Unilever, Iceland, John Lewis: 5 things that mattered this week and why

From Keith Weed’s decision to retire from Unilever to Iceland topping the list of the best ‘Christmas’ campaigns and Formula E refreshing its brand ahead of the new season, catch up with all the major marketing news this week.

John Lewis launches biggest ever Christmas product push

Following the launch of its Elton John biopic last month, John Lewis has now unveiled its biggest foray into product ads to-date with eight 10-second films each accompanied by a different Elton John song relating to the product.

Think: I’m Still Standing for a Nespresso coffee machine, This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore for a Lego train, and Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me for GoPro.

Aside from no doubt helping to boost Elton John single sales, this campaign is everything that The Boy And The Piano is not: Christmassy and commercial.

It is what the majority of other retailers have done instead of the usual 120-second big festive shebang – although John Lewis has done both, showing it is a business that knows how important it is to build an emotional engagement in the longer term as well as drive sales in the short term.

Except for the fact that The Boy And The Piano hasn’t performed especially well on any Christmas ranking. And sales at John Lewis (except for the week around Black Friday) have been relatively flat in the run-up to Christmas.

We will have to wait and see whether this big product push gives those sales a much needed boost in these all-important final weeks.

READ MORE: John Lewis launches biggest ever Christmas product push

Simpler Christmas ads better received than blockbusters

The debate over whether retailers were right to ditch the usual blockbuster Christmas ad in favour of more commercial, product-focused campaigns this year might finally be able to be laid to rest, with research this week ranking the festive ads in terms of which were most likely to make people buy and build a strong brand in the long term.

Clue: it’s not Elton John.

In fact, it was Iceland’s banned palm oil ad that came out on top, according to Kantar Millward Brown’s annual study into the effectiveness of festive ads, with M&S, Morrisons, Tesco, Boots and Amazon all performing well across a number of metrics.

John Lewis’s The Boy And The Piano/Elton John biopic scored well on ‘enjoyment’, ‘involvement’ and ‘brand love’, however, facial recognition analysis revealed that people were more confused and surprised than anything.

Does this mean big doesn’t mean best? Perhaps, with viewers responding best to simpler, more traditional ideas and ‘real’ scenarios with families than those presenting a ‘fantasy’ Christmas (let’s face it, most people aren’t going to be able to afford a piano this Christmas – no matter how thoughtful a gift it might be).

M&S’s ‘food porn’ also played well, as did its “unashamedly commercial” ‘Must-Haves’ campaign featuring Holly Willoughby and David Gandy.

Perhaps this is why John Lewis launched its biggest ever Christmas product push this week…

READ MORE: Iceland’s ‘Rang-tan’ Christmas ad the most likely to make people buy

Unilever’s Keith Weed to retire

keith weed unilever

Unilever has lost a second top exec in a week with the news that Keith Weed is to retire after eight years as marketing boss and 35 years at the company. His departure follows hot on the heels of CEO Paul Polman’s decision to leave and it seems unlikely the two aren’t linked given how closely the men have worked together on issues such as sustainability and brand purpose.

Weed will be in role for another six months as incoming CEO Alan Jope makes a decision about his successor. That gives the industry until May to say goodbye to a man who has done as much to raise the profile of marketing within Unilever as he has to raise the profile of marketing in business generally.

Speaking to people who have worked with him, what is clear is his passion for the discipline he has led and his untiring commitment to improving marketing capability and making it a core tenet of business growth. He did that at Unilever and in the industry more generally, helping to set up initiatives such the Marketing Society Leadership programme.

His departure leaves Unilever with a big hole to fill. Weed oversaw a time when Unilever’s marketing became more global and the company used its scale to see off competition. But the times they are a-changing. Nimble-footed challengers are snapping at the heels of the big FMCG players and Unilever will need to use both its size and entrepreneurial qualities to thrive in future.

READ MORE: Keith Weed’s legacy and what Unilever needs to do next

Formula E unveils ‘fierce’ rebrand

Formula E, the all-electric car championship, has unveiled a new brand identity and campaign it hopes will help to position it as a more exciting sport.

It is known for its sustainability and being much more environmentally-friendly than the likes of Formula One – an important point of difference that the brand will continue to push – however it is now on a mission to prove to people that just because it is good for the planet doesn’t mean it’s boring.

Horn-locking stags, a stinging scorpion and a roaring tiger have been used to illustrate how Formula E wants to be seen: gritty, visceral, competitive, disruptive, unpredictable and unconventional.

The man leading this transformation is Jerome Hiquet, Formula E’s very new chief marketing officer, who joined the business just three weeks ago, just in time for the upcoming fifth season which begins on 15 December.

The big shift compared with other seasons is that this one is going to be much more immersive and experience-driven as Formula E eyes up a younger demographic, with gamification set to play an increasing role for the business going forward.

It makes sense; many of Formula E’s existing fans will be gamers, and there is a lot of potential to turn gaming fans into Formula E enthusiasts.

The live ghost racing technology, something Formula E is currently testing to allow fans to race drivers in real-time via a video game, will undoubtedly be a big hook for sports and gaming enthusiasts outside of Formula E too.

As people become more environmentally-conscious, Formula E is well positioned to see some serious growth in the coming years.

READ MORE: ‘Gritty, visceral, competitive’: Formula E gears up to move away from eco-friendly image

The best campaigns of 2018

Nike Colin Kaerpernick

The start of December always signals a time of reflection and here at Marketing Week we’ve been taking a look back over the year at the best campaigns, the biggest moments and some of the challenges the industry has faced.

This year we’ve compiled a list of 16 campaigns we believe show the industry’s creativity, it’s ability to tackle big issues and that share the evolution of brands. That goes from KFC’s FCK print ad to CALM tackling male suicide and the launch of John Lewis and Waitrose’s first joint marketing campaign.

We’ll be kicking off a competition to find our readers’ favourite marketing campaign of 2018 next week, pitting ads against each other to be crowned the winner in an entirely scientific poll. Stay tuned for that! And if you need a reminder of the campaigns that made the cut, take a look below.

The best campaigns of 2018: Part 1

The best marketing campaigns of 2018: Part 2

View more on these topics

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