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Let’s talk Christmas adverts; did Asda’s elf float your boat or was it John Lewis’ skateboarding dad warming the cockles of your heart? Or were you bowled over by Cadbury’s generosity with its free chocolate parcels?  It’s hard to remember the last time Christmas ads were greeted with so much interest – and that comes down squarely to the bleak year we’ve had.  Everyone needed a bit of zhuzhing up to get in the mood for Christmas, to talk about something else other than government fiascos and inflation.  The brief was clear and rather tight; brands could neither be Tigger-like boisterous nor could they channel the deflated spirit of Eeyore.  The best of Christmas adverts have stripped away the frippery and spot-lighted what Christmas is all about – the joy in the little things that make a big difference, the power of giving and the magic of being together.

Christmas adverts have a tough brief.  They have to convey the spirit of the brand, burnish the bond with the customer and deliver sales many times their budget throughout the following year.  Viewed from that purely commercial lens, John Lewis’ advert focused on brand profiling rather than commercial goals.  Another brand with lesser clout could not have taken that risk.  So, it comes down to that special connection with customers, knowing how staunchly they stand behind the brand, which must be nurtured at all costs.

In times of uncertainty, businesses face a choice between battening down the hatches to wait it out or seeking new ways to support and engage with their customers.  Inflation is already believed to be past its peak at 10.7% from October’s 11.1% high.  This is good news, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.  The impact on households will be felt for many months to come, so there is plenty of room for brands to flex their creative muscle and show how they can ease their customers’ pain.

Businesses with laser focus on customer needs are many.  Riding on decades’ worth of customer trust, Boots launched the Everyday range in September this year with the promise of keeping quality products within reach of its customers.  Similarly Asda’s Just Essentials range was launched in direct response to household spending power hitting record lows.  The distinctive yellow packaging came in for some short-lived flak but the range has proved popular.  Doubling down on its offer of good value for money without taking away from its promise of quality, John Lewis was amongst the first to offer a lower-priced own brand range – Anyday – just as the world was emerging, somewhat battered and bruised, out of the pandemic.

If these market leaders’ example is anything to go by, it’s not time to hibernate till conditions improve – businesses need to get out there, beat the drum about their values and live them.  Show and tell what they stand for and how they will stand by their customers into the new year.

Simrat Ghuman is a Senior Account Manager at Camargue