A festive campaign should last beyond Christmas

While consumer spend remains cautious, Christmas campaigns are getting bigger, better and more full of famous faces than ever before, says Mark Thomson, media director of Royal Mail.


Every year the increasing flamboyance of the advertising creative seems to hit higher and higher levels as brands jockey for position in the never ending battle for their share of the consumer’s festive spend.

The obvious example here is Marks and Spencer’s hugely popular Christmas campaign, which arguably sets the bar for festive advertising on the high street. This year the television advert features stars such as Peter Kay, Dannii Minogue and Twiggy, along with a host of other recognisable faces.

Obviously, campaigns such as this demand a huge amount of investment. But this isn’t entirely surprising when you realise what an important time the festive period is for retailers, with some taking 20 to 60% of their annual turnover at this time of year.

These lavish productions not only attract consumer interest, but also set the benchmark for festive campaigns across the board. Creating a brand of Christmas shopping that focuses heavily on overall experience can help to encourage online shoppers back to the high street, or increase brand interaction in the online world.

For the high street, there is always more that retailers can be doing to create stand out and generate sales during the festive period, and a lot of it revolves around creating an experience.

There have also been a few successful examples of retailers joining forces to help create a bigger, better experience for the customer, and increase footfall from consumers looking for a bit of festive cheer along with their shopping.

One of these is an annual initiative by the retailers on Oxford and Regent Street – the West End VIP day (Very Important Pedestrian Day), when both streets are closed to traffic to make way for a raft of Christmas shoppers. Retailers on Oxford and Regent Street expect to generate an extra £41 million in extra revenue from this initiative.

For retailers with a high street and online presence, there are a host of opportunities to cross-sell across multiple channels and create an overall experience that could convert casual customers to loyal brand advocates far beyond Christmas. For example, the catalogue has a huge part to play both for online and high street retailers, and in many cases is the key to connecting the two mediums and creating a better customer experience.

The statistics speak for themselves – 90% of consumers read catalogues that are sent to them, 70% online after receiving a catalogue. In fact, customers who receive catalogues are likely to spend more online – around £110 more a year.

They also have a pulling power with people who do not shop online with one third of shoppers saying that they browse a catalogue before buying in-store.

High street retailers can use catalogues, and the increasingly popular lifestyle magazines, as a way of creating ’buzz’ around their latest offers or campaigns, and publicise special offers or Christmas events in store. For online retailers, the catalogue recreates the leisurely browsing experience that some consumers feel is missing from the online shopping process.

Posted catalogues and lifestyle magazines also have the invaluable advantage of taking the brand into a customer’s home, where they can even be displayed on the coffee table almost as a fashion statement. This brings the online ’word of mouth’ approach of social media campaigns offline. By displaying a catalogue in their home, customers are demonstrating brand loyalty and advertising the retailer to friends and family.

Above all, by integrating a catalogue or magazine into their overall Christmas advertising campaign, retailers add another element to the ’experience’ of Christmas shopping.

Like the opulent television adverts, in-store events and online promotions, a festive catalogue helps to create excitement and a sense of occasion, while making the consumer experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.

It’s this combination of celebration and practicality that will allow retailers to make the most of this crucial time of year, while building customer relationships that are for life, not just for Christmas.

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