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The holiday season has become a big opportunity for retailers and brands to create a deeper emotional connection with their customers at a pivotal time of year for spend. 2016 continues much in the same way, powered by big launches including a message of female empowerment from M&S with Mrs Claus, another iconic nod from John Lewis with Buster the Boxer, and a big cinematic piece from Burberry.
Whether the intention is to encourage happy tears or just have your audience laugh, brands are stepping up to the challenge of showing a strong sense of self, and conveying a powerful message in the process, all in a bid, of course, to drive some of that all-important Q4 revenue in their direction.
Read on for our pick of the best campaigns across the fashion and retail space in Europe and US this year (beyond those already mentioned), as well as a bevvy of further ones to know about below…
Mulberry: It’s What’s Inside That Counts
Mulberry tugs at the heartstrings for the holiday season with an endearing story of love and acceptance played by child actors pretending to be grown-ups. The two-part film, which was shot in the British countryside in Surrey, tells the story of a traditional Christmas where three siblings return to their childhood home to spend the holidays with their difficult mother. As the story unravels, secrets and problems come to light. At the end of Part I, in an act of generosity, one sibling gifts her sister her much loved new Bayswater bag, in a realisation that “it’s what’s inside that counts”.
Directed by Albert Moya and written by Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel), it explores a deeper meaning of accepting each other for who they are. As Johnny Coca, the label’s creative director, explains: “When I was a kid, all that I wanted to do was to be grown up so I could be like my dad. Now that I am an adult, I just want to be a kid again! Christmas brings out the kid in all of us, and this is what I love about using children to tell our story this year.” The second and final version, which shows the family coming to terms with each others’ faults and weaknesses, premieres later this month.
Macy’s: The #SantaProject
The tagline for Macy’s holiday campaigns has long been about the idea of “Believe”. For 2016, they’ve turned that into an exploration of whether children today do indeed believe in Santa Claus. Cue a series of seriously cute clips featuring young kids sharing their thoughts on the miracle of Christmas, before a reminder message of the sort of realities they’re faced with when turning to the internet to search out the truth instead. It’s a positive note revolving really around kindness with what we post online, which let’s face it, can be applied to all parts of life, especially after this rocky year.
Rebecca Minkoff: Holiday My Way With @arielle
Rebecca Minkoff teams up with Vine star Arielle Vandenberg to tell the story of an independent woman trying to navigate the holidays by herself as she decides to stay in the city for the first time, and not go home to see her family. Each video, or chapter, focuses on a different achievement as the main character stumbles into adulthood, from decorating the apartment, to hosting a Friendsgiving, alluding to Thanksgiving as well.
Rebecca Minkoff, the designer herself, makes a cameo as a friend disappointed with the (clumsily wrapped) gift she receives from the main character. On other platforms, the #holidaymyway hashtag is being used to promote a Christmas gift guide and additional marketing content.
Harrods: A Very British Bear Tale
Seemingly inspired by Disney’s Frozen, Harrods tells an animated tale of a young teddy bear serving as the only (snuggly) survivor when an ice storm takes over the palace thanks to a mischievous elf. Hugh, as he’s called, comes to the rescue by climbing to the rooftop in order to signal help from Father Christmas in the North Pole. As the narrated story continues, the spell is broken and Hugh ends up crowned a prince thanks to his courage.
In addition from Harrods this season, is A Very British Fairy Tale in partnership with Burberry; a stop motion short made from paper cutouts.
Coach: A Holiday Film Starring #RexyTheCoachDino
Coach continues its good-humoured approach to luxury with a holiday film starring its now beloved mascot, Rexy the Coach Dino. The film shows what happens at the label’s New York City workshop after hours, when one rogue Rexy leather dinosaur comes to life. Aiming to wreak havoc, the dinosaur runs free pushing over boxes, breaking baubles and generally creating a mess, all while dancing – by herself – to the soundtrack of Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”, as sung by The Donnas. As the sun rises, Rexy spots an open window and sets herself free, roaming the streets of the city independently.
