As brands plan for Christmas 2020, WARC’s Zoe McCready drills into their responsibility toward people after a difficult year, and explores what to do about it.

Now that summer is nearly over, we’re bracing ourselves for the cold reality of autumn, except in this case, going back to school or work is not nearly as dire as the possibility of a future lockdown. With some already starting to plan how Christmas could look, this would be a major barrier that would upend any plans.

Take Eid for example. At the eleventh-hour, celebrations across Northern England were severely impacted with people told not to socialise with other homes or in gardens, and so it is worth asking the question – what would happen if this was about Christmas?

This is an extreme scenario, and one that brands ultimately could not fix as you cannot replace the intimacy of a gathering with loved ones, but it is worth thinking about what a response ought to look like.

What can your brand offer to consumers?

  1. An easy e-commerce experience to send a much-wanted present far away.
  2. A heartwarming advertisement that distracts and connects people online.
  3. The celebration of those most impacted throughout, such as the old, the disabled and key workers.

The answer? All the above, none of the above or a combination of the above as there is no one solution.

The economic impact of COVID-19 has been radically different depending on the sector, from travel fighting for survival to digital retail ramping up capacity and staffing to keep up with demand. Consequently, the creation of any new ideas for Christmas should keep the objectives of the company and the position of its sector top of mind to remain human to consumers.

Show the value of quality time

Pre-COVID, spending time with the people we loved was already low in people’s priorities. Ruavieja’s successful campaign The Time We Have Left showed people we do not have as much time to spend with our loved ones as we think we do, due to the hectic pace of life. Now that it is a reality forced upon us, the emotional impact of this advertisement is more pronounced than ever.

One notable part of the campaign was that it chose to use its remaining media budget for travel tickets to connect people across Spain together. Consequently, any company that can create moments like this in a socially distanced world would gain brand engagement and love as a result, building a long-term relationship with the consumer for when things get better.

Be a friendly face against the bitter truth

This pandemic has made a global impact but it is naïve to say that it has impacted everyone equally. Perhaps the cruelest part is that if increasing cases become a reoccurring phenomenon across the world, without a vaccine, all the same groups who have already been severely impacted by lockdown measures – namely the elderly and the isolated – may have to make more sacrifices.

The experience of John Lewis’ Man on the Moon may become a reality for more and more people. Any campaign which could bring a smile to people’s faces through an emotional spot, or even just a freebie would be well received and create a positive relation to the company.

Know your consumers and their priorities

Although Christmas is a time when family comes together, for many people it can be almost overwhelming as they put aside their and their families’ differences as everybody tries to get on with enjoying the big day. Despite this, arguments and drama are plentiful in a normal year, never mind this year where tensions have been amplified through lockdown.

One campaign that meets the sonder of the population, acknowledging its many individual complexities, is Bodyform/Libresse’s Womb Stories, an emotional campaign which shows how getting your period, something that happens in every woman’s life, can spark a different range of emotions based on particular circumstances. For instance: relief at not being pregnant or despair at not being able to conceive.

It is essential to investigate the circumstances of the people you are reaching out to. If this is not done with the due diligence it deserves, then the campaign will only cause more anguish for those who do not feel they are the ones being advertised to.

Christmas has always been complicated. Now with the social and economic repercussions of a global pandemic adding to the worries of consumers, the biggest value brands can offer to people is simplicity. Simplicity in terms of accessibility online, simplicity in terms of consumer expectations and simplicity in terms of messaging.

There is a reason why ‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’ worked. And why all the subsequent messaging has not. In a world where things can change very quickly, it is vital to be a brand that consumers can rely on, no matter what.