Shaken & Stirred - Influential Brand Profiling and Positioning

“Wishing you a very merry Brexmas TV ad” …Vince Kerrigan, Vital Communications

Vince Kerrigan is Strategic Solutions Manager at brand communications agency, Vital Communications. He writes …

The excitement is palpable ahead of this week’s expected launch of the John Lewis Christmas TV ad. Such campaigns are as much a part of Christmas as the ubiquitous carol singing and turkey carving.

Gone are the days when festive advertising campaigns were solely about driving sales to put products under the tree – today’s TV shorts are cinematic, award-winning masterpieces which are designed to deliver an emotional connection  with customers that will last well into the New Year.

The carefully-timed launches of the most popular Christmas TV ads have become much-anticipated media moments. However, this year feels different. The UK is entering the festive season with news that the pound has tumbled in value and inflation is starting to bite. How will retail marketers respond? Will they still choose to take the tried-and-tested blockbuster route, or will they go back-to-basics in deference to the economic uncertainty?

The impassioned, storytelling approach, which is designed to tug at the heartstrings, has been a winning formula for brands in recent years, so it’s unlikely that retail marketers will shy away from using an approach that the nation has grown to know and love.

This doesn’t mean that Brexit-related sentiment won’t have a role to play, however. The most successful adverts over the past years have raised awareness of poignant issues such as friendship and loneliness, so it’s possible that retailers will use the current political situation to their advantage, to evoke an emotive response. Brands may choose to channel a ‘best of British’ or ‘British heritage’ theme within their campaign – countryside landscapes, UK-made products and traditional British foodstuffs that hark back to Christmases of old, could all feature prominently.

Sainsbury’s ‘Mog the Cat’ was successful in driving sales.


To help lighten the mood, retailers could favour the use of fictional characters in this year’s campaigns. Characters – such as Monty in John Lewis’ 2014 penguin-themed ad – are an effective sales strategy as they provide profitable merchandise opportunities. Last year, Sainsbury’s ‘Mog the Cat’ was successful in driving sales.

The supermarket raised £1.5million from its book and soft toy, from which all funds were donated to Save the Children’s ‘Read On, Get On’ literacy campaign.

Charitable links could also feature strongly again this year. The most memorable from past campaigns was the 2014 ‘Christmas is for sharing’ production by Sainsbury’s, which recreated the well-known Christmas Day football match between England and Germany, and raised funds for the Royal British Legion. Who knows, with the prevailing Brexit uncertainty expected to impact many households in the future, this year’s campaigns might choose to raise awareness of social issues such as homelessness.

Whichever approach retailers choose to take in their Christmas TV ads this year, they will be seeking to strengthen brand loyalty by creating a memorable media moment that will last throughout the year – after all, a festive TV ad doesn’t have to be just for Christmas.

Vince Kerrigan is Strategic Solutions Manager

at brand communications agency, Vital Communications.