Sales & Marketing

The best Christmas adverts of 2018: Lessons in branding and messaging

8 min read

25 December 2018

Features Editor, Real Business

Check out these five epic Christmas adverts from leading UK retailers. Apart from their evident Christmas cheer, what lessons can they teach SMEs in terms of branding and audience engagement?

Christmas is a great time for people to come together and celebrate all that’s good.

But it’s also a great opportunity for retailers to pounce upon this feeling of collective cheer and make some money.

Every year we see Britain’s most iconic consumer retailers come out with their Christmas advert campaigns.

They are high on cost, and even higher on sensationalist tropes, be it family togetherness, or the journey of a grumpy old relative, who, by Christmas’s end, finds themselves nestled in the bosom of their family.

All lovely, sentimental stuff. But more importantly, what branding and marketing lessons can other businesses learn from these national adverts?

Let’s take a look at the top five Christmas adverts in the UK, and the powerful branding lessons other businesses can learn from them.

1. Sainsbury’s: The Big Night

Drawing on themes from one of the nation’s favourite festive films, Love Actually, Sainsbury’s 2018 Christmas advert also involves a cute little girl taking to the stage of her school’s Christmas play.

She starts singing timidly into the microphone whilst her proud mother watches on.

But soon enough she is joined by her fellow classmates, and with this extra support, the girl gains her performing confidence and the Christmas party really gets going.

‘A star is born’: No doubt Sainsbury’s drew on the ’emergent star’ theme from Love Actually for their advert this year. (movies.stackexchange.com)

When advertising your brand, products or services, and whether you’re doing so through visual or copy-based methods, there are lessons everyone can take away from the Sainsbury’s advert.

Nostalgia, memory, and family win – This includes making references to popular culture. Cherished books, figures, and films can make consumers feel warm and receptive.

Making oblique references to scenes in well known iconic films will also make people remember your brand better.

Love Actually’s ‘nativity scene’ draws on themes of family and friends at Christmas time. (Youtube)

It’s obvious but important. Christmas time is, for a majority of us, about family.

Showcasing your brand as one with a family-friendly image will make your brand more appealing to more people, and that means more money for you, and your business.

2. Tesco: However you do Christmas

Tesco’s festive offering explores the ways families celebrate Christmas, complete with all their differences, and often entertaining quirks.

So what did Tesco get right this year?

Customers are diverse – The food giant featured a host of different kinds of families, from various races to those not related at all, such as friends, who are in their own way a family of their own.

As a brand that markets itself as a ‘value’ food provider, whether that’s really true or not, Tesco has to appeal to a wider demographic, including cash-strapped students.

Whilst one can accuse Tesco of many things, you can’t accuse the supermarket behemoth of limiting its consumer appeal to any one group.

Unless you have a strongly consolidated target audience, and one that’s been proven to engage with your brand well, there’s something to be said for casting your net wide when it comes to consumer appeal.

3. Boots: #GiftsThatGetThem

Boots has combined two important emotive and communicational elements.

The first is harnessing the power of collective ‘pop-culture’ memory as well as the elements of family to drive audience engagement.

In this 2018 advert, Boots use the popular tune of Robbie William’s smash hit’ ‘She’s the one’ but set it against a love-hate relationship mother and daughter narrative. It sure makes for funny, cosy and relatable viewing.

The second is the social mobilisation of the campaign itself.

By naming the campaign via a hashtag, #GiftsThatGetThem, the advert is brought into the fully digital 21st century.

It also is given to opportunity to be a trending hashtag of its own. Very clever Boots.

4. Currys PC World: The Magic of Christmas Upgraded

Guess what!? The themes of collective memory and nostalgia emerge yet again, but this time in a Currys PC World Christmas advert.

It all takes place against a Dickensian backdrop on what looks like (gasp) a British high-street!?

Two cultural pastimes in British life are referenced here, the old school high-street and one of Britain’s greatest ever novelists.

No doubt these two elements combined have stirred up feelings of familiarity and sentiment in viewers across the country.

So, well done Currys PC World for tapping into widespread public support for saving the high-street, as well as the ever seasonally appropriate ‘A Christmas carol’ vibes.

5. Aldi: Kevin the Carrot Christmas Cliff Hanger

Another great lesson in tapping into public sentimentality and cultural memory comes from Aldi. Its advert makes references to a widely loved Christmas advert of yesteryear.

So, readers, does that festively lit lorry above ring any bells?

Does it remind you of an older and more iconic advert from a well-loved global brand?

If it did, then you’re probably thinking of Coca Cola’s iconic 1995 Christmas offering above.

Aldi took inspiration from this iconic and well-loved advert and made it their own.

This is a clever way to tap into consumers’ memories. This newer advert is more likely to stay in their memories because of its reference to a generationally iconic one.

SMEs: Go forth and be merry!

What these adverts prove is that businesses should tap into the sales value of calendar holidays more often.

Christmas sales strategies take intense preparation, so it’s never too early to start planning for next year.

“You will cultivate a warmer relationship with your customers if you make it clear you understand what they’re going through at times such as Christmas”. – Michelle Ovens, director, Small Business Saturday

Understanding what your customers are experiencing at Christmas, whether that’s spending time with family, indulging in nostalgic elements of pop culture, or competing with cost burdens, your business can tap into those feelings.

You can offer discounts, extended payment plans to customers, or simply produce marketing and social content that engages in the spirit of Christmas.

Whether it’s a twitter post, website copy, or a YouTube video you’re crafting, incorporating the themes discussed above at important times in the year will increase your chances of audience engagement.