Kate Spade: Make Magic Happen
Kate Spade’s short but sweet spot, starring model Jourdan Dunn and stylist Catherine Baba, features a small cameo by the iconic Miss Piggy. Shouting over the spot in a possessive manner, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”, the fabulous Muppets’ character attempts to keep all handbags to herself. The campaign also promotes the designer’s latest collaboration, with Miss Piggy herself. The holiday line includes wallets, phone cases, and accessories with the character’s “Who, moi?” catchphrase.
Speaking to WWD, Miss Piggy talked of her excitement to join the great group of women associated with the brand: “Moi was already a big fan of Kate Spade New York’s Miss Adventure’s series. I mean you see all these fabulous and incredibly strong and wonderful women like Anna Kendrick and Zosia Mamet having fun. So, I thought: I’m fabulous, incredibly strong and wonderful, I need to be part of this. When I discovered they wanted to create product inspired by moi: Well, it was a done deal.”
Target: The Toycracker
Target is betting big on its holiday campaign with an eight-minute musical titled The Toycracker, a cheeky take on the Nutcracker classic that reimagines the Tchaikovsky soundtrack as a modern hip hop track. Developed by ad agency 72AndSunny, the spot stars singer John Legend as the Rat King, his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, as the Nutcracker and Isabella Russo (The School of Rock) as Clara. This year’s popular toys, such as Trolls and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles, have replaced classic characters such as the Sugar Plum Fairy and toy soldiers, while the play’s famous sword fight scene will be told as a rap battle.
The full musical will air in two four-minute spots during ABC’s network premiere of the film Frozen on December 11 in the US. Meanwhile, the brand has launched behind-the-scenes footage of the night of the musical in the shape of a trailer, starring the Bullseye dog and a young girl, Marisol, as well as toys that have come to life to work on the production. The campaign will be supported by further marketing activity that includes a Snapchat filter and a “10 Days of Deals” promotion.
Farfetch: The Holiday Remix
For this Christmas season, Farfetch is presenting a remix of all things festive with a shoppable video that takes on a modern twist of the Nutcracker story. The e-tailer worked with choreographer Dana Foglia, of Beyonce’s Formation fame, to create a modern-day version of Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy, with dancers donning this season’s best partywear.
When watched on Farfetch.com, the video allows customers to shop by displaying circles over certain garments, thanks to a partnership with touchable video platform Cinematique. Clicking the circles will showcase more information about the outfit, and allow users to add to a basket and checkout at the end.
Warehouse continues its ‘Resolutely British’ reinvention, under the helm of newly appointed creative director Emma Cook, with a video campaign that celebrates what happens in the girl’s room, or the ladies’ room at public spaces, from nightclubs to bars. The short video shows women touching up their make-up, socialising and generally letting their guard down, in a space where “strangers become allies, the compliments are free and the drama is left on the dancefloor”.
Topshop: The Anti-Cliché Christmas
Topshop appeals to its young and trendy demographic with a call to express individuality. The spot showcases models of all different styles, from modern sportswear to grungy, walking as cuts outs in front of backgrounds including cityscapes and the beachside, emphasising the idea of party dressing “without the one-size-fits-all approach” in order to represent an anti-cliché sort of Christmas.
To celebrate the sentiment, Topshop has also launched its still image campaign presenting its next generation of rising fashion stars, which are models Stella Maxwell, Londone Myers, Cami Morrone, Jing Wen, Kiki Willems, Marjan Jonkman, Damaris Goddrie, Caitie Green and Lottie Moss, Kate Moss’ youngest sister. Explaining the campaign, Kate Phelan, the retailer’s creative director, says: “This season is about the individual spirit of a woman – she no longer wants to be part of a tribe, she has her own style.”
House of Fraser: Christmas is Coming for You
British retailer House of Fraser is aiming to convey the excitement and anticipation that precedes the season with a modern dance spot, in the same vein as Farfetch. Teaming up with choreographer Suzette Brissett, the spot showcases dancers going through a whirlwind of settings, including an opulent dining table and a forest where trees are filled with presents. The upbeat soundtrack is courtesy of British songstress Laura Mvula, who reinterprets The Fugees’ classic Ready or Not track.
