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Beyond the TV ad: How brands can sprinkle holiday magic throughout their marketing campaigns

By tuning into consumer sentiment, brands can forge real, human relationships that last beyond the festive season, writes Tamara Littleton, CEO of The Social Element.

Tamara Littleton, The Social Element

CEO

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It’s been a turbulent year for consumers and brands alike. The ongoing pandemic has left many exhausted and in search of positivity, with consumers turning to the upcoming festive season for a break from the current reality.

For brands, Christmas is the perfect opportunity to add value for their customers and create real and long-lasting positive connections that go beyond a simple brand building exercise. Consumers are looking to the brands that they love to make them feel good. They are desperate for the warm, magical feeling the red Coca-Cola lorry creates or the warm emotions they feel as they settle in to watch the annual John Lewis ad. By tuning into this consumer sentiment, brands can forge real, human relationships that last beyond the season.

It isn’t enough to plan an ad campaign that provides blanket holiday branding; it needs to go deeper into the consumer psyche.

Tamara Littleton

Be responsive

Building those relationships effectively is not as simple as releasing a Christmas ad that makes viewers feel warm and fuzzy, although this is important. Customers are living in hugely different realities depending on whether they live in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, whether they have vulnerable relatives and which tier they live in. This geographical difference is compounded by personal confidence in going out and about. There is no one size-fits-all approach this year. It isn’t enough to plan an ad campaign that provides blanket holiday branding; it needs to go deeper into the consumer psyche. The evolving nature of the pandemic and political moments like Brexit on the horizon are shifting consumer emotions constantly and how they feel now might not be how they feel come 25th December.

Your holiday comms therefore need to be responsive. By playing on your Christmas ad campaign with a wider, more agile strategy, brands can adapt to these changes quickly. After all, a Christmas ad is more than just an ad; it’s a statement of who you are, what your values are, and what you mean to customers at the end of a hard year so, your strategy needs to reflect this.

But be empathetic too

In a year driven by fear and confusion, empathy is critical. Consumers have expected a lot from their customer service, wanting it imbued with sympathy and understanding for what we are all going through. This is coming through in the ads we’re seeing released and I’m sure this was a consideration high on any brand-side boardroom discussion. However, this messaging needs to be supported across all other comms platforms, particularly where contact is direct. Exemplifying this understanding of the consumer means entering their world.

More than ever this year, brands have begun to realise this. Take John Lewis. Its understanding of the consumer has meant it has excelled at marrying traditional and digital channels together. The recent launch of its At Home TV campaign was simply the trunk of a communication strategy from which many branches grew. Understanding the shift to home working and the threat of lockdown has made homes increasingly mean more to us now than ever before; they supported their TV storytelling format by translating it across all communication elements. From direct email marketing and the development of a print publication around home goods to social media advertisement, John Lewis was able to widen its marketing ecosystem to all locations where consumers are increasingly looking for inspiration.

But it can’t simply be about placing your ad down within these mediums, as John Lewis knows with the viewing figures for this year’s festive offering being down substantially. If anything, it’s shown that brands need to work harder at Christmas comms outside of the ad as it’s not enough to solely rely on it.

If you can take your ad and translate it across your entire brand’s output, your customers might give you the gift of profitability this holiday season and beyond.

Tamara Littleton

Discover new and exciting channels and forms for engagement

Brands should therefore increasingly find security in the digital components of their marketing strategy as a way to bring their ads to life beyond the traditional format. Channels like social media provide opportunities for brands to engage with consumers in new and exciting ways that can be adapted quickly. Why not meme-ify your festive content for TikTok or create polls on Instagram relating to your Christmas campaign? Here brands can craft engaging content that can reflect and evolve with real-time cultural developments.

M&S Food is a great example of this in action. It has seen success by exploring new channels like TikTok and creating content we wouldn’t usually see from the mature retailer. It has created spoof content using its Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar brands to engage a wider, and younger, audience, and it’s recent festive recreation of Love Actually was received well by fans. It's stepping outside of the box and thinking hard about how a brand can communicate with new audiences on new channels that will put you on top of the tree.

Keep your ear to the ground

Social channels allow brands to really get under the skin of consumers and listen to their mood directly. We are gearing up for a quarter where consumer attitudes are likely to fluctuate. To be able to respond flexibly, brands must get real time understanding of their customers, how they’re feeling, and respond in a caring and personal way. Supported by regular surveys and focus groups, monitoring social sentiment will be key to getting instant reactions to unfolding news and a brand’s own campaigns. You can zoom in on the communities that make up your audience and help drive a valuable conversation that distracts and entertains.

At a time when we seem to hear nothing but bad news, there’s nothing like a positive Christmas ad to cheer us all up. And while an ad isn’t going to fix the world, it does have the power to make us smile for a minute, or perhaps shed an emotional tear. That’s the beauty of great content, and it’s the key to why people share it. So, if you can take your ad and translate it across your entire brand’s output, your customers might give you the gift of profitability this holiday season and beyond.

Guest Author

Tamara Littleton, The Social Element

CEO,

About

Tamara founded The Social Element in 2002. Her pioneering approach has created a global business that works with some of the world’s biggest brands to ensure their social media is creating genuine human connections with consumers. She is also a champion of female entrepreneurship and an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community.

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