Retailers tap into Christmas emotions

Retailers are moving away from advertising focusing purely on price and product this Christmas and opting for high impact campaigns to convey the emotion of the festive season as they look to lift the spirits of customers tired of austerity messages.

Littlewoods combines emotion with affordability this Christmas.

Asda, The Co-operative Group, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Littlewoods have all released Christmas ad campaigns in the last week that eschew price promotion.

Craig Inglis marketing director at John Lewis, which has led the way in emotional Christmas advertising in recent years and is due to release its 2012 festive effort later this week (9 November), told Marketing Week despite the continued pressure on household budgets, consumers are “bored” with messages about the economy. This makes it more important than ever before to drive an emotional connection to appeal to shoppers.

Stephen Smith, CMO of Asda, which has switched its focus from functional price messaging to a more emotional approach that shows Asda can help solve the challenges mums face preparing for Christmas, says “shoppers deserve” more emotional communications this year after so much austerity messaging.

Matt Atkinson, Tesco group director of marketing and digital said in a recent blogpost that the supermarket will be “treating Christmas as a feeling, not a season” this year indicating that it will be speaking more to people’s hearts than their wallets through its marketing.

Waitrose has stepped away from the traditional Christmas supermarket ad format with an “unglamorous” ad that focuses on charitable giving rather than indulgence and consumerism. It hopes to tug consumers heartstrings to think of people less well off and will donate an additional £1m to local charities.


Recent data has offered retailers some hope consumer confidence is returning. A recent study by HSBC found a fifth of shoppers plan to spend more this Christmas than last, half expect to spend the same, while just 17 per cent plan to spend less than they did last year.

Elsewhere, Asda’s monthly income tracker revealed that household disposable income improved for the fourth consecutive month and recoded the largest improvement of disposable income since 2009, while retail sales increased 3.2 per cent year on year in September, according to the Office of National Statistics,.

While retailers are looking to forge a stronger emotional connection this year, price and value will still play a part, industry insiders say.

Retail analyst Neil Saunders says retailers that provide shoppers with ideas this Christmas will do well because there is an appetite for doing something different and retail brands can provide the inspiration alongside the right price.

Littlewoods is combining an affordability message with emotion around gifting. Gary Kibble, Littlewoods brand director, says: “The need to give promotions and deals is as, if not more, relevant than ever but it’s not enough just to offer ‘three for two’ – there has to be an emotional message and stand out from rivals .”

Christmas ads so far:

Waitrose: Shuns a “fancy TV ad” in favour of an “unglamorous” ad starring Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal encouraging customers to help it donate more to charities this year.

Littlewoods: Aims to build on the ‘Littlewoods Touch’ strapline to bring together an emotional and affordability message. Stars Myleene Klass as Santa’s helper offering gift ideas.

The Co-operative Group: Introduced a new brand strapline to show the role the brand can play in celebrating Christmas beyond just buying products.

M&S: Ditches celebs so that people can better relate to Christmas ads and feel inspired by the ranges.

Tesco: First Christmas ads promote its Clubcard Voucher Exchange scheme but the retailer will hope to build more emotional connection than previous years.

Asda: Moves away from functional ads to show how it understands the challenges mums face and can help face the challenges.

Debenhams: Attempts to convey the emotion of a family member returning to the family home for Christmas.

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