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The Nightmare Before Christmas

Profile image for Laura Cannings

introduction

In conjunction with Attention: The Christmas Countdown we’ve been exploring Christmas marketing strategies, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Discovering the sheer amount of clutter that brands are pushing out around this time of the year is astonishing! But in equal parts there are brands that revel in the season and create some of the most emotive and persuasive messages in their industry.

This is the story of a young and foolish brand learning such lessons, becoming overwhelmed with the pressures that Christmas can put on brands and discovering how attention is earned through innovating the way in which its strategy encompassed Christmas.

 

 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Our story begins in the mind of the brand,

Imagining the perfect winter wonderland.

But the brand had not even begun to prepare,

So it found attention, neither here nor there.

 

Christmas Clutter

The brand thought to itself ‘Why is nothing working? Why is nobody listening? Why don’t I have their attention?’ The brand had prepared for Christmas; designing banner ads and theming all of it’s touch points. But something just wasn’t working even though the brand considered its efforts quite adequate. Oh how wrong the band was, how wrong indeed, the banner ad’s read nothing but Merry Christmas On Us! And the themed touch points went as far as a red and green logo, Christmas backgrounds and snowflakes falling on website pages.

Reminiscing, you could say the brand was visited by the spirit of Christmas past, but really it was more like remembering something you had never done, but ought to have. Feeling worse for wear the brand decided to do its favourite thing at Christmas, track Santa! Using its favourite feature on Google, the brand was able to track Father Christmas across the globe on his present-dropping journey and feel all the better because of it. Take a look at the Santa Tracker here.

 

 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

Traffic was low but the Brand’s a believer,

And search and PPC, they weren’t working either

But social never sleeps and ads were still out,

But getting no attention, the brand began to doubt.

 

The nature of this brand had lead it to develop a keen sense for the parting of coins, but not the type of transaction that leaves both parties happy, more the type that’s done once and never spoken of again. ‘Why are my customers all Scrooge's!’ exclaimed the brand as it tried desperately to comprehend why the strategy wasn’t working. The truth in fact was that the brand had no idea who it’s customers were, all the brand saw in it’s audience was another quick win, another opportunity, another sale.

If only the brand had understood the importance of finding it’s tribe in social, maybe it’s consumers would be more inclined to pay attention to what it has to say, instead of drowning out the message along with the rest of the Christmas clutter intruding on their lives. This realisation the brand was experiencing was inspired by an advert that had it’s undivided attention; it had captured the brand's attention for a number of reasons, the brand wouldn’t like to admit it, but this mainly occurred through a sense of lost opportunity, or the feeling that anyone who ever finished second place can relate to. What surprised the brand the most was the fact that the ad managed to capture its attention in a creative and interesting way, but at the same time communicated a really powerful message that made the brand think about things it never would have done usually. Greenpeace crafted the advert to get across the message that global warming is reducing winter months, and thus reducing the time we have for Christmas:

 

 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

It sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

And wondered if the cause was really Father Christmas?

Or if it was the brand, just bias of its wish list?

But the brand was not surprised, not even amazed,

It had seen better characters, during long Christmas days.

 

Mog's Christmas Calamity

Tired and torn the brand decided to rest and debate what could have gone differently, the brand thought people were happy at Christmas? They enjoyed spending money? This should be easy! But oh no they were spending their attention elsewhere, no one was visiting the website, no one was sharing social posts and no one was inspired to be a part of the campaign or associated to the brand. That was when an advert appeared on TV, telling the story of a beloved Christmas cat Mog, based on the Judith Kerr books, specifically Mog’s Christmas Calamity that had the brand challenging what it thought the norms were, ‘A cat!’ ‘How can a cartoon cat have me feeling so emotional?’

It was at this point the brand had another revelation; it began to challenge it’s thinking and what it considered ‘good Christmas marketing’ deciding that it wasn’t fancy visuals, great content or discounts and vouchers that earned brands attention, it was their ability to connect to their audience in a way which conveys their values, and the value their consumers can gain by engaging with the brand.

This was clear in the Christmas advert by Sainsbury’s, portraying the value of sharing that is so widely enhanced at this time of the year. Being able to show loved one’s how much they are appreciated and mean to you has huge value and the advert captured this perfectly with the message ‘Christmas is for sharing’.

 

 

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The brand was astonished, surprised at the commotion,

But inspired all the same, and fufilled with emotion.

The Hare

The next ad to come on the brand’s TV was another Christmas ad, this time telling a different story with a similar message. Sharing is caring, but this time it was focused on gift giving and the personal touch that make this part of Christmas so widely (the brand would disagree with this part) emotional. The importance of moment marketing is clear however was lost on the brand, as it had never considered gift giving in it’s time, it had a business to run after all, and in an ideal world yes the brand would buy presents for people, it’s just the people in question would be me myself and I.

Unsure if it was being ignored by it’s audience or had one too many egg noggs, the advert being displayed captivated the brand in a way which made Christmas make sense, the brand begun to understand why people give presents and saw a reflection of itself, or the traits it knew it had, but didn’t want. The advert from John Lewis told the story of a Bear and a Hare, the bear had never experienced Christmas and was portrayed as very much a Scrooge before the Hare gifted a present to the Bear, and inspired the emotion so prevalent around this time that so many of us feel at home, the brand included.

 

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!

But the young girl, showed nothing but compassion,

And that was all it took, to make the brand imagine.  

Overwhelmed with Christmas joy and cheer,

The brand learned a lesson, and attention was near.

 

The Man on the Moon

The brand was sitting and contemplating life (adverts do that sometimes), when it began to think about the reasons it uses brands, the reasons it chooses one company over the other and has a bias for that brand's products or services. It’s because they shared values, suddenly it dawned upon the brand that what it was watching was in fact an advertisement of a product, trying to convince him to buy into the brand, John Lewis, but also giving him an emotional reason to, relating to the feeling of loneliness the advert displays, the ad tapped into a rare emotional button the brand had hidden for so many years. Loneliness, the brand was lonely, it had spent all of it’s time and effort preparing its marketing strategy, and was getting no attention in return. The way in which the advert captured this shocked the brand, telling the story of an old man who lived by himself on the moon, and a little girl who sends him a telescope for Christmas:

 

 

Finally the brand begun to feel something, some genuine emotion, it realised the reason it couldn’t understand Christmas marketing was because it was thinking about Christmas marketing… The brand was to focused on promoting its products and optimising what it was doing that it never noticed the reasoning behind its consumers actions, going beyond their journey to purchase and user experience, it was the emotional reasoning that goes through every one of it’s customers minds before a purchase. The emotion that causes these stronger connections to people, just like the brand had experienced on it’s night before Christmas and the experience it planned on giving to every one of it’s customers in the many years to come.

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

 

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