By now you’ve probably seen most of the big TV Christmas ads - John Lewis’s #MozTheMonster; M&S with Paddington Bear; Argos and their airport elves.

The unveiling of these festive mini movies has become something of a ritual in recent years, with consumers anticipating them in the same way they usually do the next season of their favourite TV drama series.

So what is it that has turned these promotional tools into something people actively seek out? And how can you use their secrets to boost your own marketing efforts?

Lesson #01: People love a good story

One thing all of the popular TV Christmas ads have in common is a sense of story. In my opinion this year’s best example is from Debenhams. The #YouShall campaign is a clever modern day take on the Cinderella fairytale, told in traditional style with the brilliant Ewan McGregor as narrator. You can’t help but be drawn in, wanting to know how it all ends, and the department store capitalised on this by releasing a teaser clip in advance of the release of the full advert. 

Key take away: If you can tell a story in your marketing, especially one with an element of suspense, you’ll cut through the noise and get people’s attention.

Lesson #02: You don’t need many words, just the right ones

This year’s Christmas ad from Asda doesn’t actually feature any dialogue at all. The combination of stunning visuals, uplifting music and quirky Willy Wonka inspired concepting is more than enough to capture the imagination. But what really sealed the deal for me was their clever tagline: Best. Christmas. Ever. Trust me, you’ll hear that phrase everywhere this festive season, and every time it’s repeated it will build Asda’s brand.

Key take away: If you can be a bit clever with your tag lines, product / service package names, or even hashtags (see below), you can communicate your message very quickly and very effectively.

Lesson #03: Hashtags are about more than search

Going back to the Debenhams campaign, I love the way they’ve used the #FindMyShoe and #FindThatGirl hashtags as part of their storytelling. The makers of Sherlock used a similar device to great effect in the first season of the series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. These examples show that hashtags aren’t just about search, they’re also about communicating ideas concisely and can be used to great effect if you think outside the box. Another brilliant example is Audi’s #Untaggable campaign, which they used to launch the Q2 last year.

Key take away: Be creative with the way you use hashtags - if you find a clever way to include them in a campaign, they can contribute to both search and engagement.

Lesson #04: The best marketing is integrated

Have you ever watched an advert you really enjoyed, and then forgotten which brand it was actually for? There’s absolutely no use in creating a brilliant piece of content and then expecting it to perform all on its own. That’s why you need to make sure any marketing activity you undertake is supported by a wider campaign. For example, Kevin the Carrot doesn’t just star in Aldi’s Christmas TV advert, he also appears on posters in-store, so shoppers can make the association.

Key take-away: Think of your marketing in terms of campaigns, and repurpose content across different platforms to build a more complete picture for your audience.

Lesson #05: Loyalty is built on emotion

One thing you’ll find conspicuously absent from the most popular Christmas adverts is a strong sales message. That’s because these ads aren’t about posing a particular product. They’re about building brand image and gaining loyalty. That’s why they aren’t full of product features and price promises. Instead, they’re designed to capture our hearts and win our emotions. If brands can do that, they can pretty much guarantee the sales will follow effortlessly.

Key take away: Never forget that whatever you’re selling, you’re selling it to people - and while the facts and figures are important, it is emotion that will be the real deciding factor.

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