John Lewis, Coca-Cola, KFC: 5 things that mattered this week and why

The big marketing news this week including the launch of John Lewis’s Christmas ad campaign, the impact the chief growth officer role has had at Coca-Cola and the number of brands that aren’t marketing influencer marketing posts as sponsored.

John Lewis relies on Elton John for Christmas success

John Lewis finally put the nation out of its annual misery this week and unveiled this year’s Christmas ad extravaganza starring Elton John.

While others in the retail space have pulled back spend and decided to put more of a focus on products this year, John Lewis has stuck with the big emotional storytelling that it has become known for, with the 140-second film about John’s career costing around the same as previous years’ ads.

But there has been a clear shift in creative direction, something John Lewis says it really pushed its creative agency for, and 2018 feels significantly less Christmassy than in the past.

Like Iceland’s repurposed Greenpeace ad, John Lewis has been clever because it knows the ad will resonate beyond the festive period as John prepares for his farewell tour next year.

The concern is that this ad is more about Elton John than John Lewis and doesn’t do much – if anything – to convince people to shop with them this Christmas.

At this time of year, it’s important for retailers to have an emotional story that gets people talking and puts them top of mind, as well as more commercial activity that pushes product and price and, importantly, people into the store or online.

It feels like retailers have struggled to get that balance this year.

READ MORE: Why John Lewis ‘turned left’ for unusually un-Christmassy festive blockbuster

Coca-Cola believes scrapping its CMO has broadened marketing’s remit

Coca-Cola caused a number of eyebrows to be raised in the marketing world when it got rid of its CMO position in favour of a chief growth officer. Many questioned what a marketer’s role was if not growth, while others said it appeared to be simply a branding exercise.

However, the move has had an impact internally at Coca-Cola, according to its global vice-president of creative, Rodolfo Echeverria. And that impact has been to shift the focus of marketing from broadening awareness and chasing awards to “obsessively” chasing growth.

“When you have the boss whose job title is growth officer then you have to come up with growth in terms of new consumers who love the brand more, are buying Coca-Cola more frequently and have a high appreciation for the brand value,” he explains.

That it took someone with the job title of chief growth officer for this shift to happen should be a concern for marketers everywhere. But, as with the chief customer officer role that is so in fashion at brands at the moment, anything that focuses the mind of marketers and the business on growth is no bad thing. A marketer can be given any name, as long as they are still the ones driving the focus on customers and growth then marketing will still have a seat at the top table.

READ MORE: How getting rid of the CMO ‘broadened’ Coca-Cola’s marketing approach

KFC jumps on Christmas to diss turkey

It’s a wonder KFC hasn’t done a chicken versus turkey Christmas ad before, but the appointment of creative agency Mother last year has clearly given it some fresh creative juice.

Reminiscent of a Wild West standoff (but with snow), the 60-second cinema-style film sees KFC’s chicken bravely leave the coop and travel across treacherous icy plains so she can tell that pesky Christmas turkey to FCK off.

OK, not quite in those words, but her message is simple: Turkey comes and goes, but chicken’s here to stay. Because KFC is open for 364 days of the year.

Meanwhile, the out-of-home creative includes posters dissing turkey such as ‘The trick to enjoying Christmas turkey? Lowering your expectations’ and ‘Best of luck with the turkey this Christmas’.

Whether you like KFC or not (either as a brand or place to get a bucket of chicken), and whatever your poultry preference, it’s a nice piece of opportunistic creative that has taken advantage of the festive season.

The campaign is simple, witty and has a clear message. There are no mentions of box meals, family buckets or zinger burgers. And this chicken is roaming free, unlike KFC’s ‘Whole Chicken’ ad from 2017 which became the most complained about ad of the year for the ambiguity of whether the chicken was dancing into the sunset or to the slaughterhouse.

READ MORE: Battle of the birds: Chicken and turkey go beak-to-beak in KFC Christmas ad

Iceland makes its mark with ‘banned’ festive ad

Who knew that getting your advert banned could be the best thing to happen to your brand?At least that’s the case for Iceland, whose partnership with Greenpeace for Christmas 2018 fell foul of Clearcast, with the regulator refusing to clear its 90-second animated film for broadcast on TV.

Narrated by actress and Greenpeace ambassador Emma Thompson, the advert follows the story of an orangutan called Rang-tan who goes to live with a little girl after his forest home has been destroyed by the palm oil trade.

Despite all branding having been removed from the advert, Clearcast claimed the breach related to the fact that the ad was originally created by Greenpeace, an organisation which has been unable to prove it is not a “political advertiser”.

Describing himself as “gutted” by the ruling, Iceland managing director Richard Walker admitted that the company had always known it would be “a risk” to go out with a “hard-hitting message” about the damage of the palm oil trade rather than a traditional ad focused on price and product.

However, Iceland backed its #NoPalmOilChristmas message and despite losing £500,000 of media spend booked to broadcast the advert across all the main TV channels, the frozen food giant made up for it in social media advocacy.

The advert went viral, garnering 4.6 million views on Iceland’s YouTube channel, more than 12 million views on Facebook and giving rise to a petition with close to a million signatures to get the ad released on TV.

Then on Wednesday (14 November), Iceland took a life size animatronic orangutan to the streets of London, an experiential stunt designed to illustrate the displaced animal’s search for a new home following the destruction of its natural habitat.

Iceland has learnt to turn disaster to its advantage, cementing its position as an ethical retailer and shining a light on its commitment to remove palm oil as an ingredient in 100% of its own-label food by the end of 2018.

READ MORE: Charlotte Rogers: Iceland’s banned Christmas ad is a festive masterstroke

Brands admit to not marking influencer marketing as sponsored

influencer marketing

When it comes to influencer marketing, there are many grey areas, proved again this week when a new study by Marketing Week sister brand Influencer Intelligence revealed that while the majority of marketers understand the rules, a third regularly and knowingly bend them.

The Influencer Marketing 2020 report shows that (77%) of marketers claim to be up to speed with the advertising codes and guidelines in relation to influencer marketing, yet 14% say they “regularly circumvent the rules” and a third (32%) admit to not marking paid-for content as sponsored. The reason? They believe it “diminishes consumers’ trust”. But surely deliberately trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes is actually the thing that will give people reason to distrust influencers in the first place?

It’s also not what consumers think. A separate consumer survey carried out as part of the study shows 54% of consumers say it doesn’t bother them if influencers use #ad or #spon. As long as the content is relevant and done in an authentic way most consumers don’t think it detracts from its credibility.

Thankfully 65% of marketers do insist paid-for influencer content is marked as such, and the same number (64%) feel action must be taken to improve the transparency of the discipline.

But so long as marketers do look to flout the rules, the authenticity of influencer marketing will always come into question, which in turn will slowly erode its effectiveness. In order to increase the credibility of the discipline and ensure it remains a viable option marketers have got to take a harder line, and ensure the influencers they work with do so too.

READ MORE: A third of brands admit to not disclosing influencer partnerships