Once Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night are over, Britain starts preparing for Christmas. This usually coincides with the supermarkets releasing their Christmas ads to build brand awareness, get people talking and, ultimately, to try and grow their customer base.
In previous years, John Lewis have been deemed the king of Christmas ads. In 2013, they released their famous ‘The Bear & The Hare’ advert which has been watched 15,910,391 times on YouTube. Last year, water cooler topics everywhere were dominated with talk of their emotive ‘Monty the Penguin’ advert, pulling in a whopping 25,551,352 views.
This year is no exception with the release of the tear-jerking ‘Man on the Moon’ campaign; we’re not even in December yet and already the ad has generated 18,604,559 YouTube views.
Last year, John Lewis were in direct competition with Sainsbury’s for the public’s affection, after the latter’s Christmas advert focused on the poignant scenes of the 1914 Christmas truce; the football game between British and German soldiers.
And it would appear John Lewis may be in competition again this year. This time however, the contender is one nobody really saw coming.
In a David vs Goliath style battle, Aldi released their own Christmas advert last night, spoofing John Lewis’ ‘Man on the Moon’ theme, and it’s got everybody talking.
Whichever campaign you prefer, undeniably these are both superb pieces of content marketing. But how have they both managed to achieve it?
John Lewis – ‘Man on the Moon’
John Lewis’ ad starts with a little girl looking up at the moon through a telescope wherein she discovers the man on the moon staring longingly back at Earth. She makes various unsuccessful attempts to contact the elderly man and let him know she’s thinking of him. Finally, Christmas arrives and a present for the old man glides through the sky carried by balloons. Unwrapping it joyfully, the man discovers a telescope inside which he uses to gaze at the Earth finally, seeing the girl waving back at him.
The advert really does prompt an emotional response from the viewer by tugging on the heart strings. It’s especially poignant as John Lewis have said the intention is to raise awareness of the charity, Age UK, during the festive season. This kind of feeling tends to generate a high level of interaction from people; emotion will quickly be shared. Just use a tool like BuzzSumo – which provides information on the most shared content – and you will soon see that the most popular stories are those which resonate with you emotionally, whether they’re happy, sad, funny or controversial.
However you feel about the advert, even if you’re providing criticism, by talking to others about it, you’re assisting John Lewis in building their brand awareness and spreading their word.
John Lewis have always had a knack of bringing the “Awww” factor into their campaigns. Cute, fluffy animals have been their focal point in previous years and, whilst there aren’t any of those this time around, the interaction between the young and the elderly is still endearing.
Just look at the likes of “Charlie bit my finger” to understand how the cute factor can play a massive part in succeeding online.
Each one of their videos has been given a short, simple title; ‘The Bear & The Hare’ in 2013, ‘Monty the Penguin’ in 2014 and this year it’s ‘Man on the Moon’. Not only are these catchy and to the point, making them easy for people to refer to and discuss, it also means they convert well to social media. On Twitter in particular, these titles can be turned into hashtags and often, in John Lewis’ case, they become a trending topic – something a large number of people are talking about simultaneously. When using these hashtags, users are then able to see who else is discussing the advert and join in on the conversation.
It’s also worth noting here that, from a search engine optimisation point of view, John Lewis have been well prepared by ensuring this strategy resonates through to their website. In anticipation for the campaign, they have created a dedicated, optimised page on their website so that, for anyone conducting a Google search for ‘Man on the Moon’, they currently appear third in the search results, underneath Wikipedia and IMDB.
Could your marketing campaign have a catchy title? Are you able to turn it into a short hashtag so other people can join in on the conversation? Can you create a dedicated page on your website that will be relevant to the topic you’re trying to promote?
Every year, stripped down versions of well-known hits are featured as the background music. In this particular campaign, John Lewis have chosen to use the hauntingly-beautiful voice of the Norwegian artist, Aurora, singing Oasis’ ‘Half the World Away’. Whilst it’s a beautiful cover, the lyrics themselves work on so many different levels. Additionally, as in previous years, the song has already sky-rocketed its way into the charts following the advert’s release.
