Family and friends coming together, small acts of kindness from strangers and moments of wonder and magic seen through the eyes of a child are the standard stuff of Christmas ads. Some of this year’s most highly anticipated ads from the likes of John Lewis and Coca-Cola tap into these familiar themes, while others (Tesco and Myer are two good examples) make more explicit references to the dumpster fire that was 2020.
Examining the Christmas ads that have been released so far this year sheds some interesting light on how retailers think Covid-19 has changed consumer behaviour and the messages that will be most effective in driving them to spend.
For instance, with Burberry, McDonald’s UK, Disney EMEA, John Lewis, Waitrose and Boots all tying their holiday ads to a charity initiative, it seems that social impact will be an important consideration for consumers this Christmas.
Burberry’s campaign, a modern take on the classic song-and-dance number ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, was released last week in conjunction with a statement about the brand’s new partnership with professional footballer Marcus Ashford to support disadvantaged youth.
“This campaign is about looking forwards, looking to the future – inspired by youth, it brings together a community of different talents and worlds as one,” Riccardo Tisci, Burberry’s chief creative officer, said.
McDonald’s UK is donating all proceeds from the ‘Forever Young’ cover that plays under its emotional ‘Inner Child’ ad to FareShare, a food redistributor in the UK, while Disney EMEA has released a new version of the vintage Mickey Mouse doll that appears in its ‘From Our Family to Yours’ ad to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The clearest example of this purpose-driven Christmas campaign trend comes from Boots, which highlights the issue of hygiene poverty in the UK in its ad. The retailer has pledged to donate £1 million worth of products this Christmas and is asking customers to support The Hygiene Bank, a charity helping to fight hygiene poverty.
Research suggests that conscious consumerism has accelerated in the wake of Covid-19. In a recent IBM survey of more than 12,500 people around the world, over 40 per cent said they are considering sustainability to a great extent when shopping or choosing a brand this year, and over 54 per cent said they are willing to change their holiday purchasing habits to help reduce environmental impact, despite the impact of Covid-19 on their budgets and employment.
Similarly, a survey conducted by CouriersPlease in Australia found that 87 per cent of shoppers said they are more likely to purchase products that are ethically and sustainably produced. Another survey conducted by New Zealand-based nonprofit Fair & Good found that 51 per cent said where they choose to spend their money has become more important since Covid-19.
Not all about purpose
However, Matt Newell, partner and CEO of Sydney-based retail consultancy The General Store, cautioned that recent data on conscious consumerism can be misleading.
“I actually think that Covid has created a two-horse race, with two groups of people shopping differently, and it can be dangerous to try and combine that into one trend,” he told Inside Retail.
Those who came through the pandemic and economic crisis relatively unscathed, with their jobs and savings accounts intact, are more likely to respond to a message around social impact, he said, while those who have been harder hit are more likely to be price-driven, if they’re spending at all.
“The data exists for both, and retailers need to work out which mood or mindset the majority of their customers are in and try to service that,” Newell said.
Colin Barnard, commercial director of digital advertising platform Criteo ANZ, told Inside Retail that consumers didn’t necessarily switch off to price and product-driven messaging during the pandemic, as evidenced by Australia’s record-breaking e-commerce sales over the past year.
“Online sales soared and certain sectors of offline retail performed really well by focusing on marketing relevant products such as home office and home improvements,” he said.
“In fact, Criteo data shows that some retailers have more than doubled their online sales since Covid-19 struck.”
While the data also show that more shoppers are choosing brands according to their values, with 37 per cent of consumers only buying from brands that align with their values, Barnard said messages around product, price and promotions will be more important than ever this Christmas due to the shift to online shopping.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Newell.
“For people who had a difficult year, you can say, ‘We’re going to support you with an affordable Christmas, with great products at great prices’,” he said. “There are two clear directions happening, and there is value in doing both.”
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