New John Lewis Christmas ad feels safe, cute and “ok”

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Every year over the last decade, John Lewis has released the Christmas TV ad that defines the bar for what other British brands must exceed. There must be a ton of pressure on the brand team and the agency. Below, I will show every John Lewis ad over the last decade for you to compare the 2019 ad against. Moreover, we can now start to see quite a lot of wobbling from year to year. This year’s spot introduces a cute fire-wielding dragon named Edgar, who keeps burning everything with his flames, until they find a better use for his talents. The simple moral of the story is we all have our strengths. It scores high on the cuteness factor, but low on being different enough to breakthrough, and lower on creating magic for the season, with no tears or goosebumps. It will do well, but not be one of the John Lewis ads that are talked about for years. Overall, a solid 7/10. I wish it was higher.

The 2019 John Lewis Christmas Ad

Scoring the 2019 John Lewis Christmas ad

ATTENTION

  • In year 10 of Christmas ads, any John Lewis Christmas spot will grab some attention. This year’s version will be moderate at best.

BRAND LINK

  • We’ve seen this type of spot from John Lewis with Moz in 2017, the penguin in 2014, and the bear in 2013. Being around unpredictable is fine, but bouncing doesn’t build assets to be used in the future.

COMMUNICATION

  • A very simple fable with a simple message of we all have our strengths is ok, feels a lot lighter than other years for John Lewis.

STICKINESS

  • High on cute, low on stickiness. Nothing overly emotional to make this a memorable John Lewis spot. Five years from now, it likely won’t be on anyone’s top 3 list.

The best advertising must balance being creatively different and strategically smart.

 

When ads are smart but not different, they get lost in the clutter. It is natural for marketers to tense up when the creative work ends up being “too different.” In all parts of the business, marketers are trained to look for past proof as a sign something will work. However, when it comes to advertising if the ads start too similar to what other brands have already done, then the advertising will be at risk of boring your consumers, so you never stand out enough to capture their attention. Push your comfort with creativity and take a chance to ensure your ad breaks through. 

 

When ads are different but not smart, they will entertain consumers, but do nothing for your brand. Your advertising must be smart enough to trigger the desired consumer response to match your brand strategy.

smart different

All the previous John Lewis Christmas ads

For a few years, there was hysteria and anticipation for the John Lewis Christmas ad, but that may be dying down if they fail to deliver. During the era amazing John Lewis advertising they were able to link the advertising with sales growth of 5-8%. The connectivity with consumers was helping buck the declines other retailers were facing with e-Commerce.

The ads generate a lot of talk value at the lunch table and in the pubs. Obviously, depending on views, that talk will be fairly mixed. Some will say they nailed it; others will say they’ve seen better John Lewis. My favourite is from 2011, 2010 and 2015. What are your top 3? 

2018: Elton John

It’s a 9 if it was for an Elton John movie coming out. It’s a 6 for Christmas. Yes, it’s enjoyable. Warm. Good story telling. It’s good but not great. Sadly, Elton won’t save Christmas for the John Lewis stores. The idea of “borrowed equity” is where you take something well-known in the marketplace and try to link it to your brand communication. It rarely works. It’s fine to use a song to tell your story, but never let the story get in the way of your brand. In this case, the Elton John equity overwhelms the John Lewis brand, and it overwhelms the power of Christmas. It becomes a great Elton John ad, not a great John Lewis ad. When I see brands use “borrowed equity,” it usually means they find their own brand too dull. Look below at the 2011 John Lewis ad, and tell me if it is boring. Alternatively, did the people at John Lewis get bored with your own brand?

2017: Moz the Monster

This spot was extremely safe. Likely the last few years, John Lewis has bounced around quite a bit, struggling to nail down a spot that delivered on the formula of 2009 to 2012 when they were pure magic. To me, the ad is OK, but not great. It’s cute, but not brilliant. It falls a little flat, compared to previous John Lewis ads. It has a monster, which feels like a cross between Monsters Inc. and the Monty the Penguin they did a few years ago. 

2016: Buster the Boxer

Pretty simple story. Kid likes to bounce on things. Dad builds a trampoline. Animals come out and bounce on it. Dog sees them and is jealous. Dog bounces on the trampoline before the kid gets to it. Kid disappointed? Mom and Dad disappointed? No one seems happy. But a dog on a video gets tons of views.