No hard sell
Time to address the elephant in the room; nowhere in this advert do John Lewis actually tell you to buy their products. They’re not using this as an opportunity to advertise their latest toys or most popular gifts. Too much of a hard sell can put people off, so John Lewis choose to advertise themselves in a subtle manner.
The important part of content marketing is tempting your audience in with something that will appeal to them. Get them interested in your brand first; their purchase or enquiry into your service will come later.
Aldi – ‘Man on the Moon’ spoof
When Aldi’s advert starts playing, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled across John Lewis again. But no, this one’s definitely different. The old man on the moon is sat between two telescopes; one from John Lewis priced at £109.95, the other from Aldi at the significantly cheaper price of £69.99. Whilst he claims to like both, the old man is “over the moon” with the cheaper Aldi version, after looking through it and spotting an armchair floating through the sky, carried by balloons. Sitting on the chair is an elderly lady, smiling and waving coyly back at him.
In comparison to John Lewis’ 2 minutes, 10 seconds long advert, Aldi’s video is a short and sweet 29 seconds, but it contains all the necessary elements to be a brilliant contender.
Firstly, and most obviously, it’s a play on the John Lewis advert. Whilst their rival has chosen to go down the heart-warming route, Aldi have opted for the tongue-in-cheek approach, playfully poking fun at their competitor whilst advertising themselves simultaneously. People across Britain will immediately know what Aldi are trying to achieve here and it’ll most likely bring a smile to their faces. And here’s where that emotional sharing comes into play again.
No build-up is required for Aldi. People are already talking about the ‘Man on the Moon’ and Aldi have just chosen to use this to their advantage. From now on, whenever someone mentions the title, people will be asking themselves, “Are they talking about John Lewis’ advert, or Aldi’s?” Even carrying out a quick Google search for ‘Man on the Moon’ today will mean you’ll see news about Aldi in the search results:
Aldi have been clever here. Rather than following in John Lewis’ footsteps by optimising their website so that they appear in the search results for ‘Man on the Moon’, they have instead relied on the media – particularly the ‘News’ section of Google – to raise brand awareness on their behalf; a risky tactic, but one that certainly seems to have paid off, as we can see, because a mention of their brand is indeed appearing in the search results for that particularly search term.
Aldi’s ethos is all about helping customers to spend less. They believe in this so much they’ve adopted the approach in their own spending; rather than paying an expensive marketing agency to develop a unique ad campaign, they’ve sat back for a couple of weeks and waited to see what other campaigns have worked. Once John Lewis’ ad was revealed, they used the same theme, but adapted it in such a way that makes them more financially appealing to their target audience.
What makes your brand different from your competitors? Can you use your unique selling points to give yourself a competitive edge?
To strengthen emotion into the advert, John Lewis use grey, dull colours throughout, literally to represent the moon itself but also to reinforce the loneliness felt by the old man. Whilst Aldi maintain these colours, they use the juxtaposition of the yellow in their logo to help their key messages stand out.
Use your marketing opportunities to subtly reinforce your brand’s identity in a person’s mind so that, next time they come across you, they’ll already know who you are (which brings us nicely onto our next point…)
If you’ve seen one of Aldi’s adverts before, you’ll know they tend to use the phrase “I like this one…and I like this one” when comparing the prices of popular products to their own home brand versions. By maintaining this theme in the Christmas advert, and displaying the price difference, Aldi add an element of familiarity to their campaign.
Not only that, they also bring back a familiar face from one of their older adverts; Jean – the lady in the chair – proved popular with audiences when she appeared in Aldi’s advert for Red Label tea (also known as the “I like gin” advert).
People like familiarity and they feel comfortable seeing something they already recognise.
Ultimately, these two adverts may look the same at first glance, but their messages really are complete polar opposites. Whichever you deem to be the winner of 2015’s Christmas ad competition, one thing’s for sure; both companies have used video and the power of content marketing to their advantage and generated buzz about their brands.
With online channels like YouTube, it’s so easy to get your video content out there nowadays. With such a high success rate for all kinds of worldwide brands, building videos into your content marketing strategy is something you should prioritise in 2016.