What Challenger Brands can steal from Santa

Stephen Bradshaw

Christmas is a time for family and friends. It’s about reunions, decorations, turkeys, selection boxes, over indulgence, Netflix binges, and kids revelling in the magic of the festive spirit.

It’s also a big time in the calendar for many consumer brands, all attempting to hijack a little of the spotlight when the public mood is so generous and empathetic.

For some industries with seasonal peaks and troughs (e.g. toys or greeting cards) it’s crunch time. But every industry and brand can gain something from riding the coattails of the sleighs and winning over hearts and minds. Surprise and delight your audience at this time of the year and you’ll earn kudos and recognition next time they pass your products on the shelves, streets or in the showrooms.


Bask in the Reflected Glory

Take Greggs in the UK for example. The nationwide bakery chain have a history of festive cheek, as much as spirit, and they outdid themselves this year at their Northumberland Street branch. As it so happens, this store stands directly across the road from Fenwick's department store.

For years they admired Fenwick’s famed Christmas window display when the lights were turned on at this time of the year. This year however, they decided to take action and bask in Fenwick’s reflective glories, quite literally - by reversing the logo over their doorway to ensure centre stage in the window display across the street as pedestrians passed by.


Reversing the logo also hijacked another modern cultural celebration moment…the selfie.


Hijack the Spirit of Friendship

Closer to home, Three and Samsung have just unveiled #theconnectedrestaurant in Dublin and Sydney to reunite family and friend this Christmas. The Connected Restaurant will welcome diners in Ireland and Australia with one half of the restaurant opening in Dublin and the other in Sydney separated only by large screen.

Passing the gravy might be an issue, but this feelgood campaign enables family and friends on opposite sides of the globe the opportunity to come together to share a Christmas dinner like no other.

A couple of years ago, Coca-Cola ran a similar campaign, uniting locals in Lapland with the people of sunny Singapore in realtime. Laplanders were encouraged to scoop up snow and shovel it into the festive machine – prompting a flurries of snowflakes to emerge from the matching machine in central Singapore so that everybody could enjoy a white Christmas.


Hijack Other Brands

Speaking of Coke, they have always attempted to hijack Christmas, indeed it was a Christmas campaign nearly a century ago that led to the image of Santa that is universally understood today. (Previous to this campaign, Santa wore green.) Last year, they were beaten at their own game when Greenpeace hijacked Coke’s traditional feelgood TV campaigns, to highlight the damage being done to the environment through waste plastics - Coke produce an estimated 110 billion plastic bottles a year and much of this ends up in landfills or in the oceans.


Hijack Cats

It wouldn’t be a Christmas in the digital age without an obligatory cat video and Temptations, the cat treats producers, haven’t let us down. Their amusing Christmas campaign last year ensured that they were centre stage for cat lovers everywhere with their ‘Keep them Busy” YouTube hit.

(I wonder if they changed their ‘tasty chicken flavour’ to turkey for the occasion?)



Hijack Rebellion

A common complaint against marketing in general is the commoditisation of national, personal and religious celebrations, from birthdays to holidays, Easter Sundays, Black Fridays, Valentines Day...every year we have another reason to buy a card, a present, something.

Outdoor apparel retailer, REI are putting up a stand and for Black Friday, they closed all of their 151 stores, stopped processing online sales, and gave their staff the day off (with pay) to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. Their #OptOutside alternative to Black Friday has been running for the last 2 years to much acclaim and being outdoor clothing specialists, you can see how this plays into their brand values.

So there you have it, the choice is yours. If you’re going to run a Christmas campaign, try a novel approach to capture the public’s attention or else make a stand against the commoditisation of the world by following REI’s example and opting out to win the plaudits and brand loyalty for longer term rewards.

(Or if all else fails, make a cat video.)

Ironically enough, whatever approach you go for, you’re aiming for the same thing - hijacking a little bit of the Christmas spirit - and our advice is to start planning for next year’s campaign sooner rather than later.

We’re here to help.


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