2015: Man on the Moon

This spot was great on story telling, but it might have gone overboard on sad. But I truly loved it. My second favorite John Lewis ad next to the 2011 spot.

Yes, the man on the moon is a metaphor (sorry, there really isn’t a man on the moon) for reaching out and giving someone a gift. For me, this ad quickly reminds me of when my own kids are on the phone or FaceTime with my mom. There is a certain magic in the innocence and simplicity when the very young talk with older people. They both seem to get it, maybe sometimes more than the in-between ages where the innocence of Christmas is lost within their busy schedules.

2014:

Pretty simple ad, a little similar to the 2017 spot. The imaginary penguin becomes his best friend, and in the end, he gets a penguin toy for Christmas. In 2017, the imaginary monster becomes his best friend and the monster gives him a toy so he won’t be scared at night. Pretty damn safe. Seems to be targeting younger moms and their toddlers.

2013

This ad a bit of a departure, going to animation and utilizing on-line and in-store media. This campaign seems trying too hard to capitalize on their success. Doesn’t feel like a fit for the depth of story-telling of the 2010 or 2011. I get the sense they felt they were too dark on tone in 2012, so they went very light in 2013.

2012: Snowman

The “snowman” ad went a bit too dark for me with missed the tone feeling like a slight miss for John Lewis. I felt they were trying too hard.  Maybe feeling the pressure to keep the campaign alive by being different when really the consumer just wants the fast-becoming-familiar-John-Lewis-magic each year.

2011: Counting Down

This one is my favorite John Lewis Christmas ad. Tells the story in a very emotional way and communicates the art of giving which is what the season should be about. 

2010: Your song

This is also a great one from 2010, with the story telling improving over the 2009 spot and Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Your song” is incredible. With the multiple stories throughout the spot, it has that “Love Actually” quality to the ad.

 

2009:

This ad was the starting point for the great advertising John Lewis would do. Engaging video story-telling with a soft cover of a classic song. These would become the trademark of the great John Lewis ads over the next few years.

Here are some of the best Christmas ads I have seen

John Lewis is certainly a beloved brand and one of the examples in our book

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The best Christmas ads I have ever seen

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Christmas adsChristmas is a great time to drive home the connection between consumers and the brand. Get your consumer into an emotional state, and hopefully, those emotions pay back to your brand. But not everyone can pull it off. You likely need to have an established love for your brand already, or it would come across as lacking authenticity. If you are looking to get into the holiday spirit, here are the best Christmas ads I have seen, from all over the world, from the past 30 or 40 years.

John Lewis of the UK

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 tug at the heart and bring a reminder of what the season is all about:  the gift of giving. I think this is the best one in the John Lewis (2011) series, with a nice twist and a tug at the heartstrings at the end.

 

Coke Argentina

Coca-Cola, the brand who came up with the look of how we see Santa Claus, makes a special ad every Christmas, to recreate the magic of Christmas. From Argentina, here’s a brilliant take on spreading the joy of the season.   

Budweiser in the US

The Budweiser Clydesdales were first introduced to the public in 1933, to celebrate the repeal of prohibition. August A. Busch Jr. presented the hitch as a gift to his father. That hitch proceeded to carry the first case of post-prohibition beer. Every Christmas you’ll see a team of Clydesdales pulling a case, a great icon of the American beer brand.

Canadian Tire of Canada

This is your classic sentimental Christmas ad, talking about family.  It’s done very well by retailer Canadian Tire.   They told a nice story, about the modern family.

Tim Horton’s in Canada

This ad will make you cry just a little bit.  A nice touch of reality about being a parent from the old school to the new school.

Kellogg’s in the US

A pretty darn whole ad, but pretty darn cute. We do need a bit of wholesome serotonin at this time of year.

Allegro in Poland

Great storytelling from Allegro, a Polish website. The ending is very heart-warming. Millions of views so far, lots of tears for sure.

 

Anuncio Lotería from Spain

Every year, there is a lottery just before Christmas, Anuncio Lotería de Navidad 2016. The last few years, they have done some great ads with deep story telling. This year, the ad tells a sweet story of a grandmother who catches the winning number on TV from a few years ago, believing she has won this year’s lottery. Very cute that the family goes along with it as she moves through the village. Nice ending.

