In a few weeks’ time, the annual Christmas advertising season will kick off in earnest as brands begin a Yuletide slugfest for the hearts, minds and wallets of Irish consumers.
his year, however, the Christmas-background mood music will be a little different.
Set against a backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the heartbreak it has unleashed on thousands of families around the country, never mind job losses, ongoing lockdowns and a recession, Christmas 2020 will not be a typical one for most consumers.
For most brands, however, Christmas is an important part of the financial year and many will be looking to make up for lost ground earlier in 2020 while shoring up their own businesses and finances as they face into a very uncertain 2021.
But how do they get their message across to consumers at this difficult time without offending them or by coming across as indifferent to their circumstances?
Normally, Christmas is a battleground for brands vying to tug on our heartstrings by invoking a schmaltzy Yuletide feeling of warmth, fuzziness and merriment. It is also a period noted for considerable excess and over-indulgence – providing a fertile playground in which brands can operate.
Every brand wants to win Christmas and, for many, their Yuletide campaigns have been the highlight of their marketing calendars. But this year, brands need to tread very carefully.
“Let’s be honest, we sometimes think of Christmas as our Superbowl in advertising terms – yet it’s often only retailers that this applies to,” says Deirdre Waldron, CEO of the creative agency TBWA\Dublin.
“However, I think this year will be different and we’re seeing brands beyond the traditional Christmas advertisers, that want to communicate this Christmas.
“However, it needs to be done in a very empathic and genuine way and with a message and tone that is universally understood yet crosses the divides that this pandemic has created. Hopefully, we’ve matured beyond ‘We’re all in this together,’ because the reality is, we’re not all in this together, so advertising needs to reflect this latest context,” she adds.
Tapping into the prevailing zeitgeist and understanding people’s intentions during these uncharted and difficult times will be essential for brands hoping to get cut-through.
In a report due to be published next week by Core Research, there are some interesting insights into what consumers are planning to do over Christmas with both their time and their money. Given the likelihood of restrictions being in place over Christmas, socialising will be challenging. Gone are the office Christmas parties the annual reunions with returning diaspora as well as the annual New Year’s Eve bash. In their place will be more intimate family gatherings. 69pc of us are planning on socialising with family, according to Core’s research. And if it can’t happen indoors, then 16pc say they are willing to do it outdoors. And if this isn’t possible, 44pc say they will do it virtually.
With the bricks and mortar retail market already facing stiff challenges, 45pc plan to do more of their Christmas shopping online this year and, determined to do their bit for our ailing economy, 60pc intend to buy from Irish online retailers, according to Core.
When it comes to grocery shopping – which amounted to €1.2bn in the four weeks running up to Christmas 2019 – just 16pc indicated that they intend to do their Christmas grocery shop online which is good news for the many grocery outlets hoping to woo shoppers back into their aisles.
For many retailers, Christmas 2020 is likely to be as much about value as it is about festive fun and merriment, given that many people’s financial circumstances have changed for the worse during the year, says Deirdre Waldron.
“During the last few months, we’ve all come to realise what’s important and what maybe superfluous in our lives – and Christmas will certainly heighten that focus causing fluctuations in spending. Value will be extremely important but there is also an opening for emotional brand communications. But what we have to remember is that many people’s Christmas will be forced to scale back, and not by choice, but through unemployment or bereavement.
“So, Christmas communications will have to walk this fine line and find the right role for the brand when communicating – avoiding clichés but also pessimism and simply go for the heart-strings. Getting it right will not just provide a great opportunity for brand building – but maybe, just maybe, give us all a much-needed, genuinely uplifting Christmas feeling,” she says.
Marketers be warned, you have 73 sleeps to weave your magic.
THE TASTE OF ROTHCO
Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive, has launched a new cross-platform campaign for the Kerry-owned dairy spread Dairygold, the top-selling dairy spread in the Irish market.
Produced by Finn Keenan and Motherland and called ‘Spread the Goodness,’ the campaign will run across TV, programmatic online video, social media as well as in-store activations and features a woman embarking on a series of unusual and random acts of goodness after she spreads Dairygold on her toast.
GOOGLE JOINS EASA
With misleading online advertising a hot topic at the moment, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has welcomed Google as the first pure-play digital company to the ranks of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA). As a founder member of the EASA, a network self-regulatory organisations throughout Europe, the ASAI has had to contend with a substantial growth in misleading and false advertising in Ireland in recent years.