Six Cracking Christmas PR Campaigns

With Halloween and Bonfire Night out of the way, we’re gearing up for Christmas. And the same goes for the retailers. In the run-up to the big day, brands big and small, fight it out to win column inches and the hearts and minds of consumers with their heart-warming Christmas PR campaigns.

Nothing beats a little Christmas creativity. So why not pull up a chair next to the fire, grab a mince pie, and mull over this selection of sublime Christmas PR campaigns?

John Lewis: The Unexpected Guest

Boy and girl from John Lewis Christmas ad

For many, the release of the highly-anticipated John Lewis Christmas ad marks the official beginning of the festive season. It’s as much of a Christmas tradition as decorating the tree and eating brussels sprouts. (For those of you who don’t know, John Lewis is a popular chain of high-end department stores in the UK.)

And this year was no different. Media speculation reached fever pitch in the lead-up to the launch of the ‘Unexpected Guest’ on November 4, and was dissected by all the major consumer and trade newspapers over the following week.

The two-minute film sees 14-year-old Nathan teaching the joy of Christmas to Skye – an alien whose spaceship crash-lands in woods near his home.

Skye fall

They become firm friends as Nathan introduces her to all the festive traditions, from decorating the Christmas tree, to throwing snowballs and eating mince pies. But all too soon, the new friends are separated as the extra-terrestrial fixes her ship and has to return to her home planet. But not before Nathan gives her a light-up Christmas jumper – the same one he’s wearing when he meets her for the first time.

The advert features a soft piano cover of ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ by 20-year-old singer Lola Young. (The song was first made a hit by Human League frontman Philip Oakey and iconic producer Giorgio Moroder.)

This mini feature film celebrates friendship and reminds us of the joy of experiencing Christmas for the first time.

Fun Fact: The ad has already scored its own spoof thanks to supermarket chain Iceland and its deal to stock Space Raiders crisps in store. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Emotive campaigns always pull at the heartstrings, especially at Christmas. And this is where John Lewis excels. Masters of emotional marketing, they know how to create an emotional connection with consumers, resulting in plenty of chatter on social media and precious coverage in the trade and consumer press.

Above + Beyond: Virtual Log Fire

Virtual fireplace for Shelter

Creative agency Above+Beyond have done their bit for charity with a unique fundraising campaign that’s raising money for the housing and homelessness charity, Shelter.

Capitalising on YouTube’s boom in virtual fireplace footage, the agency created a 10-hour virtual log fire video and struck a deal with Google AdSense for the homeless charity to retain all the ad revenue from it.

By simply watching the fire on YouTube – whether for a minute, or all day long – the advertising revenue will be donated directly to the charity.

This campaign is simple, yet effective for three reasons:

  1. It couldn’t be easier for people to donate. All they have to do is watch the video. This takes the complexity and stress out of the traditional ask. And it gives people a warm tingly feeling for giving back, without having to do more than stare at a screen.
  2. This fundraising initiative is original and altruistic. And it’s put Above+Beyond on the public’s radar and garnered them kudos and column inches in the media.
  3. Google AdSense is a commercial advertising tool. So turning it into something positive is also great PR for Google. Everyone’s a winner.

ALDI: A Christmas Carrot

Ebana character for Aldi TV ad

Aldi fans, fear not. Despite the rumours, Kevin the Carrot is back, and this year, he’s helping grumpy old Ebanana Scrooge to understand the meaning of Christmas.

A unique take on A Christmas Carol, the Dickensian-style advert follows the story of a Christmas-hating banana named Ebanana Scrooge.

Much like the book, the animated story sees Ebanana receive a visit from Kevin (the Christmas carrot), who takes him on a magical journey through town. They see tables filled with delicious food, gingerbread biscuits sledging, and spot a small tomato who’s struggling to build a snowman — the one Ebanana kicked down at the beginning of the ad.

As well as Kevin, the ad features a variety of fruit and vegetable characters, including Tiny Tom, Peas and Goodwill, and Marcus Radishford. Brilliantly, this character is voiced by the England striker himself.

Neighbourly behaviour

ALDI joined forces with Rashford and Neighbourly, a platform that links businesses to charities in local communities, to donate surplus food to families in need. The aim is to donate 1.8 million meals to families in need this Christmas.

Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the ad pokes fun at the supermarket’s rivalry with M&S, as their caterpillar cake Cuthbert is arrested by two police lemons.

The advert has gone down well with fans for not being self-promotional. One Twitter user said, ‘the thing I love about it is that it’s not advertising anything in particular, it’s just a lovely Christmas message.’ The icing on the Christmas cake is they’re pledging to ensure that families-in-need can enjoy Christmas lunch. This altruistic gesture has won them extra brownie points with fans and the media, and done wonders for their brand image.

Branston Pickle: International Pickle Post

Gift wrap for post a pickle campaign

Due to supply chain issues, Europe has seen a shortage of one of the UK’s best loved exports: Branston Pickle. An essential item for the Christmas cheeseboard, the shortage has left thousands of expats in a pickle.

In an effort to save Christmas and bring a tangy taste of home to chutney-loving fans abroad, Branston came up with a novel Christmas PR stunt in the form of the International Pickle Post – a pop-up shop in Gabriel’s Wharf, London, from which shoppers could mail a jar of pickle to loved ones across Europe for free, while bypassing the Christmas Post Office queues.

