In addition to all the usual crazy Christmas consumer frenzy marketing, the holiday period also sees great creative work come to the fore. Why? Because these brands realise the opportunity to connect on a deeper level with customers is more than just for Christmas.

Season’s greetings! In marketing, there is always a high road, and the other way to do it. Whether you’re a B2B organisation or sell straight to consumers, there’s something to be learned from the creative, impactful and entertaining marketing released around the holiday period.

Yes, much of the activity centres on selling now for Christmas, and many businesses do a significant percentage of their annual revenue around this time. But the secrets of seasonality that lead to success in the holidays also hold learnings that can be leveraged throughout the year. Please enjoy our favourite holiday marketing campaigns from 2022, and what we think we can learn from them to make our other marketing work better.

1. Who knew singing letterboxes could deliver such heartfelt messages?

Australia Post, ‘Spread the Merry’

While dealing with the supply chain and fulfilment challenges brought on by COVID-19, Australia Post put a decidedly Aussie integrated campaign in market, celebrating the spirit of Christmas, and the joy of connecting with loved ones during the festive season. The TV ad had a lot of fun playing with the Australian accent, as well as the broad range of characters you find in our sunburnt country. The creative made its way into print catalogues, social media, radio, digital, press, and in-store executions.

Why it worked well:

It’s fun and musical with a recognisable tune for a start. Most of all, it connects with the joy found in giving and receiving gifts, in this case via post. People are often more sentimental and emotional during holiday periods, and so the campaign works well because it resonates with people on a personal level, a solid marketing concept to consider, whatever you’re marketing. Making a positive personal or emotional connection can lead to greater brand affinity throughout the year.

2. Pigs-in-blankets and more hats on dogs. I’m voting for The Christmas Party!

Tesco, ‘The Christmas party’

Using the hashtag, ‘Stand for joy’, this marketing campaign from UK supermarket giant, Tesco, builds on the insight that everyone could do with a little more joy each Christmas. There’s a healthy chunk of parody as the ad mimics how British political parties spruik themselves, leveraging the fact that it’s been a tumultuous year in British politics. The ad promotes, “The Christmas Party” and how they aim to help people over the holidays. Pledging more pigs-in-blankets, more hats on dogs, and more for your money, this is a party people can truly believe in.

Why it worked well:

Everyone can relate to wanting more joy at this special time of the year. In an era where the pandemic has heightened people’s feelings of isolation and loneliness, and the economics in the UK were such that many people are under increasing financial pressure, this hits home on several levels. Tesco is being authentic, showing that they understand where people are at right now, and offering a solution wrapped in the kind of humour that resonates – there’s nothing quite so British as taking the piss out of your politicians! Authenticity is a killer concept when it comes to building a brand that can be applied to any time of year.

3. No ad for us this year. We’re using our budget to help those in need over the holidays!

Co-op: Anti-advertising campaign

This year Co-op announced it would be axing its annual multi-million-pound Christmas ad, instead partnering with membership-based food scheme and community hub, Your Local Pantry, to help households who are feeling the pinch to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Why it worked well:

This move by Co-op illustrates a broader contemporary trend that consumers are becoming more attracted to values than to what at times can be questionable advertising tactics. The holidays often bring our values to the fore, and so helping others instead of simply trying to sell is an excellent example of how an act of kindness can connect with people. This campaign went live as many in the UK were in a real financial pinch. This type of marketing is the antidote to the garish opulence that can characterise Christmas, which is marginalising to those less fortunate. We love this campaign because it proves how expressing your brand’s values through genuine and meaningful actions can boost your reputation in the public eye. Read more about it here.

4. ‘Skate to create’ a meaningful expression of your brand’s authentic identity

John Lewis, ‘The Beginner’:

Have a tissue handy … This is a powerful and emotive ad, as is often expected from John Lewis at Christmas time. With significant job losses, store closures, and staff missing out on a bonus for the first time since 1953, the advertising spend was questioned by the media, but the messaging was worth every cent. It’s a beautifully told story of caring values that helps people worried they can’t afford the good champagne this year to remember there are always others for whom the holidays can be far more difficult. Plus, there’s a middle-aged guy skateboarding!

Why it worked well:

I won’t spoil the end of this one, but the ad speaks volumes about the value of caring for others. Most people appreciate acts of genuine human kindness because we all love (and respond to) that heart-warming tingle. There’s no better way to express the authentic values of your brand during a season where they’re needed most. We love this one because there’s a lot of mainstream messaging around friends and family at this time of year, but seldom does a brand take on those at the fringes. It’s also a well told story. You actually want to know what happens, and when you find out, you’re not disappointed. The emotional connection with this content just can’t help but make you feel good about the brand.