Marks and Spencer from the UK

Marks and Spencer likely won the UK retailer contest of 2016. This ad does a nice job in telling the story of Mrs. Claus. While very modern, it still brings a lot of traditional touches of Christmas.

 

Edeka from Germany

A nice ad from EDEKA, Germany’s biggest supermarket encourages parents to spend more time with their kids.

 

Lidl from Ireland

Lidl uses a very traditional Christmas ad that speaks to how it should really feel.

WestJet Airlines from Canada

WestJet is an alternative airline to Air Canada, providing a better customer experience. For 6 straight years now, WestJet has done some of the better Christmas ads. This past year in the Western Canadian town of Fort McMurray, there was a fire that destroyed the entire town. This ad does a nice job in building around the recovery with a wink to Who’ville.

 

Sainsbury’s from the UK 

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War 1, Sainsbury’s created this very high production spot, telling the story of how the soldiers took a break from the war to share Christmas together.

Mulberry in the UK

Not your normal holiday spirit type ad, but I love the big idea behind this ad: WIN CHRISTMAS. So what beats a beautiful portrait, a puppy that waves or a unicorn? A new bag from Mulberry!!!  That’s what.

 

Burberry in the UK

The ad portrays Thomas Burberry as an obsessive inventor and entrepreneur showcasing the emotion he put into his craft. It may take liberties on the excitement of his life–bordering on making him into the world’s most interesting man in the world–but we certainly can feel his purpose and passion shining through.

 

Apple iPhone from the US

In this 90-second TV ad, it shows a typical teenager hanging onto this iPhone constantly, and then from there, the magic happens.

 

Aldi in Australia

What would happen if Santa crash-landed in the Australian outback? Nice spot.

 

 

Bouygues France

Beautiful spot from France that will make you smile, dance and maybe shed a tear

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I wrote my book, Beloved Brands, as the playbook for how to build a brand your consumers will love.

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In his marketing career, Graham led some of the world’s most beloved brands at Johnson and Johnson, Coke, General Mills, and Pfizer, rising up to VP Marketing. He has won numerous awards including Marketing Magazine’s “Marketer of the Year”, Businessweek’s best new product award and four Effie advertising awards. His book, Beloved Brands, is the playbook for how to build a brand consumers will love.

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The new John Lewis ad with Elton John fails to deliver Christmas

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The new John Lewis 2018 Christmas advertising is finally out. It was well known the British retailer would be using Elton John, but not many of us knew to what extent. The ad does a great job in showing Elton’s entire life story, moving backward, to see the source of his inspiration for music. It is well done. However, it’s not a Christmas ad. It doesn’t capture the joy of giving. There’s no surprising twist. It’s a celebrity ad, but is it a John Lewis ad?

I’ll give this sir Elton spot a solid 7/10.

It’s a 9 if it was for an Elton John movie coming out. It’s a 6 for Christmas. Yes, it’s enjoyable. Warm. Good storytelling. It’s good but not great. Sadly, Elton won’t save Christmas for the John Lewis stores.

Ugh: Borrowed Equity

The idea of “borrowed equity” is where you take something well-known in the marketplace and try to link it to your brand communication. It rarely works. It’s fine to use a song to tell your story, but never let the story get in the way of your brand. In this case, the Elton John equity overwhelms the John Lewis brand, and it overwhelms the power of Christmas. It becomes a great Elton John ad, not a great John Lewis ad.

When I see brands use “borrowed equity,” it usually means they find their own brand too dull. Look below at the 2011 John Lewis ad, and tell me if it is boring. Alternatively, did the people at John Lewis get bored with your own brand?

This Elton John ad could easily have been used  to announce the merger of John Lewis and Waitrose, and we would have thought “hey, that’s a nice spot.” As for a Christmas ad, this one flops.

The pressure seems to be getting to brands

For a few years, there was hysteria and anticipation for the John Lewis Christmas ad, but that may be dying down if they fail to deliver. During the era amazing John Lewis advertising they were able to link the advertising with sales growth of 5-8%. The connectivity with consumers was helping buck the declines other retailers were facing with e-Commerce.

The ad will generate a lot of talk value at the lunch table and in the pubs. However, that talk will be fairly mixed. Some will say they nailed it; others will say they’ve seen enough of Elton John, and others will say it’s not about Christmas.

Will it work?

