Best Christmas Ads Ever–How John Lewis Sells Gift Giving as a Value

23 Dec

John Lewis 4           We’ve reached the advent of capitalism’s most important holiday… Christmas.

    But instead of brands trying to sell us objects and products all in the name of quarterly sales goals and corporate profits, what if they bent the value curve and sold a different kind of equation?

    British department store John Lewis has.  They’ve done it for years, and once again implore us to think of Christmas as an idea.  That idea is giving something of one’s self and thereby changing yourself and the person you love.   They do it not through product demonstration or a heavy-handed sales pitch, but instead through powerful schematic storytelling.

   This year’s John Lewis Christmas commercial, or advert as they’re called in Britain, follows in the store’s long tradition of inviting its customers to think differently about the holiday.  Each year, the John Lewis advert becomes the most anticipated and most shared piece of strategic advertising communication in the UK.  For 2018, they take viewers by the hand and lead them on the musical journey of the child who would become one of the world’s most enduring pop stars.  

    With its newest advert, John Lewis is sending a very specific and powerful message—give the gift that will change someone’s life.  Of course the implicit message is, if it changed Elton John’s life, imagine what it can do for someone else.

    The brilliance of the John Lewis Christmas ads over the years is that they use inviting and compelling characters that make the viewer think deeply about story. Firmly grounded Appraisal Theory, the viewer aligns the story with their own life experiences and creates a powerful emotional response about both the ad and their attitude toward the brand.

    By far, their most powerful advert was 2014’s Monty the Penguin with its simple message of buying someone the gift they’ve been dreaming of.

    For John Lewis, it’s more than just changing our attitudes on gifts.  It has also implored us to change our attitudes on society.   In 2015, its Christmas advert “Man on the Moon” focused its attention on the elderly.  The campaign turned a corner by partnering Age UK to bring awareness to the loneliness of many senior citizens.  The proceeds from the sale of specific items at John Lewis all went to the Age UK charity.

   More than two thousand years ago the Book of Matthew told of three men who originated the idea of giving.  Their gifts to the Christ child of gold, incense, and myrrh were about those higher-level values of innocence and honor.  John Lewis on a different level implores us to think about that too. It’s about the idea of giving—and changing someone’s life.  That’s a brand value worth taking to the bank.

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