While Super Bowl ads receive all the buzz, I love watching how brands approach their holiday ads and campaigns. The holidays are huge revenue opportunities for retailers with a large addressable market and many ways to engage audiences, whether through nostalgia, good deeds, catchy carols or controversial ad spots (ahem, Peloton.)
Regardless of which holiday your audience observes, this time of year is all about community, traditions… and spending money. How can brands create memorable holiday campaigns that go beyond overt commercialism and build loyalty beyond the “add to cart” moment? Here are how my favorite 2021 holiday campaigns (so far) hit the mark with omnichannel storytelling:
Use the holidays as an opportunity to create community and scale
Coca-Cola was an early adopter of cause-related marketing that prioritizes brand storytelling over product attributes. According to AdAge, Coke’s new marketing strategy is to create more ads that can scale globally, so the shared pandemic experience coupled with holiday season provided the opportune moment for the brand’s latest campaign.
The ad, which will run in 90 countries, tells the story of a little boy in an apartment who constructs a chimney out of his window. It’s a commercial that pulls at viewers heartstrings in an apparent universal language. However, of particular note are the complementary digital campaigns including local community initiatives, in-store activations, and cross-channel activations such as a “Hero the Driver” podcast honoring designated drivers and a North American partnership with Cameo where users can request personalized videos from “Santa.”
An opportunity to champion diversity
For its “All-idays” campaign, Old Navy took note that nearly half of U.S. children under age 15 identify as non-white; however, only 5 percent of professional Santas are people of color. The clothing brand teamed up with Timothy Connaghan, founder of School4Santas and one of the biggest Santa booking agencies, to launch Old Navy Santa Bootcamp, which will feature a day of virtual trainings on November 18.
This campaign also shows how brands can build upon campaigns from previous year to create an ongoing narrative demonstrating core values. Last year, Old Navy launched a pajama line with Santas of different skin tones, so this year’s campaign feels like a natural, real-world continuation of that concept. It will be interesting to see how and if Old Navy continues this diversity-focused holiday campaign in future years. There’s definitely opportunity for further audience engagement, such as by livestreaming Santa auditions and voting for favorites.
Make “doing good” convenient and enjoyable
The agency Above & Beyond worked with Google to create the Good Fire YouTube channel, which raises money for the U.K. homeless charity Shelter [AdAge]. Noticing how videos of virtual fireplaces surged during the pandemic, the agency simply repositioned an already popular content-channel mix in a creative way. It’s also inherently shareable on social media given its broad appeal and do-good appeal that doesn’t ask much of its viewers.
AdAge: Coke’s ‘Real Magic’ holiday ad is all about community
AdWeek: In Coca-Cola’s global holiday ad, a young boy’s idea becomes a community obsession
Good Morning America: Old Navy brings back inclusive Santa PJs with more skin tone colors and patterns