The countdown to Christmas is officially on! With only 4 days before the Fat Man in Red makes his appearance, we figured we’d honour the event by putting together a list of our top 5 favorite holiday marketing campaigns.
HotelTonight — Visit, Don’t Stay
Spending time with family is a big part of every holiday. HotelTonight needed to get more people booking rooms through their app instead of just staying with relatives. So, they decided to remind us that family get-togethers are never quite as lovely as we would like them to be. HotelTonight was careful to not tell people to ignore their families, though. It’s even shown in their slogan and campaign name, “Visit, Don’t Stay”.
“It’s a time of celebration and getting reconnected with extended family, but it can be crowded and awkward. We didn’t want to be negative about it, but we wanted something people could relate to, HotelTonight CMO Ray Elias told Adweek.
Using a combination of video and images, HotelTonight made a clear statement about how uncomfortable it can be to stay with relatives. To further engage their users, they also created a #HotelTonight hashtag. People were then encouraged to use this hashtag to submit their crazy, family holiday stories for a chance to win a $500 prize. This campaign earned HotelTonight The Drum’s American ad of the week and a whole lot of brand awareness.
REI — #OptOutside
In 2015, outdoor retailer REI needed a way to raise brand awareness and encourage people to shop in their stores. With their highly successful #OptOutside campaign, they managed to do both— and turn American Boxing Day right on its head. Retailers anxiously look forward to this day in terms of profit. So, it’s a huge statement to decide to close your doors— but that’s exactly what REI decided to do. Instead of telling people to get outside and enjoy themselves, they decided it would be more effective to show them. It also created an impression of sincerity, showing the company wasn’t speaking from its wallet. It was speaking directly from the heart.
“In the midst of a big holiday brainstorming session, the head of our merchandising group said, ‘We could never do it, but what if we close on Black Friday?'” Ben Steele, REI SVP and CCO, told Adweek. “Obviously, at face value, it seems crazy, but it was all about giving our people the day off and inviting others to join us. Part of this job is about storytelling, but when you can take an action and show people rather than just telling them, it can be really powerful.”
REI’s CEO acted as the spokesperson for the #OptOutside campaign. In a video, he announces the event. But as the camera pans out, it reveals his desk set up in the middle of a mountain range. This campaign was a great success. It also won 2 Grand Prix prizes at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
WestJet — WestJet Christmas Miracle: Real-Time Giving
In 2013, the Calgary-based airline WestJet wasn’t very popular. Then it came time for them plan their holiday campaign. The team sat and tried to brainstorm what ‘giving’ would look like at its best. The result was their Christmas Miracle video, which has been viewed more than 47 MILLION times.
On November 21st, 2013, oncoming passengers for two flights were greeted by an on-screen Santa at the airport. The Santa asked them what they would like for Christmas, and the passengers gave him their list. What the passengers didn’t realize, however, was that WestJet volunteers had been taking notes. When the passengers’ flights took off, WestJet teams from Calgary scrambled to gather their gifts from CrossIron Mills and Best Buy. Both companies had partnered with WestJet for the promotion. When passengers got to their destination and went to get their luggage, they were shocked to find blue boxes with their names attached. The contents were exactly what they had told Santa they wanted.
WestJet filmed their passengers’ reactions. They later uploaded the footage to YouTube, where it went completely viral. This campaign helped WestJet become a household name. It also proves you don’t need big bucks to make something amazing. Forbes describes the results of WestJet’s Christmas Miracle campaign as “goodwill that advertising can’t buy”. After the video, WestJet’s website visits doubled. Their bookings also increased 77% compared with the same month in 2012, and revenue rose 86%.
John Lewis — Monty the Penguin
The award-winning marketing team over at John Lewis uses deep human truths as the basis for their campaigns. They do this by not talking about themselves. Instead, they focus strictly on the story.
John Lewis’ had two goals for their 2014 holiday year. One was to increase brand salience and deepen emotional connection by “winning Christmas”. The other was to launch the most-watched, loved, and talked-about Christmas ad campaign.
To do this, John Lewis created Monty. Monty is a loveable, little penguin who starred in their campaign. John Lewis then featured Monty in a variety of ways. These include an award-winning commercial and an in-store experience. But they also launched and VR and smartphone software that let kids interact with Monty in engaging ways.
In the end, AdAge reports that Monty helped John Lewis generate a revenue growth of 132 million pounds. The campaign also created an adorable (and unintentional) far-ranging effect. After its release, WWF penguin adoptions went up by a whopping 300%.
Coca-Cola — A Refreshing Pause
Coca-Cola is strongly associated with the holidays. So, it only makes sense for them to on this list. The Coca-Cola company has worked hard at branding itself for over 100 years. In fact, their first slogan, “The Great National Temperance Beverage”, was actually created to play off society’s changing attitudes towards alcohol.
In 1931, it was time for Coca-Cola’s first holiday magazine campaign. The old-school execs wanted to put forth a Santa Clause who was wholesome and realistic. Brandisty notes that up until then, Santa had been depicted as anything from elf-like to stern. On top of making Santa more human, Coke also decided to feature him as a regular person talking to the audience. They didn’t want a character from a story or legend.
Illustrator Haddon Sundbloom was commissioned to design Coca-Cola’s Santa. He used the 1822 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as his inspiration. Coca-Cola’s website explains, “[This] description of St. Nick led to an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump, and human Santa”. Coca-Cola used Sundbloom’s Santa for more than 30 years. But they made sure to have him evolve with the times. For example, one ad was released in 1928 when bottles of pop started becoming more popular. Another, from 1936, shows Santa beside an electric train, one of the more popular toys of the time.
In the end, Sundbloom and Coca-Cola’s creativity paid off. They succeeded in creating a company that is ubiquitous with the holidays, and a character that remains synonymous with Christmas, still to this very day.