As the first Christmas advertising slip onto television screens, our Creative Director, Ryan Newey, looks at how brands can take advantage of the various traditions and habits ingrained in the Christmas period.

Late-October and thanks to Morrisons’ eagerness to promote their Big Christmas Bonus, the first christmas ad slipped onto British television screens earlier this month. With that, the floodgates are now left unmanned as virtually every brand worth their salt readies themselves to capitalise on one of the most lucrative sales periods of the year. In an industry like ours dedicated to the next big thing and close observation of consumer’s patterns of behaviour, it’s natural to try to predict what will be different this Christmas. M-commerce is on the rise, 3D printing is rapidly gaining traction, and thanks to shows like The Great British Bake Off, a culture of doing-it-yourself is sweeping the nation. But how will that affect shopping behaviour this Christmas? What will be at the core of consumer’s decision making this time round?

Arguably, it’s going to be pretty similar to last year. And the year before that. And probably the year before that. If there’s ever a time for rigid traditions and habitual behaviour, Christmas is definitely it, with millions of families rolling out their own take on the traditional Christmas year after year. Whilst certain aspects may vary, and the latest must-have gifts come and go, there are some things we can be pretty sure of. A box of dusty decorations will be hauled from an attic containing dubious Christmas ephemera collected over the years, there will be a Christmas pudding whether anyone actually likes the taste of it or not, we’ll get some new socks, and most of us will emerge a good couple of pounds heavier, using the new year as an appropriate time to resolve to spend the next few months shedding them. We’ll also listen to Wizzard, Slade, and The Pogues despite not going anywhere near them at any other time of year.

So what does this mean for brands? Firstly, don’t underestimate the power of tradition and seasonal routine. When it comes to Christmas we’re creatures of habit and December is no time for revolution. Coca Cola’s ‘Holidays are coming’ makes the case for how we even look forward to the annual airing of an ad, if it’s been around long enough. Christmas is a superb opportunity for brands to empathise with a pattern of behaviour that many consumers will feel is unique to them despite rationally knowing that it isn’t. It works much like the hangover effect, whereby anyone who is suffering one at the time feels like they’re the only one who is. This gives brands an opportunity to build on the marketing onslaught they usually mount on overloaded consumers, and connect with people on a more emotional, human level. Arguably, Christmas is the perfect time for one of marketing’s favourite buzz words – content – to swing into action. At the most commercially aggressive time of year, brands that show understanding and insight as to what goes on behind closed doors in homes up and down the country, have the opportunity to create a respite from the hard sell and create content that entertains, informs and helps consumers through the minefield that is a family Christmas. They will in turn be rewarded with engagement and loyalty throughout the year ahead. After all, our rigid traditions and habitual behaviour isn’t for life, it’s mainly just for Christmas.

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