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Wang Yu Qing

Top 3 reasons why Christmas campaigns lack excitement

How many times have you seen that strapline shouting “30% off this Christmas”? Or a warm and fuzzy video? An advertisement filled with Santa Claus and festive decorations? You’re probably tired of seeing these, especially when many Christmas campaigns look so similar. Holiday season is a great way to make an impact. Yet it’s becoming harder and harder to capture interest and build excitement in this crowded market. Customers are becoming more and more discerning about what’s worth their energy. How then can you prevent your campaign from being lost in the sea of Christmas advertisements? Here are the top 3 areas that you should watch out for!

1. Grounding the campaign on discounts and promotions

Yes, customers all love discounts and promotions, and discounts and promotion can bring in sales numbers. But we’re talking about good holiday campaigns here. There is only so much a short-term promotion can do. Yet brands often fall into the trap of grounding a holiday campaign on product offerings. I’m not saying that we should abandon promotions altogether. But a campaign that doesn’t tie up with the brand may fall short of generating impact.

A successful holiday marketing strategy can be as easy as providing content pieces that lift the spirits of your customers, inspiring them or providing a solution, and engaging with your followers on social media via quizzes or contests. There are so many ways to inspire more anticipation and excitement. And your campaign will create more stickiness if it offers something other than a discount.

HotelTonight: Visit, Don’t Stay

HotelTonight's visit don't stay campaign visual  HotelTonight's visit don't stay campaign social media post

HotelTonight’s cheeky campaign in 2016 wonderfully illustrates

  • how to provide relevant and relatable content that solves a holiday problem
  • the importance of user engagement

And the result? They shot to fame! HotelTonight took a common unpleasant situation of staying with family over holiday, provided a simple solution, and spinned it in a clever and humorous manner. Although it was made specifically for the holidays, the messaging and the impression it creates last far beyond that. Oh and of course, this could perhaps show that not all Christmas ads need festive reds or greens. Besides the quirky visuals, HotelTonight also ran a Facebook contest, asking for best family holiday stories.

Instead of just offering a discount, think about how your products or services can solve a problem in the holiday season. Leverage on that solution to build your Christmas campaign, across different formats and channels to engage with the audience.

2. Telling a uni-dimensional cheerful story

As much as we’d like to believe, the reality of holiday season is not all about joy. Our holiday experiences go way beyond just happy and amazing. As Dr. Ariane Machin, a Raleigh, N.C. psychologist and professor at Purdue University Global points out, marketing only presents a very uni-dimensional version of the holidays. All we see are images of family reunions, and people hugging each other and smiling at gifts. We all wish these were representative of our holiday experiences. But the truth is, they’re only one small curated part of a bigger picture.

In a previous blog article on storytelling, we’ve learned how a story becomes a shared experience, and forms a powerful connection only when it mirrors the emotions of the audience. We’ve definitely all had moments of exhaustion, frustration and annoyance during the holiday. And these less featured snippets can be so much more powerful than just a cheerful story.

Oral-B: Merry Beeping Christmas

Oral-B’s film advertisement accurately captures an essential part of our holiday experience – when things go wrong. The film is filled with beeping sounds from characters cursing, for things like a bowl dropping to food burning in the kitchen. Sounds familiar? It’s so easy to see ourselves in the characters’ shoes, because let’s admit it, we’ve all been there.

Argos: The Book of Dreams

Argos, on the other hand, created a heartwarming and nostalgia-filled advertisement “The Book of Dreams”. It was recognised by many to be one of the best ads this year. I mean, who doesn’t love a drum solo to a good ol’ 80s classic, weaved into a story of a father indulging his daughter’s dream of playing drums? Sure, it’s cheerful, but it’s so much more than that. You’ve got music that makes you want to sing along and jump out of your chair. Add that to an endearing father-daughter dynamic. And of course there’s the climax of them performing together on a grand stage.

Argos' 70s book of dreams as a part of christmas campaign

On top of this film, you can also flip through their “Book of Dreams” – catalogues all the way from 70s to 2019 – online. Reading catalogues now becomes a way to fulfill dreams and soak in nostalgia.

3. Caring only about selling and promoting yourself

Let’s be honest, the Christmas season is filled with festive campaigns. From Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas to New Year’s, there are so many holidays packed into one period. And with brands all trying to do a last campaign of the year, the holiday marketing scene is crowded, to say the least. So having a usual holiday campaign may not help you cut through the chase, if all you’re doing is selling like the rest of the year, except with a cheaper price tag.

But really though, who says you need to sell your products during holidays? The festive season can be an opportunity for showing your care. And the methods vary from running branding campaigns to CSR programmes, which embody your brand values.


Take Patagonia for example. The outdoor clothing company has been leveraging the holiday to raise awareness about the environmental crisis, and setting the standard for ethical consumerism. Instead of promoting their products, they strove to make a lasting impact for the community and the environment.

For 2019 they were matching donations made through Patagonia Action Works (a program that connects consumers with grassroots organizations fighting the climate crisis in their community) from Black Friday until end of the year.

Patagonia's anti-marketing and anti-holiday stunt don't buy this jacket

And their famous anti-marketing and anti-holiday stunt in 2011 was a real shocker. They asked consumers “don’t buy this jacket”, and admitted the environmental cost of making a jacket. The result? They made consumers appreciate the brand’s values and created a loyal customer base. Environmentally conscious consumers will definitely trust Patagonia more in producing quality and lasting gear. Because it stands true to what it claims to care about. And this trust and loyalty can be far more valuable than a short-term boost in sales.

We all love a bit of cheekiness, and brands that dare to challenge the norm. When every other brand is riding on discounts and happiness, what better way to catch attention than an anti-holiday campaign? After all, holiday is about giving. At least show that your business cares more than just selling products.  But this still needs to be on-brand and sincere, and true to the brand values.

Tips for your next Christmas campaign

With these 3 points in mind, pause before creating your next Christmas campaign.

  • Think about your own holiday experiences so far – which moments stand out the most, and how you felt
  • Consider what your brand stands for, what values it has, and how to best incorporate them with the holiday spirit

Is it inspiring or engaging content in multimedia formats? Stories that you want to tell? Programmes or stunts that capture your brand essence? Whatever you do, make sure that your goal lies beyond a sales target by the end of 2019. Instead, focus on customers’ trust and sentiment for endorsement in the long run.