Every year, without fail, brands compete for the best holiday commercial position. The finest ones manage to bring a lot of success and sales, while the meh ones barely make a mark and disappear (only to try harder next year).
And why shouldn’t they?
Holidays are one of the best seasons to multiply sales, consumers, and audience. According to Socialbakers' data, brands' Christmas campaigns received, on average, 3.3 times the number of YouTube views than their standard campaigns.
"Marketers are putting bigger budgets behind their holiday videos, both in ad budgets to reach more viewers and also likely a greater spend in creating them.”
Socialbakers founder and chairman, Jan Rezab
Let’s discuss some of the best holiday video campaigns and why they made it big.
Note: Keep a tissue box handy, because there’s going to be a lot of tears.
“Highly emotional storytelling with a bit of controversy thrown in – it’s an exceptional ad.”
Edeka (a German supermarket’s) holiday video, ‘#heimkommen’ was a real tearjerker. Following the trend of holiday ‘sadverts’, Edeka released their 2015 christmas ad ‘#heimkommem’ or ‘#homecoming’ to great applause (and quite a few tears). Within a week it gathered over 2 million views (it’s over 60 million views presently) and became the best holiday ad of the year.
Emotional storytelling was done absolutely right. While entire video pulls at your heart-strings and makes you sniffle, the end isn’t heartbreaking or sad. This ad doesn’t ruin your holiday, instead, it makes you want to call up your family ASAP and profess your undying love for them. It’s sad, but not overwhelmingly sad. The storyline is incredibly simple with a strong opening hook, a heart-stopping climax, and a happy ending. It was also shot beautifully.
They’ve made sure to focus on their consumers and their problems in the holiday season, which is why it resonated so well with their audience. It shows that they did their research very thoroughly on their audience prior to creating this video.
Edeka: Weihnachten 2117
They managed to hit it out of the park with their 2017 holiday video, as well. Reminiscent of Wall-E and Terminator, ‘Weihnachten 2117’ stars a robot trying to find love in an AI-ruled, dystopian 2117. Not only is it packed with a ton of emotion, but it’s also on-trend as AI (Artificial Intelligence) was named the ‘marketing word of 2017’ and is one of the biggest fears of pretty much everyone.
They weren’t the only ones thinking along the lines of a dystopian world and end of times; other brands like Halo Top (Eat the Icecream) and Jose Cuervo (Last days) also came out with similar themed commercials.
So, thorough research about latest trends and their audience + emotional appeal + a simple, creative storyline = a viral holiday hit.
Both these campaigns were created with ad agency Jung von Matt, which shows that partnering with a great agency can truly take your video production and marketing to next level.
Aldi: Telescope Christmas
What’s better than a sad, emotional ad? An ad that has you in stitches.
While John Lewis famous 2015 holiday commercial ‘The Man on Moon’ got everyone teary-eyed (and also got a bit of censure from people for being a bit too sad), Aldi’s parody ad making fun of John Lewis’s while simultaneously informing people that Aldi’s telescope is a whole lot cheaper (a John Lewis one for £109.95 and an Aldi one for £69.99) had everyone in stitches.
Cheeky and hilarious, it sure knows how to stand out in a season dominated by sadverts. It raced to 600,000 Youtube views within 24 hours, which is no small feat. It also led the social media impact by 12 points (Aldi scored of 154 compared to John Lewis’ 142), with Sainsbury’s advert coming at second position.
“If there’s one thing that the Aldi advert has shown us it’s that being agile and creating on-the-fly content can be a hugely successful strategy.”
WE’s head of digital and insights, Gareth Davies
It not only created a fun holiday video, but also managed to advertise their products and compare them favourably to its competitors.
"Our latest advert highlights Aldi’s ongoing commitment to offering high quality products at unbeatable prices that shoppers will be over the moon with.”
Jonathan Neale, the joint managing director of corporate buying at Aldi
Case in point: Spoofs can go viral if done right.
Aldi: Kevin the Carrot
Another holiday season, another hit. Aldi’s on a roll.
Every year at Christmas, Aldi’s loyal customers venture out to other high-end supermarkets for various reasons. Aldi is for everyday, while luxurious brands are for holidays. To counter this line of thinking and convince those ex-loyal customers that this discount store is for the holidays as well, Aldi comes out with epic holiday videos (part commercial, part parody).
In 2016, it released Kevin the Carrot holiday commercial, which used brilliant storytelling to show a broad range of products Aldi has to offer.
They also released a spoof video where Kevin super-excited for John Lewis’s video to come out.
It was astounding hit. Aldi beat all of the other grocery retailers in the UK by achieving 15.1% YoY sales in a market that grew by only 2.9%, and attracted 1 million new shoppers in the UK and 37,000 in Ireland. Their customers remained loyal throughout Christmas. The campaign itself received an 18.27% engagement rate (bypassing the industry benchmark of 3%), 1 million social media interactions and over 7.5 million video views. The campaign reached a global audience of 2.3 million in just its first week.
Pretty amazing, right?
Since then, every year, Kevin comes back with amazing new adventures. In 2017 Kevin has a love interest, and this year Aldi used Kevin the Carrot reaches the dinner table in a lorry strangely reminiscent of the age old quintessential Coca Cola’s holiday lorry, and fights the evil parsnip. These adverts are heartwarming, magical, tell a beautiful story, and sneakily market all of their holiday special products.
A little teaser:
What happens next:
Case in point: Research your consumers pain points and figure out how you can overcome them through video commercials. Aldi turned boring into magical with Kevin the Carrot, so instead of shooting in the dark with a fancy commercial, pinpoint the exact pain points/conflicts and desires of your consumers and work with that. And build your narrative around a character that your audience will recognize and root for.
London’s Heathrow Airport: Coming Home for Christmas
What does an airport represent? Reunion. Farewells. Happy tears. Sad tears. Nostalgia for the long gone days. Excitement for the days to come. And families coming to meet you.
London’s Heathrow airport celebrated christmas in 2016 with two adorable grandparent bears who’re coming home for christmas. They make you want to go inside the advert, hug them, and lead them through the airport (Heathrow, of course). Heathrow Airport also made sure that the advert appealed to the British, their main audience, by making it classy, subtle, and full of emotions.
“After an overwhelming response across the globe to Doris and Edward last year, we had to bring these lovable bears back to our screens. We hear from our passengers that there is no greater feeling than being wrapped in the arms of a loved one at Christmas. We wanted the advert to capture this unique feeling and make people feel even more excited to welcome friends and family this festive season.”
says Ross Baker, Heathrow’s commercial director
After the astounding success of this advert, they came back in 2017 and 2018 with equally amazing, heartwarming, and tear-jerker sequels. I’d even go as far as to say the 2018 one was my absolute favourite.
They did storytelling absolutely right, and then did the follow up marketing right too by turning their two (super-popular) characters into brand ambassadors and creating separate hashtags, landing pages, and social media handles for them.
While this holiday season is almost gone, you can start brainstorming for the next one. It takes time and effort to come up with a concept, storyline, characters, and ultimately a video that will stay in your audience’s mind for a long time and elevate your brand.
So stay on trend, load up on emotional appeal, gather audience data, and then blow everyone away.