What all brands can learn from the John Lewis Christmas Advert

It’s that time again! This morning, John Lewis released its 2018 Christmas advert, meaning that there’s officially no escaping it; the countdown to Christmas has begun. The John Lewis Christmas advert is always highly-anticipated, but in 2018 this has been more evident than ever, with the general public desperate to get their hands on this year’s festive offering.


There was much speculation surrounding the ad prior to its release, including a very elaborate prank, at the whole nation’s expense, by Radio X DJ Chris Moyles, who released a huge red herring when he “leaked” a teaser for the advert last week. Interestingly, the “prank” teaser ended up remarkably similar to the actual advert, with both opening on a shot of a tastefully-lit Christmas tree, panning across to show Elton John, sat at his famous piano.


So why is the John Lewis Christmas advert so loved, and highly anticipated, year on year? There’s something quite simple that John Lewis does every year to captivate the hearts of the nation; it tells a story. The theme of “story-telling” is an important one here, and one which we will draw on over the course of this article.


The message behind the John Lewis Christmas ad stretches much further than the usual, commercial Christmas message showing Christmas parties, children opening presents and elaborately-decorated tables laden with veritable festive feasts. The John Lewis advert creates intrigue and a story that slowly unravels to reveal the heart-warming sentiment behind it. The aim of the adverts is to propel the viewer back to the feelings that they associated with Christmas as a child; excitement, anticipation and a certain carefree contentment. It is drawing on emotions such as these that allows the advert to truly capture the hearts of its audience.


Then, there’s the music. Another key piece in the promotional puzzle. The soundtrack is key in any ad campaign and John Lewis does this very well, always selecting a hugely emotive number. Usually, the retailer will select on old song, made new by an up-and-coming British artist. In a way, this “making new of the old” approach mirrors the way in which the advert endeavours to bring back old Christmas memories from childhood, making them new again. Past songs have included a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Power of Love” by Gabrielle Aplin and a cover of the Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please” by Slow Moving Millie.


This year, the advert featured Elton John’s classic hit “Your Song”, performed by the man himself. This song was actually featured in the 2010 John Lewis Christmas advert, performed by Ellie Goulding, and so one can’t help but feel that things have come full circle and that the advert evokes nostalgia, not just of Christmases past, but of Christmas adverts past, too. In a way, this particular choice of song makes the advert a sort of “tribute to where it all began”, not just in Elton’s career, which is the story behind the advert, but where the magic of these adverts began, as well.


When you combine the strong story-telling and impactful music with John Lewis’ steadfast reputation as a trusted British brand, it really is no wonder that the adverts stand out from the crowd year on year. Despite numerous attempts from competitors, no advert has yet had the same impact as John Lewis’. Many believe that this is because other brands are simply not as widely trusted as the John Lewis brand.


This reflects something that is now becoming accepted as fact amongst marketers; in 2018, trust is everything.


In John Lewis’ adverts, the main focus is never on product. This is because the retailer recognises that, nowadays, this is simply not as important as the emotional connection that consumers have with your brand and, more importantly, with your brand story.


This year’s advert is rumoured to have cost somewhere in the region of £10 million. For those without this budget, what can we all learn from the John Lewis Christmas advert?


Telling your brand story through content marketing


As mentioned earlier, the idea of story-telling is going to be frequently revisited in this article. Put simply, telling a story allows consumers to feel more connected with your brand, like they are a part of it in some way. In the age of social media, where the public can engage with brands quickly, easily and on a number of different platforms, consumers feel more connected with brands than ever before, and they value this connection.


Today’s most successful brands use content marketing to tell stories, build a narrative, celebrate their brand message and create an emotional relationship with the consumer.


Building an emotional relationship through your brand story


Your brand story should be built into every piece of content you put out there: social media, blogs, customer responses and so on. Consistency is key to building trust; it doesn’t happen overnight. Bit by bit, you need to be building an emotional relationship with your consumers through your brand story.


Why do you need to do this? Neuroscientists stress that our emotions play a vital role in our ability to make decisions. Studies have shown that those who are unable to generate emotions due to a medical condition will often struggle with decision-making and so, whilst most of us believe that we would often find it easier to make decisions were our emotions removed from the equation, science disagrees.


If emotions are important in decision-making, then that makes them important in marketing, too. So, how do we achieve this? How do we tell our brand story? Well, no one has more power to tell your brand story than you do, so use that voice. Before you start telling your brand story, however, you need to be sure of what it is.


Defining your brand story


In order to tell your brand story, you first have to define it. To begin with, the best way to go about this is to listen. How does your current audience perceive your brand? Your team is a key part of your brand, so ask them about their brand story. Put simply, you need to be asking yourself, “What is my brand saying?”. From there, you can decide how this fits in with what you want your brand to say, and the story you want it to tell. Decide on words that describe how you want to be perceived, and maybe even words that you don’t want to be associated with. These words will form the story that your brand will ultimately tell.


Once you have a brand story, invest in it. Encourage your team to invest it. Live and breathe that story until it is told in every single aspect of your brand. Above all else, be consistent. You can’t build trust overnight, but every time a consumer has an experience in which they encounter your brand story, they will feel a little more familiar with it, a little more comfortable, and a little more connected. That is how an emotional relationship is built. From familiarity comes comfort, and from comfort comes trust.


In many ways, the familiarity and comfort of the traditional Christmas portrayed in John Lewis’ Christmas adverts are what evokes the emotion in consumers and the investment in their story that ultimately strengthens their brand.


Content Marketing Advice from the Fabulous Group


If you would like advice about telling your brand story, or any other aspect of content marketing, please do not hesitate to contact Fabulous Marketing on 0800 112 0880, or email hello@focalbusiness.co.uk.