At this time of year, we see so many Christmas ads on TV. In fact, we are bombarded. Like my local radio station that plays non-stop Christmas music, I’ve come to realize there are only 3-4 great Christmas songs and lots and lots of crap all day long. It’s the same thing with Christmas ads. Lots of call to action “start your shopping” crap on TV.
The best Christmas ads I’ve ever seen are from John Lewis, the department store in the UK. They use beautiful music, a movie-like storyline that demonstrates the beauty of gift giving, stretched out over 90 seconds. No words are needed to tell the story. They are not loaded with so much branding that they would turn you off before inviting you in. They tug at the heart and bring a reminder of what the season is all about: the gift of Giving.
Every marketer asks their ad agency “I want a big idea”, but no one really has the patience to build one. It can take years of continually layering on the creative idea for consumers to know that it’s you. John Lewis has been doing this same type of ads for years, helping to move the brand from indifferent to liked and to loved.
Consistency in ad technique is a great device for driving brand link. With each year of the campaign, consumers are now starting to look forward to the latest John Lewis ad. They don’t need to load the screen with excessive branding, because they now own the idea.
For all those concerned that advertising has to drive hard against short term sales, these softer more emotional ads connect deeply, and live the idea that “if you build it, they will come”. In fact, John Lewis sales for 2011 are up 10%, and have doubled in the past 10 years. Contrast that to the dismal sales at other stores in the UK and around the world. Here’s the last two years of John Lewis Ads, 2010 and 2009, and you’ll see the consistency of the idea building over time.
It’s not just about advertising with John Lewis, it’s about employee commitment. One very interesting aspect of John Lewis is the culture of the company, which is 100% employee owned. Every employee is a partner and can influence the business through branch forums, which discuss local issues at every store. All employees are on a bonus plan, with cheques at the end of the year tied to results. Happy employees work harder to drive the brand.
The partnership also has numerous social activities for partners including large country estates, golf clubs, sailing clubs and two hotels that offer holiday accommodations. They have great pension plans, insurance coverage and generous holidays. Upon completing 25 years of service, employees are given 6 months off with pay
Happy holidays to all and here’s to a prosperous 2012 for all brands daring to strive for Beloved Status.