John Lewis’ DM will deliver as much as its TV ad

For marketers, early November is the festive season. It is when the Christmas television brand campaigns are unveiled to the world. 

Russell Parsons

This last week has seen almost every major retailer and FMCG brand with an eye on an incremental sale or two launch their Christmas campaign. This year’s batch take in everything from M&S  and its whimsical Hansel and Gretel inspired ad to Boots and its use of a song about a homosexual boy running away from his hometown because of abuse (Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy) in an ad about the spirit of giving.  And then there’s John Lewis, the behemoth of Christmas advertising.

The retailer’s festive effort is already a contender for advertising event of the year even though it is just days since it was revealed to the world. My crude analysis concludes no ad in 2013 has been talked about, positively and negatively, as much as this bear and hare starring animated delight. There’s been a lot of chatter about Christmas ads in the UK matching SuperBowl ads in terms of anticipation and talkability. I don’t subscribe to that theory for the majority with one exception: John Lewis.

The online buzz around the ad is considerable  – millions of positive mentions on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Now, can all the love translate to sales, the only measure of success that matters?

The ad itself features no products, no explicit attempt to sell anything to anyone. Craig Inglis, John Lewis’ marketing director, speaking at an event to launch the ad in London last week said: “Our ads aren’t about products, they’re about telling a story.”

The story, and strategy doesn’t end there. The TV ad is about lodging the retailer front and centre in the minds of people shopping for gifts. Direct marketing will help coral the plaudits and deliver ROI.

In the week it unveiled its Xmas ad, John Lewis was also named best brand for customer experience in a report by Nunwood. The ranking was based not only on in-store service and e-commerce experience but also about quality of e-mail communication, mobile and SMS marketing and on and offline catalogues.  

John Lewis’ direct marketing is considerably less celebrated but as much as the TV ad it will determine whether the retailer has a successful 2013.  

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