Christmas Brand Storytelling: Holiday Ads And What They Say

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Who works harder than Santa’s elves at Christmas? Marketing folks in the B2C space! It’s a key moment to grab attention, gain plaudits, and deliver a winning holiday brand story at at time when consumer spending has the biggest impact on the bottom line. Brands go all in on Hollywood stars, lavish ad campaigns and big ad buys.

Who wins the story wars? And who is as sickening as Aunt Florence’s fruitcake? Here are some examples of big Christmas campaigns, along with how to warm hearts, not roll eyes.

Burberry’s Biopic

We’ve written about Burberry’s brand story revival before, but this star-studded Oscar epic in the making is perhaps peak legacy storytelling. Domnhall Gleeson, of Harry Potter and Star Wars fame, plays the titular protagonist in the lushly produced ad. Burberry’s brand story of British craftsmanship reverberates through the entire ad, but the classy production and glamorous locales underline the luxury of the brand. Admittedly, the ad tends towards the bombastic, but it IS Christmas.

Christmas brand storytelling is about amplification, not reinvention. It’s a time when everyone is pushing hard into a crowded media space, and you can’t just be louder, you have to exceptional. As we learned with our own brand storytelling videos, making a splash in a major commercial holiday requires a plan.

Westjet’s Winter Weepy

The Canadian airline Westjet never promised to differentiate their in-flight experience based on luxury. Rather, their brand resonates with pragmatism and teamwork. The brand story is built on the promise that they will build an in-flight experience that is friendly and sees the passenger as a person, not as a number. How to make this brand story holiday-ready?  This born-viral take on Secret Santa.

Taking on Santa as a part-time holiday worker (and equipping him with a new, on-brand suit), the frantic mission to get the presents on the carousel is fun and emotionally resonant. It also reinforces Westjet’s carefully created “caring airline” brand story.

H&M’s Hipster Holiday


Often, we think of emotionally resonant brand storytelling and we think “pass the tissues”. It’s true; many ads aim for tears. However, tears aren’t your only option (and they can seem kind of played out after years of clickbait). H&M’s Christmas effort this year is another high-end effort, bringing director Wes Anderson and his distinctive sensibility to the table. Adrien Brody heads up a group of fashionably dressed people dealing with a Christmas crisis. Although the message is sweet and upbeat, it can be enjoyed with ironic detachment. H&M is a fast-fashion brand; their brand story is rooted in making the upscale and chic as accessible as the Gap. This video brings Wes Anderson’s LA chic to a sweet Christmas story; it’s cool (and makes your heart grow two sizes).

Christmas Brand Storytelling: Some Pointers

So, don’t have the budget for Adrien Brody? No army of staff to wrap hundreds of presents? Don’t worry. That’s not the magic at work here.

  1. It’s About The Story: Each of these offerings has an engaging story driving the narrative. Humans are addicted to story, and not to Adrien Brody.
  2. Stick To One Clear Idea: Don’t complicate the message. Know what your brand stands for and stick to that story.
  3. Be Unique: It’s a competitive marketplace. You probably can’t win the ad dollars arms race, so craft a message that resonates with your target audience and make it worthy of attention.
  4. It’s A Season For Giving: Put your customers at the centre of your marketing efforts. It’s a season to be inspiring, cheerful and positive. Of all your story archetypes, it might not be the time for tragedies.
  5. Be Authentic: Cheap sentiment abounds in marketing, especially at Christmas. The antidote? Be real with people.