Maddie Cullen
October 24 2018

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a time with a whole lot of pressure. This snowy wonderland can be the make or break for a lot of brands so reaching the right people is doubly important.

So why do so many brands seem to get it wrong? We’ve got three tips that’ll help Christmas campaigns be the one to remember and not the ones sat out with trees in January shedding their needles.


The first thing that comes to mind at Christmas is usually the previous Christmas, or one from childhood. A favourite, or a least favourite. One where someone burnt the chicken, one where you burnt the chicken (but it was definitely uncle Jeremy’s fault), one where the chicken was perfect. In other words, we look back. In other other words: nostalgia.

This nostalgia guides us at Christmas and people look for things that indulge these feelings. So it makes sense for marketers to tap into this. The reason so many people feel fondly towards Christmas isn’t because of the reds, greens and golds, but instead because of their memories. They may indeed respond well to these colours but that will be because of an associated feeling from their past.

Vintage Christmas cards               (Image: Pinterest)

And people have become more open to accepting and expressing this nostalgia. Over the last few years we have seen more ‘old-fashioned’ plays back to the better and sweeter past. Think of all the 80s/90s nostalgia plastered on fashion, TV and films.

Despite ever-growing tech advancements, we can’t help but look back at things like analogue with rose-tinted glasses. And this is especially true at Christmas. Why do you think we see snowy scenes despite never having them, or presents wrapped in brown paper all over Pinterest? We’re obsessed with how things were.

Stranger things                (Stranger Things Image: Nerdist)

And as this trend grows, it’s important to have it front and centre when planning for Christmas.

If people are open and actively looking for it – go out and give it to them!

Let them relive opening an N64 for Christmas. Playstaion have done this by releasing the PlayStation Classic, a PS1-looking console complete with classic games preloaded. And naturally, just in time for Christmas.

Of course, everyone is different, but once you tap into what your audience loves and responds to, you can play to their collective memories. And that is where the magic happens.

Avoid clichés

But as you’re spreading delightful memories across your campaigns, beware of a very dangerous trap: clichés.

As marketers, we are not selling Christmas. Consumers already have an idea of what Christmas is (mince pies) and what it isn’t (meringue). And a campaign that tries to convince them to buy into the spirit of Christmas won’t sit well.

We know that Father Christmas and decorations mean Christmas. A family around a dinner table. Stockings over a roaring fire. Piles of presents under the tree. Tinsel. Lights. Food. Cheer.

Christmas family scene              (Image: Evoke)

These do represent Christmas to some extent and are great for quickly articulating that something is ‘Christmassy’. But the problem is that these are over done! We’ve seen a fire before. We’ve seen a tree before. We get it. We’ll look at an ad or campaign with these and think ‘Oh yeah. Christmas’ and move on. Brands need to try more than ever to stand out at Christmas and clichés will only force them into the background.

As well as this, clichés also risk alienating the majority of the world that don’t relate to mum, dad and 2.5 kids, or a lavish Christmas spread and smiling faces around an open fire. Supermarkets especially have been wising up to this and trying to represent what Christmas looks like in varied and diverse ways. The families and scenes they use are more diverse and realistic.

In 2017, Tesco featured an ad with a diverse range of people celebrating the season, including a Muslim family. Although responses were mixed, the sentiment is definitely a step in the right direction.

Brands should try and be more original in how they tackle a Christmas campaign. Keep the brand front and centre, not Christmas. Consumers already know what time of year it is, they want to know about the brand. Obviously, a campaign should be aware of its time and place at Christmas, but don’t just rest on it.


The final component of tapping into the emotions at Christmas is with gifts and giving!

I know, I know, that’s not the true ‘sprit’ of Christmas. But it’s certainly what marketers and brands are interested in.

At Christmas people are usually buying for others. This means that they’re not considering if a product suits them, but someone else. So brands should consider who they’re really selling to. Although a certain demographic, i.e. a mum between 30 and 40 might be buying your product, she’s looking at how that products suits someone else, not her. But at the same time, she’s probably going to want to like it!

Christmas shopping

After all, that takes us to the next point, when people give gifts, they’re giving a part of themselves. It may not be physically true, but it’s how it feels. The gift represents the giver in some way.

Giving at Christmas is an emotional experience. It could be guilt (sorry, socks again!) but brands want it to be happiness (I really love socks!). They want to showcase that their product will make whoever you care about smile.


View this post on Instagram


All wrapped up in holiday happiness! 📷 @singer.m.o.m #HappySocks #HappinessEverywhere

A post shared by Happy Socks (@happysocks) on

When buying a product, customers will picture the other person opening it, using it, enjoying it. Don’t shy away from the fact that these are gifts. Let people think about the spirit of gifting and embrace it!

Christmas is emotional. We all know that. Whether it’s the gifts we give, the images we see or the memories we have, brands should remember the human elements of Christmas. Tap into these three wise tips and maybe, just maybe, it could be the most wonderful time of the year.

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