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Investing in emotions: Marketing methods to reach every consumer at Christmas

by LLB staff reporter
24th Dec 20 9:17 am

Over time, competition between brands increases and the fight to reach consumers each year continues. And particularly with Christmas, the race for the most emotional ad is well and truly on. But this year, things have been a little different.

When it comes to marketing, utilising emotion is by far the most powerful tool in the industry. Emotion, in whatever capacity, engages the consumer and captures them, ensuring they connect with both the brand and its product or service.

Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Champions (UK) plc, a UK based brand agency explains how emotions are conveyed with more than just happiness and sadness, but laughter, nostalgia, and relatability, too.

The power of emotion

A brand that doesn’t use emotion, is not a brand. They are simply a commodity, which can only compete on price. Emotion impacts the purchasing decisions of consumers and without it, businesses are much less likely to make that all-important sale.

A purchase is well-thought out and considered, and essentially, a product needs to make us feel a certain way in order for consumers to complete the transaction. A product should ignite a sense of excitement and by creating that emotion, businesses are in turn, creating brand love.

Evoking an emotional response in a consumer is also what separates a purchase made due to a need from one made because it is a want. And for many brands, the products that are charged at a higher price and present the most profitable opportunities are those bought because they are wanted rather than needed.

When we think of emotion, more often than not, our minds go to happiness and sadness. When in actual fact, emotion is much more than that. Although many consumers are driven by price, it is that initial emotional bond that impacts their purchasing decisions. In 2017, research showed that up to 90% of purchases that we make are based on emotion.

If brands combine emotion with consumer needs, then they won’t go far wrong. Inevitably, sensitivity and seasonality also come into play here. While Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for some, it can be difficult for others. So, in one way or another, for whatever reason, emotions are heightened.

Sadness and happiness

John Lewis is renowned for being the brand that brings the most emotion, and they really have done it all. It has become a pivotal part of the festive period, but John Lewis really stands out from the crowd when it comes to tear-jerkers, in whatever capacity.

The brand is recognised for being able to create emotion from one end of the scale, to the other. From sadness and grief, to happiness and heart-warming joy, John Lewis have done it all.

Their Man on the Moon Christmas ad pulled on the heart strings of millions, as consumers thought about loneliness as well as those no longer with them, encouraging them to spend time with loved ones whilst supporting the campaign and the Age UK charity.

They have also done the same this year with their emotional Give A Little Love campaign, but this time, in an uplifting and heart-warming manner. This touches on the challenges that 2020 has brought and reminds the country to come together to spread love and kindness in challenging times.

But this year has welcomed a newcomer to the runnings for the best heartstring pulling Christmas ad. DocMorris, a Dutch pharmaceutical company, released a short film titled Take Care, which followed an older man embarking on a fitness journey for a reason unbeknown to both viewers and neighbours. It isn’t until the end of the ad that we learn he trained in order to build the strength to pick up his granddaughter to place a star at the top of the tree.

After a year that has seen families isolated from each other, it’s no surprise the charming tale of sacrifices and efforts made out of love has won the hearts of social media users across the world.

And although the ad didn’t explicitly show any particular product, rather a depiction of a general brand value of wellbeing, it has successfully raised brand awareness.

Humour and laughter

Laughter is infectious, and when something or someone makes us laugh, we develop a stronger connection. Innocent is one brand that is recognised for its hilarious marketing campaigns, and it pays off.

One of their more recent and most popular campaigns was for their new drink. They centred their entire marketing campaign around its unique colour. Stating that the drink was blue, the controversial campaign got everybody debating whether it was in fact blue, or green. They went as far as to get Duncan James from the boyband Blue involved, and the campaign worked exactly as intended.

Innocent don’t focus their campaigns on selling their products, but rather starting a conversation or debate that stays at the forefront of the minds of buyers. They provide their audience with much more than just a product, which in turn, has enabled them to become the brand of choice for smoothie purchases.

Another brand recognised for their incredible sense of humour is Greggs. From Twitter debates with Piers Morgan to an unexpected collaboration with PlayStation, Greggs is one to watch.

Creating a limited-edition box of sweet and savoury treats to celebrate the launch of the PS5, the Greggs and PlayStation Launch Box is a great accompaniment for those that managed to bag themselves a console, and a hilarious consolation prize for those that weren’t so fortunate.


2020 seems to be the year of nostalgia, and for good reason too. Disney have centred their Christmas ads around childhood memories, bringing a sense of reflection to consumers around the UK.

These emotions provide people with a trip down memory lane, and as the epitome of magic, Disney managed to drive an emotional connection with consumers thanks to their very first festive campaign.

Having been around for decades, Disney utilises the theme of family traditions – something they are all too familiar with. As a brand, Disney is renowned for connecting with its audience and bringing back memories from their childhood, which is exactly what this ad does.

Showing the loving relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter, the ad shows a vintage Mickey Mouse toy being lovingly passed down through generations and patched back up for its original owner. As well as emotion, the ad is also a nod to the classic motto – that you’re never too old for Disney.


Another brand that has created wide-spread emotion among consumers and viewers, is McDonald’s with their 2020 Christmas ad.

Documenting the relationship between a mother and teenage son, this ad beautifully captures the reconnection of a family at Christmas time.

Many families will be all too familiar with their children growing up far too quickly and struggling to engage them in festive family traditions.

Resonating with single parents, the attitudes of many teenagers and the often-tense relationship between the two, McDonald’s has captured the realities of family life, whilst also sharing a heart-warming ending filled with love and togetherness.

Hitting home for a lot of consumers, it creates a natural connection between the story and the consumer without permanently placing the product at the heart of it. The ad suggests McDonald’s care for its customers, aiming to bring people together over their love of food.


Many purchases are often seen as a need, as opposed to a want or desire. And with this, the purchase is a mundane experience, in which the consumer receives no pleasure or feelings of excitement.

For brands to change this, they need to transcend a need into a want. By creating a sense of aspiration among their products or services, they are creating emotion in a brand-new way.

For example, a pen is a necessity. Many of us need pens to go about our days at work and are typically nothing remotely exciting. However, when you compare a standard biro to a more luxurious Mont Blanc pen, for example, this changes the game.

You aspire to be a part of the brand and are more excited to go about your usual daily activities.

Most of us will have made a rather frivolous purchase at some point in our lives, and all of these will have come from a source of aspiration and desire, creating both excitement and an experience. These purchases are often for a higher transactional value than alternative products.

The benchmark of a powerhouse brand is the ability to create an emotional connection with its audience.

And although many of the campaigns mentioned are Christmas ads, it is important for brands to remember that emotions are felt all year round.

By making the campaigns relatable to customers in one way or another, this ensures that viewers are truly engaged with not just the advert, but with the message itself.

Emotion is priceless and should be the central focus of any marketing campaign. The value emotion brings is key – it enables the consumer to connect with the brand and its products, and ultimately, impacts our purchasing decisions.

Brand love is also pivotal, and brands and businesses should always strive towards it. By utilising the power of emotion, they will achieve trust, shared values and deliver a loyal bond. And without it, brands are simply a commodity, competing on nothing but price.

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