Emotive marketing is never as apparent as during the holiday season, and for good reason.

Studies show that consumers rely heavily on emotions when making brand choices. As Devra Pyrwes, U.S. marketer at Unruly Group, told Adweek, “Our emotions drive our purchases. The No. 1 reason people share an ad is intensity of emotion. Great emotional ads are all highly shared and important because they drive brand recall—and all of these things are what retailers want.”

Here are some of the best examples of brands using emotions to drive their seasonal campaigns.

1. Coca-Cola, Holidays are Coming (1995)

Coca-Cola has always been synonymous with Santa Claus (and in turn, Christmas), having helped to develop and shape the image of the iconic figure, featuring him in ads from as far back as the 1920s.

The brand’s 1995 ‘Holidays are Coming’ campaign helped to solidify its association with the holiday season, redefining the Christmas advert from the moment they first sent their red truck into a snow-covered town.

This ad is so ingrained in our minds that many of us don’t feel like the Christmas season has arrived until we’ve seen it on our screens. The foremost emotion it creates in modern viewers is one of nostalgia, as they remember seeing the ad every year in the run up to Christmas.

22 years on, the brand continues to innovate based on the campaign’s original success.

Using data to tap into their audiences, the brand last year evolved the Coca-Cola truck tour into into a virtual one, visiting fans on Twitter. Working with Snapchat, they also allowed users to create personalized Coke Snapchat Christmas cards – which were sent 26 times per second on Christmas Eve 2015.

The 2017 edition of the Coca-Cola ad (consisting of the cast of popular show Gogglebox reacting to seeing the ad) was found to be the UK’s most engaging spot of the season, evoking the most emotion from viewers.

2. Boots, Show Them You Know Them (2017)

This year’s Boots campaign shows two sisters growing up together, culminating in one giving the other a great Christmas present that ‘shows how well she knows her’.

The advert portrays how Boots products have featured through the years of their lives together, pointing to how they have formed part of their relationship.

The ad was formed based on the insight that many loyal Boots customers have grown up using their products.

With this in mind, the brand created a seasonal campaign that conjures a sense of nostalgia and affection for family; both key emotions during the holidays.

Helen Jeremiah, Director of Customer Strategy and communications at Boots UK, told Marketing Week, “We want to help people recognize, strengthen and celebrate their closest relationships through the sharing of great gifts – chosen with thought, shared with love, and received with unbridled delight. Like the sisters in our film, many of our customers have grown up with Boots and have been sharing our gifts with their family and friends throughout their lives.”

3. Air Canada, Gift of Home for the Holidays (2014)

Air Canada’s memorable ‘Gift of Home for the Holidays’ campaign was based on an insight they had into their audience: they feel like they’re ‘home’ when they see the airline’s maple leaf logo.

The advert consists of two Air Canada pilots walking into a Canadian pub in London and offering everyone a ‘free round’ – a free round-trip to Canada over the holidays.

A combination of emotions is utilized in this campaign. At first, there’s a sense of melancholy over not being able to be near loved ones or at home over Christmas. This is then replaced with surprise and pure joy as homesick Canadians realize they’re being given the chance to see their families.

Selma Filali, Director of Marketing at Air Canada, said at the time, “It wasn’t about creating a big stunt that was surprising or just pulling heartstrings. It had to be embedded into an insight that everyone could connect with and it had to feel genuine for the Air Canada brand.”

4. John Lewis, Man on the Moon (2015)

According to Age UK, there are over 1,200,000 lonely older people in England.

Recognizing the need to raise awareness on the issue, especially around the festive season, John Lewis decided to do something new.

Their 2015 ad entitled ‘Man on the Moon’ shines a spotlight on loneliness, featuring a young girl who discovers that there is a lonely man living on the moon and is determined to connect with him.

Its strapline reads: “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”, echoing Age UK’s own campaign: “No one should have no one at Christmas”.

John Lewis’ Customer Director Craig Inglis said, “We hope it inspires people to find really special gifts for their loved ones and through our partnership with Age UK, raises awareness of the issue of loneliness amongst older people and encourages others to support in any way they can.”

By anchoring their campaign to a charitable mission statement, John Lewis succeeded in evoking emotional reactions in their customers and achieved one of the top-performing ads of the season.

5 key considerations when creating emotive marketing campaigns:

    1. Analyze the attitudes and perceptions of your audience using robust survey data available through GlobalWebIndex.
    2. Identify the insights you can hook onto that will shift perceptions of your brand in the right direction.
    3. Know what emotional connection you want consumers to associate with your brand.
    4. Use this knowledge to shape a powerful message that evokes the right emotion.
    5. Rely on insight to know where and when to place your message for maximum impact.

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