Richard Hopping
Richard Hopping is a Mintel Analyst specialising in researching and providing insight around UK brands across a number of different categories, notably Household Care.

Christmas is a key period for retail brands, with sales in December 2012 40% higher than the January-September 2012 monthly average, according to Mintel’s Christmas Shopping Habits research. With so much at stake, retailers must differentiate their proposition. Mintel’s Department Store Retailing finds that John Lewis is considered the most dynamic department store brand, with 44% of consumers considering it as moving forwards.

In order to capitalise on this forward moving image and on the potential Christmas custom, John Lewis has spent an estimated £7 million on its Christmas 2013 campaign. This represents an increase on the estimated £6 million spent in both 2011 and 2012.

John Lewis’s Christmas advert for 2013 follows the pattern of previous years, with a sentimental advert positioned around themes of sharing, family and love with the inclusion of a stripped back female vocal cover song. These factors immediately make consumers recognise it as a John Lewis Christmas advert and evoke memories of previous years.

Before it was shown for the first time on television on 9th November, John Lewis created buzz around its own Christmas advert with official previews and teasers displayed on the South Bank and on ITV, and releasing the advert on YouTube. This resulted in John Lewis receiving 40,000 mentions online on the 8th November before its advert had even been shown on TV.

John Lewis’s TV advert was first shown in a primetime slot during the first advert break of ITV1’s X Factor. Before showing it, ITV announced that it was a premiere, simultaneously increasing the sense of occasion in the advert and giving the channel a certain amount of prestige by being chosen as the first place to show it.
The extra investment in, and promotion of, John Lewis’ advert has been rewarded by a dramatic increase in mentions of the brand, with buzz surrounding John Lewis in 2013 exceeding its efforts from Christmas 2011 and 2012.

In 2011 and 2012, John Lewis has performed strongly in terms of sales at Christmas. While this is not necessarily simply down to an engaging advertising campaign, its customary familiar yet controlled employment of sentimentality is likely to place a link between John Lewis and Christmas in customers’ minds, something which cannot be easily quantified.

What this means:

Long term advertising strategies can generate expectancy among consumers that they will be emotionally engaged with a brand, something that has helped John Lewis become part of Christmas tradition.

The impact of viral videos and their ability to quickly create buzz and interest suggests the release of adverts on YouTube before television will become more commonplace.

Building the sense of occasion behind an advert, for example through official unveilings or ITV1’s signposting of John Lewis’s advert, can encourage interest and the sharing of experiences online, especially among a socially engaged crowd like the X Factor audience.

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