Adverts that create communities…what we’ve been reading this week at Brand Genetics

ITS CHRRIIIISTMAAAAAAAS here in the UK! Or at least it feels that way, with the swathe of festive adverts gripping every waking minute of our digital lives. But with such hype and excitement surrounding the arrival of the Christmas adverts, we have found ourselves asking what marketeers could learn from this annual delirium…

The psychology behind advertising is fairly cut and dry — your success essentially comes down to an ability to evoke emotional reaction from those you’re targeting. Fear, love, pleasure and vanity have all become powerful drivers of consumer desires and response. And for those of us looking in, it feels like the yuletide campaigns achieve this to a far greater extent than those we consume year-round.

So how is it that they manage to pull at our heartstrings with such eminence?

Over the years, we’ve seen companies use everything from reverie to childhood nostalgia as a means of building anticipation. But with consumers increasingly seeking brands that represent their beliefs, are we likely to see the hedonism and excess of Christmas retail make way for a sense of community and belonging? This year’s crop of British ads certainly suggests this could be a possibility…

Long Live The High Street

With the Christmas rush fast becoming one of the biggest threats to high street shops and independent retailers, Visa are once again celebrating them as the heart of the community across the UK.

This year’s Christmas advert is a heartwarming rallying cry to the nation to support their local high streets. The emotive campaign encourages people to switch their focus from what they are buying to where they are buying, urging shoppers to show their local high streets some love this Christmas — and beyond!

As brick and mortar retail continues to struggle in the face of augmented e-commerce, it is encouraging to see a financial services company using the festive period as a platform to remind us that #WhereYouShopMatters.

Christmas Is For eVERYbody

This year, are celebrating the joy of a community coming together at Christmas time. The online retailer depicts an uplifting story of the familiar Chester Street residents joining forces to make Christmas extra-special for an elderly neighbour, who would otherwise be alone. The ad aims to encourage people to ‘get more out of giving’.

While allowing them to subtly promote their product range, the advert goes further in reminding us that some people aren’t quite as fortunate as ourselves. While Christmas has long been seen as a time to overindulge, this campaign instead focuses on the emotional benefit of altruistic giving.

This advert, in its heroing of small but thoughtful gifting, also plays to Russell Belk’s ‘six characteristics of the perfect gift’;

  • Sacrifice — signals time and effort (as well as money) has been spent on gift choice

Dialling Up Emotion

Whilst narrative has been a key driver for all the brands we’ve focused on, econometrics has also played a significant role in influencing Asda’s Christmas activity this year. As the supermarket looks to add another layer of storytelling and align perceptions of quality with their in-store, they realised they could make a bigger impact with fewer spots, so it reduced the number of ads it puts out to give them “more room to breathe”.

Not only has this ensured that their message around spreading the magic is clear and compelling, but it has also freed up budget for more purposeful endeavours.

As part of their campaign, Asda has created a children’s book, ‘Santa’s Leftover Magic’, and will donate 10% from every £3 sale in store to Fight Hunger and £1 for each of the first 10,000 books downloaded digitally. Through these endeavours, the supermarket retailer is truly living the narrative they have put out in the world. Powerful stuff!

HX Learnings

While the power of a compelling story in driving brand strength is hardly new news, the Christmas advert phenomenon has showed that big brands have the ability to cast off the shackles of yesterday and reinvent themselves as advocates of compassion and goodwill.

Though M&S and alike are still pioneering the finery and decadence that traditionally defined Christmas (and still do this brilliantly), this movement towards festive campaigns that encourage cultural unity and togetherness shows the true value of positive human thinking.

However, this movement is representative of a far broader shift in advertising. Over recent years, we’ve seen brands become more socially and politically engaged, as they seek to unite consumers behind a cause — and ultimately their products.

Beyond this, their desire to create communities speaks explicitly to our inherent human need for a sense of belonging. And in a world of such radical political, social and environmental upheaval, we’re craving this more than ever.

Simon Hall is a consultant at Brand Genetics, an insight and innovation agency specialising in human-centred insight and innovation. With a background in reinventing big businesses at pace, he has experience in creative problem solving, thought leadership and reframing human insight and has worked in strategy, leadership and change across business sectors.

Human-Centered Insight, Innovation and Trends from Brand Genetics

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