Advert Calendar: Can PR professionals learn anything from Christmas Advertising?

Nothing says ’holidays are coming’ quite like Christmas advertising — in some cases, literally. Although we love getting the ‘festive feels’ and threatening to postpone Christmas until we’ve seen Aldi’s Kevin the carrot; is there more to the humble ‘advert calendar’ than a vocal tear-jerker and a pudding-burning dragon?

In their first collaborative blogpost, the Stone Junction team discuss what marketing and PR techniques they think B2B businesses and agencies could learn from Christmas advertising.


STEM companies, and in particular engineering companies, can learn the value of being close to the consumer from the likes of John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and the other regular Christmas TV culprits. 

Retailers like these are already part of our everyday lives, but they take this opportunity to position themselves in our hearts — by connecting emotionally via the ads. John Lewis has even achieved the very definition of positioning, as described in Positioning, the Ries and Trout 1981 classic. They are the Christmas ad company. 

But do STEM organisations want to be close to the consumer? Let alone in their hearts?  They do if they are running recruitment campaigns, or if they are promoting scientific reports resulting from public funding initiatives. 

What if you are a global, purpose-led business? It strikes me that learning from retailers' understanding of how to be close to the consumer could be invaluable in that context. 

Can you get more festive than the Kings of Christmas-related crying, John Lewis? Probably not! But there is a lot more to learn from its advert offering this year than just the origin of a flaming Christmas pudding. At its heart, the ‘Excitable Edgar’ ad is all about knowing and appreciating your own strengths — and more importantly, understanding what might not be.

It’s ok to not be good at everything — and it’s actually a better business model if you’re not. Once a company knows what it does best — be that composite manufacturing, automotive robots or setting a Christmas dinner on fire — it can place itself more securely in relevant markets, which will only help build customer-business understanding.

Be known for doing one thing incredibly well — like my mum and roast potatoes. It’s far easier to manage, to market and you won’t be making promises you can’t keep.

In a time of year when we’re bombarded with advertising and distracted by Christmas lights and the odd mince pie…or two, it can be increasingly difficult to make yourself stand out from the crowd when it comes to messaging.

More often than not, the best Christmas adverts give you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

While not all marketing and PR messaging — and particularly that in the engineering and STEM industry — can recreate emotional flashbacks or make you reminisce about your grandma’s steamed sponge pudding (one of my personal favourite Christmas memories), bringing a relatable message to your audience can certainly help what you’re trying to communicate resonate with your audience.

Whether it is explaining to engineers the real-life impact that your product or service could have on their own practice, or showcasing success stories through expertly written case studies (we do this kind of stuff for our clients, you know), bringing a humanised story to the message you’re trying to communicate will make it memorable to your reader.

While B2C Christmas advertising pulls on the nation's heartstrings, many of these customers shedding a tear at Edgar the dragon could be business owners and C-level executives. B2C advertising teaches B2B PR that everyone is human, no matter how sharp their suit is.

Let's take a campaign for an industrial parts supplier. Here's three heartstrings pulled very easily.
  •      Many of the parts supplied are designed for sustainability to maintain the Earth's rich biodiversity — sad polar bears on melting ice, anyone?
  •    Automation parts are sparing workers from the dull, dangerous and dirty jobs — everyone wants their family members to have a stimulating and fulfilling job role.
  •     By helping businesses source parts quickly with reduced downtime, the economy benefits everyone — including your new-born baby relatives.

While the aforementioned examples are extreme, they make the point that a good PR campaign is built on emotion.

Food plays a massive part of Christmas. From mince pies and turkey to the annually anticipated adverts from our favourite supermarkets. In Japan, however, you won’t find roast potatoes, sprouts or Christmas pudding on the table, all because of a clever PR campaign from a well-known fast-food chain.

When KFC first opened in Japan in the 1980s, the company promoted the KFC Christmas dinner bucket filled with chicken, cake and wine. Today, an estimated 3.6 million families order from a store with a Santa suit-clad Colonel Sanders for their Christmas day meal.

But Kentucky for Christmas was not a campaign to simply put the brand in front of more people. Very few people in Japan are Christian, so Christmas is not an official holiday, meaning that many families are reluctant to spend all day cooking. But why was it successful?

Finding a gap in the market is common practice in PR and a great opportunity to promote a company to fill the gap. However, this campaign went one step further and turned what could be a faceless corporation promoting a product into a company that cares about bringing families together and creating long-lasting traditions.


Quirky animations combined with a drab cover version of a 90’s number one have become synonymous with the festive season. Tearjerkers sell tinsel. Who knew?

B2B marketing, however, is rarely designed to drive emotion and is usually considered more rational than B2C. But, should that be the case? Often, B2B buying can be far more emotional.

Let’s say you buy a sausage roll from Gregg’s, but it ends up cold. No big deal, right? What would be an issue, is if that sausage roll had numerous stakeholders, required a binding contract to purchase and took several months to eat — or in this case, implement.

When the business stakes are higher, emotions are too.

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According to market-research group, Kantar, a Christmas advert should “trigger an emotional response” and “tell a story in which the brand plays a key role”. While we aren’t suggesting B2B organisations invest in producing their own festive blockbusters — it’s worth remembering there’s room for a little emotion in B2B marketing too. 

Tasha Bodger

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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