How Brands Can Cut Through The Christmas Clutter
Ah! The festive irony of it all.
’Tis supposedly the season of sharing joy and laughter with the ones we love, yet never are the airwaves crammed with more messages of soulless and shameless consumerism than Christmas. Come October, companies’ ad budgets begin to spike, with the hopes of shoving their brand message down as many of our digital chimneys as possible. More ironic still is that most brands’ ads are so predictably homogenised that they’re inevitably lost in the sea of equally ‘unbeatable deals’.
As the holiday season closes in, there’s nothing we’d like more than a breath of fresh air, free from the pollution that is Christmas ads yelling ‘Christmas Sale!’ or ‘New Year Deals!’. Amidst the generic clutter, though, there are undeniably the few rare brands who span their message in a way that did get them some decent cut through. Below are two examples of brands whose messaging dared to be different, rebelling bravely against the status quo.
Kit Kat — Have a Break, Have a Kit-Kat
In true Kit Kat style, their Christmas ad cleverly counteracted the holiday ad clutter, marrying their brand promise of offering people a break with the audience’s lack of tolerance for yet another Santa-themed video clip. This 30 second TV spot served viewers with a literal commercial break a blank screen and a soothing voice acknowledging the visual ‘nothingness’.
Why it worked?
This was definitely not a traditional holiday message. With a little brand building exercise as opposed to a ‘buy this as a stocking stuffer’ message, Kit Kat took a risk, breaking away from visual aesthetic and catchy music. Whether appreciated or hated by viewers, the contrast of this ad to all the others this season helped Kit Kat stick in the mind of consumers.
Outdoor retail brand REI nailed it for the second year in a row with its Black Friday digital campaign. #OptOutside, a brand-based messaging effort, suggested that audiences refrain from shopping on the most popular shopping day of the year. The digital pre-roll and social media posts encouraged people to get outside and be active instead of giving in to the commercialist status quo of the shopping holiday.
Why it Worked
This campaign gets a mention for being a great example of a brand employing its whole belief system — opposed to just a singular ad message — to cut through the Christmas noise. Sure, it’s a stretch to categorise this with the rest of the holiday-themed commercials, but Black Friday is arguably the kick-off to the message monotony. The brand demanded attention by being the anti-message, even closing all of its stores on Black Friday so employees, too, could break away from the shopping madness of the day. REI took a risk, essentially rejecting potential customers — with full pockets — but the buzzworthy anti-message filtered through to news outlets and social media feeds effortlessly, doing its job by… not doing its job.
Whether a Christmas ad is a creative yet thinly veiled attempt at promoting a brand message under the premise of being anti-commercial (that’s you, Kit Kat) or there’s a genuine brand value driving marketing decisions (à la REI), it’s safe to say that the majority aren’t convinced that these sentiments are truly altruistic. If Kit Kat really wanted to give people a break, they’d pull the ad altogether, and if REI wanted people to stop consuming, well… there’s an obvious solution there somewhere. Accepting that we’re going to hear from brands regardless each Christmas, the best they can do is dare to be different.
Mark Twain once said, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” Perhaps doing the opposite of what people expect is a pretty good antidote to getting lost in the Christmas clutter, and beyond.
Written by Marie Powichroski
Junior Business Manager at REBORN