How to approach Christmas video content marketing in 2021

06th September 2021

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” When Robert Wells and Mel Tormé wrote The Christmas Song, it was a searing hot summer in Los Angeles. The songwriters would sympathise with the marketing industry, where Christmas planning begins in July and August while the rest of the world is thinking about the summer holidays. The same summer holidays, which were – of course – planned out in the depths of autumn.

It is as traditional as turkey and sprouts for marketing departments to splurge on Christmas campaigns. Decking the reels with sparkles and jaunty sleigh bell music, they jockey for prime time TV spots, knowing that even a lazy campaign would likely be successful in front of an audience whose wallets were already prised open. Or they did. But times have changed, as this BBC article makes clear.

Should you make a Christmas ad?

Audiences are more sophisticated than they used to be. You can’t hang a bit of tinsel on a second-rate ad and hope for the best. If you could, it’s doubtful that John Lewis would have spent a reported £7 million on its 2015 Christmas effort. And even then, does it look right to splurge on a festive campaign? Reeling from the impact of Covid-19, in which John Lewis closed eight department stores, its head of brand marketing told The Drum the company nearly didn’t make an ad last year.

TV Christmas campaigns are a big investment in time and cash, and returns are dwindling as eyes move away from advertisement-funded TV channels to subscription model streaming services or social media. There are exceptions, but a lavish TV ad (like one of these) is probably not your best bet for 2021.

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Why Christmas video content marketing still matters

So that’s settled. It’s a ‘no’. Don’t make a Christmas ad. Keep calm and carry on thinking about which Carry On film you’re going to watch on Boxing Day. Save the Christmas kitty and spend it on a more linear marketing pattern. Or blow it all in January when everything will be half the price.

But wait. Stop.

This isn’t right, is it? Christmas is still a huge opportunity. The market is huge – that’s why it comes at a premium. And it’s more than that.

Emotional opportunity

Christmas may be the season of schmaltz but there’s a reason for that. The season of goodwill is an opportunity to show how much you care. Remember that authenticity rather than manipulation is the object here; there’s no need to tug on heartstrings in the name of selling toasters. If a little Christmas cheer should rub off on your brand, that’s no bad thing.

Last year, for instance, we did the Home. Hope. Song. Shelter Christmas Carol Service video. For charities, Christmas is synonymous with giving and the opportunity to embed that message in a powerful bit of storytelling chimes with the time of year like the bells on Santa’s sleigh.


I’m making Christmas video content: now what?

So, you’ve decided to do some Christmas video content marketing. Great! Now what?

Too often, Christmas ideas are lazy rehashes of Christmas tropes. And that’s because the thinking starts in the wrong place. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you should start by listing all the minor celebrities you might be able to get to front your campaign. Instead, get the business together and ask yourself three questions:

  1. Why are we making a Christmas video?
  2. What are we hoping to achieve with our Christmas video?
  3. Who is it for?

With all of your key stakeholders in the room, the first question is an opportunity to explore where the business feels the value is in your campaign. Or, indeed, if there is any value in the campaign. If you’ve got this far, there probably is.

But what is it? The second question mines this detail for what effect your Christmas video marketing campaign should aim for. This will vary wildly depending on your business. Are you trying to create brand awareness or shift units? Google has reported that 71 per cent of UK shoppers used three or more channels to do their holiday shopping in 2019 – which ones do you need to target? What stage of the sales funnel are you aiming for? Awareness? Lead generation? Mid-funnel conversion? Retention?

And then comes perhaps the most important question: who is it for? This has always been a critical part of marketing thinking, but perhaps more in an age when the channel is so widely dispersed. Do you need a polished production or would something shot on a smartphone and shared via social media do just as well? Develop a profile – or profiles – of the person you’re trying to reach. Give him/her a name, age and some background (interests, hobbies, lifestyle). Where do they live? Where do they go on holiday? What do they do at Christmas? 

Christmas video content marketing execution

Now that you are no longer staring at a blank piece of paper, you have direction and are ready to work on your execution. I can’t tell you how to do this in a blog post, because there are thousands of variables based on the questions above. But you can use your judgement to proceed, remembering to stick to a clear plan, not letting decision by committee ruin your film and building in time to test and tweak your ideas.

And it’s not too late to engage a video agency (I hear Hurricane Media is very good, incidentally). Even if you know what you want, we can help with animations, infographics and editing. But if you don’t, get in touch and we’ll see if we can steer you on your way.

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