Branding at Christmas – Christmas isn’t Christmas without its traditions. Some of these things may vary from country to country, town to town and house to house, but there are others which are consistent for millions.
Aspects of Christmas that we now take for granted – including the aesthetic and characterisation of Santa himself – are in fact mere constructs of branding at Christmas and are not quite as traditional as you might think. Though jolly ol’ Saint Nick is based around the real-life figure of Saint Nicholas – whose penchant for unexpected gift giving earned him adoration and renown throughout early Christian Europe – the portly figure clad in red and white fur that we all know and love is more indebted to Coca-Cola than any religious or historical figure.
Due to the dominance and spread of American culture during the 20th century, the modern concept of Christmas, as well as the depiction of its non-Biblical figurehead, was cemented. And since consumerism really kicked off in the 1950s – and the 1980s deregulation of children’s advertising and influx of US-style cable services went even further – Christmas has been all about spending and branding. Some brands, campaigns and branding are now inseparable from the event itself.
Aside from coming up with the whole ‘big, red, white and jolly’ look of Santa, Coke have devised many other Christmas mainstays. The long-running lorries and ‘Holidays are Coming’ campaign springs to mind as a classic, while the Christmas cans repackage exactly the same product that was being advertised as an iconic summer drink a few months previously, to the same audience. Very canny (ahem) marketing.
Starbucks cash in on the fact that people want to be seen carrying their cups, releasing a new, festive one each year to cleverly tie in with their seasonal drinks – pumpkin spiced latte, for example. The result is another brand that is synonymous with Christmas city centres, even if it synonymous with city centres throughout the rest of the year.
The John Lewis Christmas campaign is an event itself, and the accompanying single makes for very cohesive, clever and multifaceted advertising. John Lewis was undoubtedly popular before the cartoon critters and schmaltzy cover versions did the work for them, but they are now synonymous with Christmas.
A major rival of John Lewis and a brand that already held the attention of the UK before the animated adverts came along. With their expensive, star-studded advertising campaign and more upmarket food range, M&S food halls up and down the country were already festive mainstays. However, the annual branding change from Marks and Spencer to Magic and Sparkle is a masterstroke.
Few brands have the advertising budget to spend on branding at Christmas and compete with those three behemoths, but they serve as powerful reminders of how iconic brands shape the culture of Christmas. With a few simple, clever tweaks on your product and its packaging, you can capture imaginations and boost sales for your product too, and provide an iconic, clever Christmas visual of your own.
From everyone here at Digital Creative Packaging, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a fantastic new year, and we look forward to working with many budding Coca-Colas, Starbucks and Marks and Spencers in 2017!