Man on the Moon

Is sharing really the most important thing at christmas?


November 12, 2015

With just seven weeks to go until the big day, the new Christmas ad season has begun in earnest. But as the likes of John Lewis and Marks & Spencer begin to tug at our heart strings with their new festive TV campaigns, there is a fundamental question that is worth asking: are these big budget, all-singing, all-dancing televisual spectaculars really worth the money they cost to make? And is social media engagement the most important marketing metric?

Let’s look at what John Lewis and other leading retailers (Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco for example) are actually trying to achieve here. If the aim of Christmas marketing and advertising is to create a buzz around a brand – particularly by evoking a powerful emotional response – then it has to be said that the yuletide TV commercial does a good job.

But wait a second. How do you actually measure that engagement? Are people searching for the brand more online? Visiting the website more? Visiting the store more? Or, more crucially than anything else, are they buying more? When it comes down to it, ‘engagement’ is just part of the overall customer journey towards walking into a store, or going online, and making a purchase; it is not the end goal.

What we perhaps need to look at more closely is how social media sharing metrics correlate with lead generation, content consumption (web views, etc.) and, vitally, sales figures. Conversion to sales is the reason behind the importance of consumer engagement; Christmas content is, after all, created with gift shopping in mind. As Rob Conway, CEO of CampaignWORKS, says: “the end goal is action, not eyeballs”.

This year, John Lewis have spent £1m on their advert, along with another £6m on TV, online and press spots – it’s a huge investment, and shows how much importance the brand puts on being seen as the Christmas retailer. Speaking for John Lewis, one spokesperson stated the purpose of the ad was: to “engage with the public, resonate with them and make them want to shop with us”. So, the question is, do the public want to shop there more? Do ‘eyeballs’ and ‘engagement’ translate into sales figures?

In response to the seasonal influx of festive ads, CampaignWORKS’s Rob Conway believes that to get it right, retailers have to “realise that it is not just about creating buzz; it’s about driving traffic in store and online… To be successful, the campaign has to be completely integrated into the business” – something that John Lewis have been very good at over the past few years (remember Monty the Penguin?). Since the rise of ‘epic’ Christmas adverts, John Lewis has steadily managed to achieve the most talk around their brand, and their sales figures, compared to their competitors, have reflected this.

Take ‘The Long Wait’ (John Lewis Christmas advert, 2011) – this was a monumental online success, and sales figures rose by 9.3% during the 5 week run up to Christmas. Similar increases were seen in each subsequent year, with ‘The Bear and the Hare’ (2013) being described as the most successful John Lewis ad across all measures. The trend looks set to continue, with ‘Man on the Moon’ (2015) becoming an instant hit, and top news story, upon release.

These ads are examples of pieces of content that are watched, shared and adored by many. Over the past few years, there has been a significant shift from viewing Christmas ads for what they are – adverts – to seeing them as some kind of national event; a celebration of the impending festive season. (By lunch time on the day ‘Man on the Moon’ was released, it had already reached 42,000 social media mentions.) This huge and growing level of engagement appears to have directly correlated with sales figures to date, which shows the effect that keeping a brand ‘front of mind’ can have.

So this Christmas, sharing is certainly important – after all, the sales figures speak for themselves.

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