The triumph of simple joy at Christmas

The triumph of simple joy at Christmas

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They may not remember what you did but they will never ever forget how you made them feel

Everyone loves Christmas ads and the debate around the office as we test the crop of 2017 has been fast and furious.

Surprises so far include the 5-Star leader Toys ‘R’ Us which many people thought was a lost cause but which uses simple joy, instantly recognisable Christmas characters and the triumph of the underdog to push people’s emotional buttons.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of simplicity but we’ve seen again and again how complexity can get in the way of some of the most potentially powerful stories.

If people don’t get it, they won’t feel anything and if they don’t feel anything they won’t do anything.

The result is wasted time, talent and budget, and frustration for everyone.

What might seem obvious to the marketing and agency teams, who have laboured long and hard, can pass the average viewer by. And fiddling with the sample demographics won’t help. Just because you thought you were talking to women aged 25 – 45 who shop on a Tuesday, doesn’t mean they are waiting with bated breath for your message.

So, what gets in the way? Ironically the things that can create the most happiness: humour, fantasy, family stories can fail to connect as powerfully as everyone expects if they are too complicated, too weird or too far removed from everyday experience or from existing perceptions of a brand or category.

If that sounds complicated then consider these examples.

Boots offers a charming story of two sisters over time which is loved by some people but misses out because for some the story is just too complicated and the heart-warming idea of buying exactly the right gift for someone you love doesn’t fit with everyone’s idea of Boots.

Marks and Spencer use Paddington to try and bring joy to their Christmas story but maybe makes it just too complicated with the action veering from fantasy to reality in a way that left people feeling happy but also perhaps a little confused.

And Asda add Charlie and the Chocolate inspired fun to their action which creates happiness but may not fit with what you expect from the supermarket where you pat your pocket to reassure yourself you haven’t spent too much.

All of these and many others are great examples of the UK Christmas drama we see every year and are still very likely to drive their share in a tough climate.

They could just have been even better if they had kept it simpler, more relevant and related to the brand they are celebrating.

Ironically the animated action of online retailer very.co.uk with “Anna And The Wolf”  used fantasy but paired it with engaging excitement and suspense and a familiar Frozen vibe. And importantly as always, its key distinctive asset – the glowing pink present – is central to the plot, providing an excuse for Anna’s perilous quest and proving that the fluency of the brand is working hard to add both clarity and appeal.

And finally McDonald’s with their ‘Reindeer Ready’ hit all the familiar Christmas notes of family, community and late night last minute shopping trips in a way that could only be for their brand.

They seem to understand the power of simple joy and when they get it right they truly win.

Just another piece of evidence to support what the late great Maya Angelou said

“They may not remember what you said and they may not remember what you did but they will never ever forget how you made them feel.”


By Sarah Patterson, Commercial Director, System1 Research

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Author: The Marketing Society
Posted: 22 Dec 2017
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