Festive advertising vs brand experience: should the pendulum swing the other way?

Festive advertising vs brand experience: should the pendulum swing the other way?

Christmas brings out the advertising big guns. An expectation that is followed up with much debate on who wins the battle of retailers. But entertaining storytelling aside, does it all make the right level of difference, or is too much invested disproportionately in festive TV at the cost of being truly creative and original in the customer experience?

Seasonal advertising is fantasy, but looking deeper than that, it risks being misleading and landing a sense of underwhelming meh.

What’s the point of a bold and headline ad approach if the product and experience doesn’t match the expectation?

Marketers focus heavily on the 4P’s as brand and business critical but when Christmas comes along it can bypass the core strategy with giddy excitement to land a stand-alone, high cost approach that lacks genuine joined up engagement.

Anyone who visits a supermarket during the Christmas run-up will still see the same tired and out-of-date Seasonal aisles, uninspiring gondola ends, employees wearing cheap promotional t-shirts, Slade blasting out from the sound system and zero immersive experiences for customers to interact with. Of the 4P’s, I’d personally focus on product and place and reinvest more money back into the ‘bricks and mortar’ experience that can land more real world customer joy.

Can you imagine visiting stores that truly embraced the festive season with Christmas Markets, Grotto’s, Arts and Crafts, Homeless Shelters and Soup Kitchens, Present Wrapping Services, Augmented or Virtual Reality, Ice Skating rinks, Cinema Rooms for the kids…that would be awesome, right?

Brett Goldhawk
Brett Goldhawk... physical brand innovation is a long term win

I recently visited a local garden centre [see main image] that understands the true spirit of Christmas and embraces all the above. The experience was magical and truly immersive. And of course, we bought a whole load of stuff we didn’t need. Which is the ultimate purpose of seasonality right…

… to give people a reason to repeat visit and increase average basket spend.

But this isn’t just about retailers as it’s a collaborative brand opportunity for the taking too.

When John Lewis and Nestlé teamed up to let consumers personalise a Quality Street tin, it was more meaningful and personalised than any TV Advert and directly translated into a high margin consumer transaction (not some random media ROI calculation). Cadbury did something similar, hijacking the ‘Share a coke’ campaign, offering an obvious gifting opportunity (at 5x the price of a regular bar of chocolate).

In 2021, the personalised gifting market is estimated to be worth £25bn globally, a sizeable opportunity for retailers and brands who collaborate most effectively.

For brands and retailers that deliver immersive in-store activations together, shape memorable gifting opportunities and bring together local communities at a time when we all need more joy in our lives…well, you’ll be remembered long after the cheesy Christmas Ads go off air for embracing the true spirit and going a proper extra mile.

And physical brand innovation of every kind that hits people between the eyes when they see it is always the long term win.