What’s the best recipe for holiday ad messaging during a pandemic?

Discussion
Source: Banana Republic’s “Love the Present”
Oct 26, 2020
Tom Ryan

Despite the stream of negative news this year, 63 percent of consumers said the holidays will still be a time of joy with Gen Z and Millennials looking forward to the season far more than older generations, according to a recent survey. Even so, 83 percent agreed their holidays will be different in some way.

Consumers are focusing on togetherness, gratitude and giving back, and celebrations that center around the home. They also want to see these sentiments portrayed in retail advertising, according to findings from the survey of 2,000 U.S consumers from Edelman taken in mid-September.

Beyond pandemic-centered anxieties, the tone of the campaigns are being affected by the nation’s racial challenges as well as the political divide following a contentious election.

Among the early 2020 holiday campaigns to arrive, Gap’s “Dream The Future” theme comes with an upbeat and hopeful message. “As we approach the end of a challenging year, we recognize that our country is fatigued and longing for a sense of unity,” said Mary Alderete, global head of Gap marketing.

Bloomingdale’s says its “Give Happy” campaign “embodies positivity and togetherness at the close of a challenging year.”

Banana Republic’s “Love the Present,” campaign “celebrates love and underscores an appreciation for the here and now” by capturing intimate moments of real-life families and couples, rather than using actors, according the chain’s press release.

Michael Janover, the brand’s head of marketing, said, “Holiday 2020 is an opportunity to refocus on what really matters — spending time with loved ones, creating new traditions and making the most of every moment, big or small.”

Saks’ “This Is How We Celebrate” campaign celebrates “only in New York” moments with a 10-story-tall theatrical light show at its New York flagship to be live-streamed online. The theme was designed before the city went into lockdown, but resonates more given the city’s challenges.

Emily Essner, Saks Fifth Avenue’s chief marketing officer. told Fashionista, “We take our role in New York City very seriously, and we very much believe that New York City is the greatest city on Earth and that, as it is our hometown, it’s absolutely our responsibility to do everything that we can to support it.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What themes should this year’s holiday campaigns embrace? What traditional themes or approaches should be toned down or avoided at all costs?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I’m looking forward to holiday messaging that expresses everything this year has not had — tranquility, joy, gratitude, and love."

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17 Comments on "What’s the best recipe for holiday ad messaging during a pandemic?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Even though things might be a little different this year, most consumers are still looking forward to the holidays. From our research some of the themes that resonate include: family and friends, togetherness, coziness, cocooning, traditional, and gratitude. After all the turmoil of this year, a lot of consumers want a quiet and simple holiday season that allows them to relax and have fun with those they love. Anything overly brash, noisy or overtly commercial should probably be avoided.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
CEO and President, Cogent Creative Consulting
1 month 1 day ago

2020 has been a horrible year for most everyone in so many ways – the pandemic, social distancing, travel restrictions, job losses, racial tensions, political uncertainty and much more. The holidays are a time to shine some brightness and love on a dark year. Retail advertisers must be sensitive to what customers are feeling and make sure the messaging resonates with their feelings. Messages that evoke feelings of empathy, love, hope and togetherness in whatever shape that takes for the holidays.

Perry Kramer
BrainTrust

Holiday messages this year are going to be more important than ever. The ability to build and maintain loyalty will be critical to retailers’ success. Fundamental to building this loyalty will be social responsibility, safety (for customers and employees), and extreme flexibility/simplicity with shopping, pickup and delivery options. As in most years, customers will want to use different shopping channels at different times based on their needs in the moment, i.e., on Monday they shop in-store and on Tuesday next-day delivery is critical for them.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Advertisements should definitely include family in masks if out in public and keeping get togethers to less than 10, but should also feature messages of thoughtfulness and hope.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

My colleagues have it right; despite this horrible year, we can celebrate each other and express gratitude for the things we have. I’m looking forward to holiday messaging that expresses everything this year has not had — tranquility, joy, gratitude, and love.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

