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Christmas ads 2022: winning elements and how to apply them to your email marketing

Christmas adverts are now something we all look forward to. What tactics can we learn from them, ready to apply to our email campaigns? Let's take a look.
Couple sitting on sofa with Christmassy background, pressing play on tv remote

Christmas adverts are now an event. During the rest of the year adverts are largely ignored, considered annoying, skipped through, but come November commercial breaks are celebrated. Christmas adverts signal the beginning of the festive period, and consumers eagerly await them. The best ones soon to be discussed amongst friends, colleagues, and on social media.

So, what can we as marketers learn from Christmas adverts? And what can we apply to our year-round email marketing campaigns? Let’s take a look.

Know your brand position

A huge category of Christmas ads belongs to supermarkets. UK supermarkets are all battling to be the place of ‘the big shop’. Money is important, especially this year, and of course quality is too – particularly if you’re hosting in-laws that you’re trying to impress. So all UK supermarkets pull out all the stops.

I’m going to start with premium food retailer Waitrose. I like its ad as it matches the brand so well. Waitrose know its’ selling point isn’t value, convenience, or even sparkle, but quality produce. It feels different to the other supermarket campaigns, it’s straight-forward, and honest. It shows how Christmas season is year-round for farmers and other producers. Christmas takes time, effort, and integrity; that is the message.

In a year where many households are feeling the pinch, Waitrose does a clever job of subtly illustrating the value behind its products. The behind-the-scenes element, reminds the customer of all the steps before it hits shelves. The final frame reads: ‘It’s the care we put in that makes Christmas this special’. Hammering home that the brand cares about the product, and by extension, its customers.

Key takeaway

Know your brand’s USP. Is it value, a one-of-a-kind product, a superior quality service? Whatever it is, make sure this shines through in your campaigns.

Add some character

Staying with the food retailers, Asda, Aldi, Lidl, and M&S all utilized a character to star in their Christmas adverts this year. Brand characters have gained momentum in recent years. Asda and Aldi both tapped into already well-loved Christmas characters from blockbuster movies. With Asda using Buddy the Elf, and Aldi offering a fresh, carrot-led take on Home Alone.

“My brand doesn’t have a character, so how can I apply this to my emails?”

We’re glad you asked. A character doesn’t need to be an animation or a famous star, it can be anyone from your brand. Whether it’s your CEO, your denim designer, warehouse packer, heck, even your email designer, showing the humans behind a brand can really connect with customers. Showing some personality and some character really warms customers up to what can otherwise be a faceless entity.

Key takeaway

Utilize the natural characters in your brand and give them a spot in your campaigns. A great option is in a welcome program to build trust, and a Christmas message from your CEO or other important figure goes along way at building rapport, and loyalty.

Tesco’s advert is a jolly parody of a party political broadcast. The UK has had (another) heavy year where political matters have dominated the headlines on an almost daily basis.

For brands, tapping into a trending topic is a great way to piggy-back on pre-existing momentum. Tesco have chosen something the whole country is aware of, and made it light-hearted.

The brand also heavily features its products throughout, highlighting the low-cost options, something that will appeal to many. This is also done by subtle reminders that using its Clubcard gets you cheaper prices. Loyalty is certainly something you need to be encouraging and rewarding at this time of year, especially to keep customers coming back in the new year.

The ad also shows relatable family groups, this is something that naturally warms customers to a brand – seeing someone like them enjoying the brand. In your email marketing, you can employ this tactic through the use of user-generated-content (UGC). UGC and email are the perfect pairing, it’s a great way to get free content, encourage engagement, and build trust with your customers.

Key takeaway

Gain instant momentum by tapping into trending topics and making them your own.

Showcase your brand values

Moving on from food retailers now, to department store John Lewis. The undisputed leader of great Christmas adverts. When I started drafting this blog I decided to watch the John Lewis offering first. They are usually the best after all. It was a big mistake, as it left me sobbing at my desk. John Lewis have once again created an advert that stays with you.

This year, John Lewis have chosen to make the 104,000 children in the care system in the UK the focus of its advert. The ad also recognizes that the Christmas experience is different for everybody. This is something John Lewis have done before, it’s fantastic to see a huge brand represent those people who don’t fit a traditional ‘happy family’ narrative. Without a single product in its ad, it’s all about emotion and values. Something John Lewis do well.

John Lewis has understood the current social climate, choosing to use its platform to share an important message, rather than pushing expensive items many can’t afford. It’s a strong demonstration of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – something that’s a big part of John Lewis’ overall identity and appeal.

The festive period is a time for giving, it is the season of goodwill after all. So it’s nice to see a crossover between those values, and the ever-present commercialization of the holidays. It shows that a balance can be found.

Of course, for some shoppers value has to come first. However, for those in a position to shop based on brand values and reputation, John Lewis makes a strong bid – and as always, creates conversation amongst everyone else.

Remember, there’s nothing worse than social-washing, stemming from the term green-washing, social washing is the act of intentionally looking like you care about a cause to look good, but not actually helping the cause in any way. As expected, John Lewis have also backed up their advert with a new program to support charities in the sector and to offer employment opportunities to young people who have experienced life in care.

Key takeaway

Recognize the mood of your customers and use it to inform your messaging. You don’t want to be sending out tone deaf sales messages that will turn customers off from your brand.

Tell a story 

It turns out that Disney are quite good storytellers, who knew? This year’s campaign tells the heart warming story of a growing family, told from the point of view of a young daughter. The ad shows how the girl feels that the unborn baby is taking her mum’s attention away from her. This is a story many viewers will resonate with on some level.

It’s a heartwarming tale, one that leaves you wanting more. It certainly made me want to go and lose myself in a wholesome animation. Storytelling is an excellent way of getting your message across, and making it memorable.

The campaign also gets brand values in there, the ad ends with a nod to Disney’s chosen charity. The final frame saying ‘Supporting Make A Wish’ – a well-known children’s charity that ties in very closely with the Disney audience.

Key takeaway

Tell a story; it’s much more memorable than other styles of writing. Remind customers of your brand’s purpose, or the journey your product has taken to get to them, or the journey it could take them on. Find your angle, and create something special.


Christmas adverts are a celebration of marketing. A time where brands go all-out to wow customers and create something worth talking about. With email marketing there are certainly some key tactics we can take away and apply to our campaigns to stand out in a busy inbox.

In my own experience, email marketing is fast-paced, and centered around results you can track. As it should be. But sometimes it’s important to take a moment, and look at the bigger, marketing picture. Otherwise we risk our campaigns going stale.

This holiday season try and carve out some time with your team to discuss how your brand can add an extra layer of emotion, sparkle, or brand story to your campaigns. Have some fun with it, and create something your customers will remember, and make your campaigns something to look forward to.

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