We’ve heard a lot lately that brands need to show empathy, that they need to make a “human connection” with consumers. While that has always been true, it’s recently become more important with consumer trust at a historic low. This development makes trust a vital trait for brands to build—more than one in three consumers rank “trust in brand” as among their top three reasons they shop at a particular retailer.
The holidays represent an unusually promising time for brands to show their human side. When it comes to branding, major American companies tend to focus a lot on the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, across the pond in the U.K., yuletide campaigns have long been valued as the best branding juncture on the calendar. During this moment in time when empathy and authenticity are seen as keys to branding success, U.S. marketers have an opportunity to reimagine their holiday season strategies as more inspirational and less transactional.
Sure, some leading U.S. brands have made a habit out of appealing to consumers’ humanity during the holidays. Take Lexus’ “December to Remember” tagline, which resonates with Americans like few other campaigns—in fact it’s the leading car name for brand awareness during the holidays. Budweiser has regularly had the Clydesdales in Christmas ads. And Coca-Cola practically made Santa Claus part of its logo for decades to tap into the holiday spirit.
There’s an opportunity for more U.S. marketers to adopt the holiday playbook. With that in mind, here are three campaigns from Europe that should inspire marketers everywhere to tell more empathetic stories during this season and in seasons to come.
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Back in the U.K., John Lewis & Partners’ TV spot goes through pop music icon Elton John’s life in reverse, ending with the poignant moment when he got an upright piano for Christmas from his mother as a young boy. The two-and-a-half-minute video concludes with the tagline: “Sometimes a gift is more than a gift.”
It’s been like another Top of the Pops hit for the Elton John and John Lewis, a company with a history of successful holiday ads. Similar to the other examples, it’s a brand using a novel storytelling approach to celebrate the deep connections that bring family together around the holidays. Nothing could be more human than that. The John Lewis brand, which operates a chain of high-end department stores throughout the United Kingdom, has garnered at least 25 million views on social media channels.
The season for empathy
Such view metrics make clear that consumers respond when brands show their humanity this time of year. Humanity builds a connection with customers and creates more trust. And even if measuring ROI is your end-all, be-all, note that nearly half of Americans (47 percent) get their holiday shopping information from TV ads. The fact that these spots can be shared by millions on social networks makes them even more impactful.
And as Beastall’s short film showed, it doesn’t matter if you are selling B2B creativity or high-end clothing. The holidays are an incredible opportunity for marketers to show their humanity.
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