Everyone loves Christmas. The annual holiday brings with it a number of guarantees - mince pies and decorations arriving on shop shelves far too early, the Coca-Cola truck that ‘signals’ the start of the festive season (an impressive feat of marketing itself) and more recently, the Christmas TV adverts of the big chain retailers. It’s become something of a tradition to watch and compare the different adverts, to see which pulls at the heartstrings the most successfully and which fall flatter than Granddad into the sofa after a few too many Christmas drinks.
Christmas adverts tend to share a collection of similarities. They often try to tell a narrative, rather than explicitly advertise a single product. They focus on certain values - families and the idea that Christmas brings people together. None of this really has much to do with visiting your local Aldi or Lidl, but the adverts themselves are incredibly popular and drive Christmas shoppers through doors. That’s because they all have one other thing in common - emotion, or more accurately, the ability to use emotion effectively.
Pathos is an incredibly strong tool in marketing - it’s bluntly defined as something that evokes pity or sadness, but that can also be more broadly construed as just ‘emotion’. These big brands compete every year to create the advert that evokes the most emotion within the audience, to create a connection with that brand where there maybe wasn’t one before, and get people through the door. It’s no secret that emotion drives people’s brand decisions rather than information. Brands themselves rely on emotion - after all, consumers can often buy unbranded products that are very similar, if not the same, to their branded counterparts at cheaper prices - yet they don’t. A brand creates an emotional connection with the consumer, and as Psychology Today says, ‘A brand is nothing more than the mental representation of a product in the consumer’s mind.’
It’s because of this that this type of Christmas advert exists. What better time to try and evoke an emotional connection than Christmas? While the adverts themselves can often be emotional to the point of being overly-sentimental, they achieve their goals. There’s a feeling of one-upmanship among the brands when the festive season rolls around to see whose advert can elicit the most emotional response from audiences. It’s incredibly clever marketing and although marketing has historically always used emotions to win customers, rarely has it been employed with such a heavy hand as these recent Christmas years.
It’s also a slightly risky marketing move. These Christmas adverts now come under such intense scrutiny that a ‘bad’ advert will be what that brand is known for that particular year. The risk is even greater when you consider companies like John Lewis pour as much as £7m into these adverts. Interestingly, while ad spend hit a record high of £6bn last year for the Christmas period, retailers are reportedly scaling back their spend in 2018. Despite that, you can still expect to see all of your favourites on screen at some point this season.
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