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Festive Marketing - How the brands stole Christmas

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. You’ve already eaten 27 Christmas dinners and ‘All I Want for Christmas’ is on repeat in your nightmares.

Yes, Christmas is well and truly upon us – the world over. And it feels like it has been for a while… Of course, that all depends on what spells the ‘start of Christmas’ for you. Are you a proud member of the ‘Christmas should stay in December’ society? Or does the arrival of the Coca-Cola or John Lewis adverts on your screens have you decking the halls post-haste? This month we’re discussing exactly where and when (we all know why…) advertising and marketing became so influential in our festivities.

Feed the world

Our investigation begins with a lesser-known example of a Christmas-marketing-ploy-turned-annual-tradition, KFC Japan. This brand kick-started a nationwide tradition of feasting on fried chicken every Christmas day with its Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii (Kentucky for Christmas) party barrel campaign. While it may seem strange to us turkey gobblers, in a country where only 1% of the population officially celebrates Christmas, this sparked the beginning of a new tradition where there previously was none… all because of some clever marketing! A fine example of rituals being localised in other cultures.

Colonel 'Santas'

Let them know it’s Christmas time

Secondly, we move on to an old festive favourite. We’ve all heard the story of how Coca-Cola ‘turned Father Christmas red’. Well, have I got news for you, it’s a myth! Saint Nick was depicted in red way before ol’ Coke got on the case. One campaign they can take the Christmas credit for, however, is the ‘Holidays are coming’ ad. Cast your mind back to yesteryear (1995 to be exact) and most of you will remember the very first one! Nowadays, we eagerly await its arrival on our screens to signal that ‘tis the season (it’s always the real thing).

Ho Ho Holidays are coming

Ten lords a-weeping

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we were developing a new festive tradition of our own – the heart-warming Christmas advert. In 2006, John Lewis returned straight from the North Pole (seemingly) with its annual tearjerker in tow. Ever since, each passing year has culminated in a nationwide fight for our tears. We gather around to watch penguins, cartoon bears, and even Sir Elton John live out an emotional tale to the backdrop of classic acoustic covers. Is true penguin love all that festive or are we just suckers for the feeling of capitalism and a slow jam tugging at our heart (and purse) strings?

Until recently, John Lewis’ only real contender was Marks and Spencer. Now even Sainsbury’s and Heathrow Airport have joined the race. But while the ads work hard, the social media teams have really sleighed it, cashing in on their competitors’ ads with a classic display of Twitter one-upmanship.

It’s the most pun-derful time of the year.

What with Christmas becoming synonymous with spending, it seems only natural that companies would hop on the brandwagon. Can you blame them? So, whether you’re a grade-A Grinch, or, like us, you’re on Christmas ad watch; WIT wishes you a very Merry Christmas!


By Amy Reid, WIT Account Manager


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