Christmas Pain

“Christmas is a f***ing pain”: Why championing unpopular opinions could be your route to success

Christmas has well and truly started, at least it has in the world of marketing. The shops are decked out in Christmas point-of-sale and of course the big Christmas TV ads have been launched.  

Watching this year’s crop of Christmas ads it feels like every other one is essentially out of the John Lewis playbook. There’s a selection of other approaches such as upbeat ads saying, “get started early”, or “don’t hold back”, but the dominant theme is heart string pulling creative with a message about giving being the real meaning of Christmas, or not forgetting the child within. 

Viewed in isolation there’s nothing wrong with the tearjerker, “isn’t Christmas wonderful?” approach. It’s great to inspire people but, when everyone’s doing it, it makes it very hard for your brand to stand out, build fame and ultimately create sales. 

What allowed the John Lewis Christmas ads able to become part of culture, and therefore so effective at creating long term commercial impact is that they were the first ones to take the approach. The brand arguably owns this style of ad. When others do it, they may just be reminding people about John Lewis, rather than building their own brand. 

So, if everyone else is doing one thing that is built on one particular truth about people’s feelings or experience of Christmas, or indeed any other topic, what should you do?  

Give serious consideration to being the champion of an unspoken, but no less true, er… truth. One that gives you the opportunity to show your audience how your brand will do something that they will really value, solve problems, and make their lives a bit simpler. 

The unspoken truth among brands is that when it comes to Christmas, for lots of people, parents in particular, it can be a f***ing pain in the ar*e. 

At a time of year when we feel low on energy because its dark all the time and would just like to be curled up on the sofa, life chucks us a load of extra stuff we have to do and organise. We have to drive around visiting relatives we maybe don’t actually like, or cater to their demands when they come round, meaning extra cleaning, cooking and tidying up. We have to make small talk with people at parties. We have to sit on hard chairs while attending earnest but very dull nativity plays, or stand outside in the freezing cold singing carols around a tree. Let’s not even get into the buying, wrapping, and distributing of all the presents.  

If you need some evidence for how stressful Christmas can be then let me share my favourite chart from the last year. Analysis of the use of the f-bomb on Mumsnet forums shows that despite all the stresses we experienced in 2020 it was Christmas where four letter words peaked:

With all this extra stress what people really want is a helping hand so they can spend more time on the bits of Christmas they do enjoy. Even if it is just a range of party food that all cooks at the same temperature. 

So, if you are wondering how you can zig while everyone else is zagging then uncovering the less than perfect, but widely experienced, side of Christmas life could be your way to win… 

About the author:

Ed Steele is a Senior Strategist at CreativeRace. Alongside developing client strategy, his broad experience across 13+ years in marketing includes brand management, retail marketing and insight & effectiveness roles. Ed has worked on brands including Asda, Co op, Greggs, Anchor and Cravendale.