just a few – are firmly rooted in British Christmas identity, and in turn their festive frolics have played a huge part in shaping and reconfirming their brand identity.

Christmas is a key time for retail brands in particular and a fantastic Christmas campaign can help set a brand apart from their competition. For this, Christmas is a time for storytelling, gifts, good food, magic and sparkle. A festive advert that promises the consumer that dream of the ‘perfect Christmas’ can do huge things for how the brand is perceived, and in some hugely successful cases, help the brand become embedded as part of the whole ‘Christmas package’.

However, it’s not just about creating an emotive or clever television advert. Today the pressure is on to create a full 360 degree brand experience. This refers to engaging customers outside of the TV screen – offering shareable videos that can quickly go viral, fun social media campaigns, countdowns, teasers and official unveilings. These are just some ways to expand the theme and reach huge new audiences.

A Coca-Cola Christmas

Coca-Cola is an obvious, but important, example of just how clever marketing can help a brand become intrinsically linked with the festive time of year – and in turn – the warm, fuzzy associations which go with it. Coca-Cola is now synonymous with Christmas, thanks to a campaign to change the festive season, which dates back as far as 1931. It started when the drinks giant set out to change people’s perceptions of its product.

The Coca Cola Company had found that people thought of it as a quintessentially summery beverage, so set out to remind people that it could be drunk all year round. As such, the iconic, cheerful, chubby, red suit-wearing, Coca-Cola-swigging Santa was painted. Although a common misconception is that Santa wears red because of the Coca-Cola brand colouring, it remains hugely influential for shaping the character that is known and loved today. Coca-Cola captures 360 degree branding cleverly, offering consumers a whole experience to engage; including the Christmas Truck Tour which visits cities across the country – sharing the festive spirit and giving out free bottles of drink.

Christmas with the cute factor

It used to be that the people of the UK knew when the Coca-Cola ad hit the TV, it was time to count down to Christmas. Now, many people get excited about the John Lewis Christmas advert, anticipating its arrival and seeing it as the new benchmark for festive advertising. Last year’s Bear and Hare campaign, featuring a soundtrack by Lily Allen, was a resounding success and an excellent example of how a company can build brand awareness beyond the TV screen. The single cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ flew into the charts at number one, then soft toys and accessories related to the advert sold out within days of its release.

This year’s advert also appeals to the cute factor – with its fictional star Monty the Penguin reaching 26 thousand followers on Twitter in just over a week. Not only that, the advert, like the company’s Christmas predecessors, reflects the brand image, placing emphasis on family, sharing and love – making it likely to create a link between John Lewis and Christmas in customer’s minds.

The warm fluffy campaign tells a story and encourages customers to engage. The ‘extracurricular activities’ surrounding the advert, like Monty’s Twitter account, invite dialogue, raise a smile and push the brand to the forefront of consumers’ minds, as they are enabled to buy into the story.

Christmas campaigns like these can go way beyond the festive season. When taken as part of a long term advertising strategy, they can generate expectancy among consumers and get them to create real, emotional engagement with a brand that doesn’t go away easily.