Well said, Cathy.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

It seems that the all of us are bombed daily with news of the virus, closings and new rules defined for businesses. That’s where our attentions are headed. Rightly so, I suppose. Holiday time is coming and the messaging should be extremely positive and heartwarming; a little escapism is good. I often think of the RetailWire holiday ad contests. The impact of those ads? It is like putting the forgotten icing on the birthday cake.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Retailers would normally attempt to balance their commercial message (shop early during Black Friday, and so forth) with the “goodwill” ads meant to burnish their images. You can expect to see more of the latter this year, and yet stores still need to ring the register under trying circumstances. The current Target campaign is a fine example of how to do both — emphasize the ease of shopping at its stores and website during a pandemic, while also cloaking the brand in goodwill and good feelings toward each other.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I like Gap’s “Dream the Future” campaign but it doesn’t feel very holiday to me. There is also no one in it near or above the age of 50 so I guess that means older people don’t have dreams. Trust me, we do.

This year more than ever we need feel good holiday spots, families together, masked in public; families and friends who have to enjoy the holidays via Zoom – commercials that make us feel that although we may be apart we are still together.

This year we need hope and the feeling that even though we have been through hell, all is not lost. I love the Saks theme “This is How We Celebrate” because it has so many options. Kohl’s had some fun spots in 2019 without being overly sentimental, like the football themed one with moms rushing the field. Macy’s always nails the holiday story commercial. I am looking forward to what these retailers come up with this year.

Casey Golden
BrainTrust
1 month 1 day ago

Nicely said Georganne. Brands need to remember how closely we’re connected and some family members may be missing out or may have been unexpectedly lost this year.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Thanks, Casey!

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

In a year of profound change, retailers can express holiday messages of hope, belonging and wellness.

An overall theme could be the simple joy of celebrating the holidays at home in new, creative ways. Additional themes can include self-care, family unity and serving the community, such as food bank donations.

Traditional scenes of bustling malls with crowds waiting for Santa no longer resonate. Also, to avoid controversy, messaging should steer clear of politics.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, and with so much uncertainty going into winter, families are looking forward to the holiday magic and all the anticipation that goes along with it. While the typical Black Friday and holiday advertising will have to be toned down a bit, empathy, understanding, and compassion will rule the day, as we are all dealing with an unprecedented situation.

We have to be thankful for what we have, and any brand that can capture the narrative of not taking anything for granted, for being appreciative of what we have, and most importantly a message of hope for the holidays/New Year, will win the hearts and minds of consumers.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The best way to energize shoppers is to create imagery of what used to be normal. I really don’t like actors with masks in ads. Are we REALLY going to be living the rest of our lives this way? Really? Let’s just remind shoppers of the comfort of loved ones and “escape” from our current reality if only for a 30-second ad.

Rodger Buyvoets
BrainTrust

Given that we are all spending so much time at home, there have already been reports of families planning to decorate for the holidays earlier than other years. This encapsulates what ads should show: Bringing the holiday spirit home. Themes that should be leveraged during this time – as many of my peers have already expressed – are togetherness, intimate gatherings, unity, and creativity. This holiday season won’t be represented by large family gatherings. Instead, they’ll be more intimate and bonded by technology. For example, ads can show images of families getting together with their extended families on Skype or FaceTime. It will be critical for these ads to implicitly enforce current regulations while also being sensitive to the turbulent year we’ve experienced.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

This is the year for positive, feel-good holiday messages to counter all the negativity and pain felt throughout the year by so many people. Less commercial, more welcoming, and show some holiday spirit — that’s what retailers and brands need to focus on in their holiday messaging this year. It’s what consumers want to feel!

Lauren Goldberg
BrainTrust

Holidays have always been a time for joy and that shouldn’t change during this difficult time. However, it’s important for marketing be authentic to resonate with customers. We’re going to be post-election and there will be a real need for kindness, togetherness and peace. I’d like to see themes of simple pleasures, family (regardless of in person or virtual), empathy and hopefulness. It would be wise for any retailers to ensure that the visuals in their ads with respect to COVID (masks, social distance, small gatherings, etc).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I’m looking forward to holiday messaging that expresses everything this year has not had — tranquility, joy, gratitude, and love."

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