How this year’s Christmas campaigns have been different

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI.

Who could have imagined that when the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern on January 30th, we’d still be dealing with the pandemic eleven months on?

Certainly not the Prime Minister, who, in July, memorably told the public to expect a ‘significant return to normality’ by Christmas. Unfortunately, this optimistic forecast did not come to fruition, and this year’s celebration will be unlike any others.

This has had a notable impact on the seasonal marketing campaigns that have launched this year.

Reduced budgets for Christmas ads

In normal times, big brands, such as John Lewis and Amazon, dedicate a substantial portion of their ad budgets to the Christmas holiday, resulting in blockbuster ads such as the Man on the Moon and The Boy and The Piano.

However, as a result of the pandemic, budgets have tightened this year. UK advertisers are forecasted to spend £725m less this Christmas than last year, which represents a 10.5% decrease on 2019.

Should you address the pandemic?

Similarly, brands looking to launch seasonal campaigns are facing a difficult question, do they address the pandemic or not?

The pandemic is obviously an astronomically sized elephant in the room, but some consumers may be expecting brands to distract them from the pandemic with a glitzy, joyous Christmas ad, or address COVID-19 in a realistic and appropriate way.

Amazon and TK Maxx have been lauded for their ads, which depict a Christmas that isn’t the same as previous years but without it being downbeat or exhausting. And, on the other end of the spectrum, Argos was praised for not mentioning the pandemic at all, instead focusing on the magic of Christmas.

Influencer marketing and seasonal campaigns

Brands will have to tackle similar questions if they use influencers in any seasonal campaigns.

Throughout the pandemic they have proven highly effective communication tools for brands because of the authentic human-element they add. This is particularly true at such a sensitive time when consumers are looking for comfort and reassurance from familiar faces who can share in the same daily challenges the pandemic is posing everyone.

As a result, influencers have remained popular among brands since the first lockdown in March, and this has continued into the festive season. We expect this trend to continue, however, brands will have to be conscious of their messaging at a time when a lot of people are coming to terms with spending Christmas away from loved ones. Just like with Christmas TV ads, brands will need to decide whether they use influencer content that distracts consumers from the pandemic or is realistic about a COVID-19 Christmas.

The importance of prioritising engaging content

When it comes to planning your influencer marketing campaign this Christmas, it’s important for brands to consider a number of important factors including campaign objectives, brand perception, key target audience, preferred platforms and core messaging before deciding on an approach.

Our whitepaper found that users have very specific expectations of the type of content they like to see on each app.

Across the US, UK, and Germany, consumers perceived Instagram as more aspirational and informative than TikTok. Whereas consumers have been turning to TikTok in droves since the start of the pandemic to seek escapism, which the platform caters very well. Three out of five (60%) marketers agree that TikTok is the most creative channel, and consumers consider it more escapist and entertaining than Instagram as well. It’s therefore important to play to the strengths of each channel when launching a Christmas campaign to generate the results you want.

Although it is tempting to dive into a social media campaign this Christmas, brands must consider the effects of the pandemic regardless of whether they want it to be a focus of their content. It has changed this year’s celebrations and, as a result, consumers won’t want to see influencer content that is downbeat or depressing. Instead, they want content that is distracting or sympathetic and, above all, engaging.

If brands can strike this balance, then they are on their way to a successful Christmas social media campaign.

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