5. Spreading cheer and the power of a smile

ASDA, ‘Have your elf a Merry Christmas’

Budget UK supermarket chain, ASDA, went big this year and created what could almost be described as a short film for its holiday marketing effort. Featuring Will Ferrell in his well-known role as ‘Buddy’ from the movie ‘Elf’, the Hollywood comedy superstar has applied for a job. He does his thing to the usual Will Ferrell standard. It’s worth a watch!

Why it worked well:

This ad works to spread cheer and joy around the holiday theme. It’s a story, and it’s genuinely funny, showing how easy (and important) it is to have a go at changing someone else’s mood for the better simply by being nice. Just a smile can make someone’s day, and this philosophy rings true everyday of our lives. Of course, it weaves in plenty of the ASDA product and branding for good measure, which is classic from a content marketing point of view. We like this because it fits ASDA’s brand and audience to a T, and builds positive affinity without trying to be something it’s not.

6. Expect the unexpected while putting the silly in ‘silly season’

ALDI, ‘You can’t overcook Christmas’

The next chapter in a series that’s been running over the past few years, this creative execution is perfectly on-brand for a company whose tagline is, ‘Good Different’. This year’s story shows family members fighting NOT to take the last prawn at the holiday meal. The lengths they go to are extreme (imagine your grandma as a heroine in the Matrix film).

Why it worked well:

Although the messaging around more consumption might be questionable, ALDI’s ad is humorous, witty, and offers just the right amount of silly for the ‘silly season’. Laughter is the best medicine and having a family feast once a year is a special occasion, so when combined these concepts work well. Lastly, it’s hard to predict the next funny frame in the piece, and there’s nothing like the surprise of not knowing what’s coming next during the holiday season.

7. Beautifully told story of humanity

Shelter, “Brave face”

Well. If ever you needed reminding about what’s really important in life, UK charity Shelter does this beautifully. The holiday season puts pressure on families to deliver a wonderful, sparkly good time. What if, no matter how you tried, you didn’t have the opportunity to do that for your family? This short story follows a boy who doesn’t seem to have it easy, but his focus is not on the hardships he’s facing.

Why it worked well:

Awkwardly funny from the outset, this ad makes you so curious as to what’s going on. When you find out, the pathos is delivered in a gut-wrenching hit. But it’s saved from being just a “feel sorry for me” moment by the uplifting beauty of the relationship between mother and child, and the enormous value of love and bravery. Another one to keep the Kleenex handy for, this campaign is worth remembering. Sometimes issues or challenges are so ubiquitous, people tune out and they basically become invisible. By looking for a new way to bring a perennial issue into people’s minds, they’re more receptive. This shows the value of fresh, creative thinking and changing perspective, which can be applied to all sorts of marketing challenges.

8. On brand, on message and on the money

O2, “The Snowgran”

The story of an isolated elderly person who is literally frozen out of the holiday season. It just takes one person who notices and takes action to make a difference, and bring some warmth to her world. Human connection is important always, but more so over the holiday season where the idea of getting together with loved ones is everywhere.

Why it worked well:

This is a nicely executed animation, with a great illustrative style. O2 is a massive telecom which makes money out of people connecting with each other. So it’s easy to be cynical about an ad where they highlight the value of those connections. However, in this case they do it well, and they offer tangible value for people in this campaign by giving people the opportunity to send free data to anyone and help them stay connected, so it feels like it’s coming from a more selfless place. While Christmas was the ideal time for an idea like this, the value of creative ideas that help your brand walk the talk can be proven all year round.

9. Putting cool tech at the centre of a warm human story

ASUS, “Grandpa’s Sonata”

While the holiday season is a great time to appreciate what we have, for some it’s a reminder of what they’ve lost – and how they may have become lost themselves. This is a lovely story of how an observant kid helps her grandpa to deal with the pain of loss and come back to his family.

Why it worked well:

While the ASUS brand and products are kind of peripheral to the story, their presence aligns well enough with the theme that it holds up. By showing that people with human ideas can achieve wonderful things using some tech and some creativity, it positions their laptops and tablets as key tools that help unlock Grandpa’s isolation. It’s a heartwarming tale that leaves you oozing positive brand affinity and while Christmas is the context for this one, there’s no time of year where brand marketing of this quality doesn’t make a lasting impression.

This was fun… but what does it mean for my campaign?

Whether your business is B2B or advertising to the end consumer, marketing campaigns from the holiday season are full of insightful concepts you can leverage in your own marketing campaigns. Um, B2B? Really? Yes, our selections come mostly in the retail space, where they go big with their campaigns because it’s a peak trade period. But authenticity, personal connection, humour, demonstrating care, and espousing values – these are all-year-round ingredients for successful brand marketing. It doesn’t have to be Christmas; you choose the seasonal aspect or landmark event to connect your brand to. It could be anything as long as it aligns with your brand’s mission and vision, and is something your team and your customers can get behind and truly believe in.

So get creative people, and let’s connect.

(This article is the 2022 edition of our original Best holiday marketing campaigns article.)