There's something about holiday ad campaigns. I still remember the commercials that aired on TV during winter breaks growing up. The handbell ringing Hershey's kisses. The snowman who turns into a boy after eating Campbell's chicken noodle soup. The girl who saves a sloppy Santa with Bounty paper towels.
Companies' holiday campaigns might make you smile or turn you into a Grinch who just wants to get back to watching Monday Night Football or This is Us. But if you own a business or work in marketing, there are lessons to be learned. The best holiday commercials tell a story and evoke emotion -- and stay on brand doing it.
There's a reason outdoors recreation equipment retailer REI for five years has been kicking off the holiday season with its pre-Thanksgiving #OptOutside campaign. It makes sense that it's been closing its doors on Black Friday and encouraging its employees and customers to spend the day outside. It's incredibly on brand.
Not every company gets this successfully. Take Peloton's holiday ad, which went viral this week for all the wrong reasons, namely that people hate it and have been calling it sexist. The spot features a slender, wary-looking woman who receives one of the stationary bikes from her partner or husband for Christmas. After a year of documenting her Peloton journey selfie-style, the woman, trim as ever, says she never knew how it would change her. Viewers aren't buying it. And the company's stock took a hit.
Peloton stands behind the ad, telling CNBC in an email, "We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them." I have reached out to Peloton, but as of the publication had not heard back from the company.
Sometimes standing out means not going viral. Here are four 2019 holiday campaigns that I think stand out because the companies behind them stayed true to themselves.
The online giant's singing boxes are back, and everyone is singing "Everybody needs somebody." There's diversity of skin color, ages and people who love people. There's at least one puppy. What's not to love? My daughter Penny and I have been humming along when this one pops up during our evening TV programming.
That #package on your doorstep is more than just a box, it's anticipation, comfort and "a thinking of you." We definitely got the warm and fuzzies watching @amazon's holiday ad: https://t.co/ygLAj3pQZ7-- Paper & Packaging (@HowLifeUnfolds) November 23, 2019
The underlying message: Everybody needs Amazon. Love it or hate it, it's true. On brand.
2. Etsy UK
In its spot "Here's to the Givers," the online marketplace for hand-made and hand-picked finds pays homage to the people who find all the cool gifts for the people in their lives. "Here's to you. The tradition keepers. The celebration starters. The finders of one-of-kind belongings. Made and sold by real people that reflect who we are. Here's to you, the givers." There are a few different versions, each one presenting products and makers of those products in slideshow fashion.
Here's to you - the people who find one-of-a-kind belongings on Etsy-- Etsy UK (@EtsyUK) November 16, 2019
Our Christmas Gift Guide is packed full of unique gift ideas for everyone. Find something special by visiting https://t.co/Aml1HAiqfU#HeresToTheGivers pic.twitter.com/Qealjy3M4Q
Etsy UK is appealing to those who like to give unique gifts, because one-of-a-kind is its brand.
In "The Negotiation," a boy snaps a picture of Santa unloading gifts. Santa tries to keep him off with fancy electronics, but the kids want his sleigh -- a red Mercedes-Benz. After the kid notes the photo could go viral, the scene cuts to him in the driver's seat. Voiceover: "For those who never compromise, the Mercedes-Benz winter event." Clearly Mercedes-Benz is saying compromising is for ... well, Kia drivers, I guess. Perfect.
In "First Christmas," an Elf enters a convenience story to buy cookies for Santa. He goes up to the counter with Oreos and a soda. The cashier: "You don't know how this works do you?" Elf shakes his head and says its his first day. The cashiers whips out a carton of milk that he pours into a glass and then he demonstrates what we all know -- how to eat the Oreo cookie. Oreo is a classic, and it stayed true to its brand with an ad that feels its classic holiday commercials of my Gen X youth.
You do you, whatever you do.
So if you are considering any kind of holiday-themed marketing, advertising or communication make sure it all rings true according to your company's values or what your company is known for. It doesn't have to be commercials and radio spots if those aren't in your budget. It could be the greetings cards, e-blasts or social media posts you produce. Be true to you and your company.