Additional ones to check out below include Cartier, Very.co.uk, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Harvey Nichols, Jack Wills, Boohoo.com, Debenhams, New Look, Tiffany & Co, Gap and Banana Republic. As a bonus: also tugging our heart strings outside the fashion space, is Sainsbury’s The Greatest Gift.
Understanding changing human behaviour is the surest way to create a trend in fashion today, but such attitudes need to be reflected in our communications and not just products, argues Frances Docx of 18 Feet & Rising.
In the past, the fashion trend trajectory was simple: from fashion houses to magazines, consumers copying celebrities. Everyone knew their rightful place in the fashion food chain, and the clothes would remain on the high street until those in power decided a new season was ready to launch.
Cut to the internet and this online world has hastened and devolved the traditional fashion process entirely. Now trends can emerge from anywhere at any time – the high street, teens on Instagram… a Wikihow page with a seven-step illustrated guide to starting your own.
In a world of microwave-minute attention spans and a ‘buy now’ impulse control disorder, fashion brands have to look beyond short-lived trend sources towards something that endures and evolves as their brand does.
So where should they turn for inspiration to create fresh and enduring work? Where we’ve always looked: to people. The surest way to predict a trend is to create one. And the most effective way to create a trend is to study and predict human behaviour and attitudes.
A topline example: UK gym membership spending is up by 44%. What’s the consequence for fashion? You can’t move for box-fresh Adidas Stan Smiths, endless versions of the ‘athleisure’ trend and the likes of Beyoncé’s newly launched fitness line, Ivy Park, crashing the Topshop website.
Looking good has become so synonymous with physical fitness that by a series of cognitive leaps everyone is wearing tennis shoes – with no intention of playing tennis. And we don’t care either, by the way. We only care if the white on our kicks stays bright.
And what else? We only wear 20% of our wardrobe on a regular basis and we throw away over one million tonnes of clothing and other textiles in the UK each year. It’s not because we don’t like the rejected 80%; generally we do, but maybe the fit isn’t quite right, the neckline is a bit low and we’d rather wear one of our old favourites.
Meanwhile, instead of the buy-it-cheap-pile-it-high Primark mentality, we also see disrupters such as Tom Cridland entering the mass market with his 30-year sweatshirt. Or designers such as Vivienne Westwood that encourage shoppers to choose well so they only choose once.
Everyday people are changing the face of retail. Brands must realise, respect and pay attention to this. And the impact must be reflected not only in the product on their shelves but in the way they communicate to consumers.
Insights (the behaviour and perceptual mapping of trends) have long been the bread and butter of brand communications. But up until now they have retreated behind the “Advertising Idea” like a hungover mollusk.
Communications today are firmly driven by the “we understand you” mantra; capitalising on emotionally charged purchasing. We see this in the UK with personalised discounting like the MyWaitrose scheme, through to the advent of Memevertising such as with House of Fraser’s “My Face When…” 2015 campaign (as above, by 18 Feet & Rising).
To those in fashion scratching their heads over the latest trend reports working out how to make SS17 and beyond fresh – put down that colour palette, stop looking at what your fashion forefathers have done and consider applying these rules of thumb:
Frances Docx is a planner at creative agency 18 Feet & Rising. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via email@example.com.
Festive retail films are continuing to come out in droves, with Target, Sainsbury’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods getting in on the storytelling and emotion-inspiring game, ranging from an adventure to save the Christmas tree, to Mog the cat almost ruining the day, and a coach getting a wonderful surprise.
Meanwhile, Harvey Nichols warns of the risk of #giftface, Primark documents a journey home with a clever combination of models amid toy scenery, Kohl’s focuses on modern family, and House of Fraser and M&S stick with good musical fun. The Body Shop is a personal highlight, however – nothing like a good sing-a-long to Jingle Bells in the shower.