In addition to pickle, gifters could add a cheesy Christmas card (think pickle bells, pickle bells, pickle all the way) and package their gift in pickle-themed wrapping paper.

International pickle post

The unique pop-up was open for three days from 25th November. But it also popped up at selected Sainsbury’s stores across the UK and at Tesco’s touring Christmas market, from 5th November.

For those based outside London, the International Pickle Post service was also available online, with an additional service that enabled people to personalise their jar.

This was an inspired Christmas PR stunt from the bods at Branston. They capitalised on the pickle shortage and turned it into a fab PR story that bagged them load of coverage in the consumer and trade press alike.

DUNELM: #DeliverJoy

Dunelm deliver joy illustration

Following on from last year’s successful #DeliverJoy campaign, which saw British home furnishings retailer Dunelm donate 18,000 gifts to the vulnerable, elderly and homeless, the retailer is resurrecting the campaign to spread even more festive joy this year.

Each Dunelm shop across the country has a Christmas tree in-store, decorated with tags containing the names of people from care homes, women’s refuges and primary schools in the local community.

The tags detail the age, gender and interests of each person, plus a gift suggestion, so shoppers have an idea of what to buy.

Dunelm is asking kind-hearted locals to pick a tag and fill a shoebox with gifts (with a suggested £10 minimum value), which the ‘dunelves’ then wrap and distribute in time for Christmas. Each store has partnered with one or two community groups to identify people in need.

Influencer influence

In addition to gifting presents to the vulnerable, Dunelm has also enlisted the help of influencer @katiepiper_. Katie is asking her followers to donate their old or unwanted Christmas decorations to their local Dunelm store. Here, they will be cleaned, upcycled and donated to care homes and community charity groups around the country.

Supporting local communities is a key part of Dunelm’s mission, and this Christmas PR stunt is a beautiful way to drum home their values and encourage people to give back.


coca cola Xmas truck over Tower Bridge

You know the ‘holidays are coming’ when the twinkling Coca-Cola truck makes an appearance on your TV screen.

The iconic advert has been running since 1995, and is as much a part of Christmas as turkey and stuffing. In fact, consumers feel so strongly about it, they complained en masse when the soft drinks behemoth replaced it in the early 2000s. Customers demanded that Coca-Cola reinstate the truck and catchy jingle, as they mark the start of the festive period.

The brand listened and the advert has been a Christmas staple every year since, including this one.

The popularity is down to one simple but very effective marketing technique: selling happiness. Coca-Cola defined happiness as Christmas back in 1995, and reinforced the connection year after year until we built a strong association.

As a result, the campaign has won a plethora of awards, including Marketing Week’s ‘most effective Christmas ad’ in 2020 and hits the headlines each year when the launch date is announced.

The lesson? Consistency pays off.

These are six fabulous sources of inspiration for your next Christmas campaign. Now let’s look at some strategies you can adopt to ensure your Christmas campaign hits the right note with customers and the media this yuletide.

Capture the magic of Christmas

mum, dad and child opening xmas presents

There’s a good reason why brands like Coca-Cola have such memorable Christmas campaigns: they capture the very essence of Christmas, make us nostalgic, and transport us back to our childhood.

This is tricky to do. But successfully recapturing that magic in a Christmas PR campaign is a sure-fire way to succeed.

Pull on those heart strings

We’re an emotional bunch. So if you can create a campaign that brings a tear to the eye, fills us with nostalgia, or makes us laugh out loud, you’re on to a winner. Social media was awash with people reaching for their hankies after the world was introduced to John Lewis’ Nathan and Skye.

Partner up & give back

Christmas is a prime time to think about those who are less fortunate. Why not use it as an opportunity to team up with another brand and give something back, like Above+Beyond did with Google?

If you’re not involved in any charitable activities this Christmas, be assured your competitors will be. So it’s time to up your CSR game.

Give stuff away

The saying goes, ‘it’s better to give than to receive’. So why not spread some Christmas joy this season by treating your customers to some freebies? Coca-Cola hands out free drinks, along with a big dose of festive cheer each year. While Branston are paying for customer’s pickle postage, to ensure their loved ones don’t go without.

What can you give your customers to make them feel special this Christmas? It’s a great way to garner goodwill, from customers and the media alike.

Partner with influencers

An ‘influencer’ is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.

71% of Facebook and Instagram users say that influencers have a direct impact on their Christmas shopping decisions.

This is why it was a savvy move by Dunelm to engage Katie Piper in their Christmas campaign. She’s a well-respected celebrity, with 1m Instagram followers, 123k Facebook fans, and a lot of influence over them.

Working with influencers can do wonders for the reach of your campaign. It will also reinforce your reputation and foster your credibility to a new audience.

In the long-term, it’s the perfect tool to grow an army of loyal brand advocates.

Are you inspired to get festive?

You may not have a John Lewis-sized budget. But if your Christmas PR campaign is original, emotive and on-brand, there’s no reason why you can’t strike a chord with consumers and the national press.

Want to join the PR revolution? Call me now on +44 (0)77604 70309

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