What it won’t do is separate John Lewis from the pack this holiday season, nor will it drive consumers into their stores. It fails to communicate on the joy of giving, which John Lewis had nailed so well. It will be memorable for those who love Elton John, who is likely over 50 or 60, but certainly not under 25.

So now the ad team will start working on those scripts for 2019. My advice: watch the 2011 spot and give your consumers a story like that. It’s ok if it looks similar. That’s what people want. Comfort.

2011: Counting down

This is my favorite John Lewis ad from 2011, about the boy who couldn’t wait for Christmas. Great story telling about the boy who could not wait, but with a nice surprise at the end. You will notice the “Man on the Moon” feels very similar. But that’s OK, traditions are allowed to have some repetition to the ritual.

2010: “Your song”

This is also a great one from 2010, with the story telling improving over the 2009 spot and Ellie Goulding’s cover of “Your song” is incredible. With the multiple stories throughout the spot, it has that “Love Actually” quality to the ad.

2009: Sweet Child of Mine

This ad was the starting point for the great advertising John Lewis would do. Engaging video story-telling with a soft cover of a classic song. These would become the trademark of the great John Lewis ads over the next few years.

 

 

To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

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The love and tradition behind the Starbucks red cups

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If you have been into a Starbucks the last few weeks, you’ll certainly feel the magic of the holiday season. 

 

Starbucks

 

Every Starbucks feels well-decorated but never overstated. You can smell peppermint and ginger as soon as you walk in. If you want to add some flavor to your regular Latte, you can go for a Caramel Brûlé, Eggnog or Peppermint. And if you want to try one of the Christmas desserts, there’s Gingerbread loaf, Frosted Snowman cookies or the Cranberry Bliss Bar.  Better yet, have you had one of those incredible Peppermint Brownie Cake Pops?  

And of course, there is the Starbucks Red Cup.

As the red cups arrived at Starbucks as early as November 1st, you could see the Facebook posts and my 15-year-old daughter was “SO EXCITED” (her words)  But it is such a great understated brand cue for Starbucks to link into the holiday season.  They are in year 10 of the cups, and it’s become something we now connect with the modern-day world of Christmas.

 

Starbucks

 

When you look online, you’ll see how big these little red cups are.  There is a website dedicated to the countdown. And of course, there are tons of tweets about the Red Cups, every time a consumer has one for the first time, signaling their excitement to all their network. That’s tons of free media.  

Starbucks is a beloved brand

In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and finally becoming a Beloved Brand for lifeAt the Beloved stage, demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings. Consumers become outspoken fans. It’s this connection that helps drive power for your brand: power versus competitors, versus customers, versus suppliers and even versus the same consumers you’re connected with. The farther along the curve, the more power for the brand. It’s important that you understand where your brand sits on the Love Curve and begin figuring out how to move it along towards becoming a Beloved Brand.

 

When you reach the Beloved stage like Starbucks, it becomes all about the experience and the magical moments you can create. While you can continue to attack yourself before others can attack you, it’s also about maintaining the love by creating a bit of magic to surprise and delight your most loyal consumers. For a brand that taps into a routine, having a regular set of drinks and desserts around Christmas gives the consumers some festive favorites to liven up the routine a little bit. Being a life ritual each and every day gets even bigger when you become a tradition each Christmas.

Christmas starts early

From a pure business point of view, Christmas starts November 1st all the way to December 31st, which means that one-sixth of the year, you are in red cups. After 10 years of red cups, Starbucks fully understands how the simple gesture connects with consumers and how it links Starbucks to one of those holiday traditions.  

“When the cups turn red at Starbucks, that’s one of the first cues that the holidays are upon us. The emotional connection that our store partners (employees) have when they open that first box of the red cups and start using them that first day, and the emotional connection they see from their customers, that’s what we strive for. They see that surprise and excitement: ‘Oh, the red cups are at Starbucks!”

– Terry Davenport, Senior Vice President, Global Brand

On top of that Starbucks now has captured the entire calendar with specials around Valentines, St Paddy’s Day, Easter, Summer Drinks and Halloween (personally, I love the pumpkin stuff).

To stay in the holiday spirit, you can read up on how John Lewis has been using Christmas ads for the past 5 years to really connect with the consumer.

 

Click on this to get to the article: 

John Lewis Christmas ads

Hope you are ready for the holidays