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Rise above the holiday marketing cliches


As the holidays approach, most organizations have shifted their marketing efforts to reflect the season. This can be a wonderful way to show your organization in a different light, or have some fun with your messaging. And for many businesses, this is the most important time of year.


Holiday ads can be a lot of fun. But they can also be full of cliches -- which will make your audience cringe. Let’s take a look at some companies who get it right.


Some companies are known for their holiday-themed ads but are taking a different approach this year due to the pandemic. Coca-Cola, for instance, is incorporating familiar elements from its 100 years of holiday ads into a cinematic ad about a father trying to fulfil his daughter’s Christmas wish. Others have opted for a more lighthearted approach, like Pizza Hut’s “The 55 Days of Christmas Pizza,” or The American Egg Board’s “The Gift of Eggs.”  


Keep in mind, holiday ad campaigns don’t suddenly take on a new message -- all of these examples are continuing these companies’ main campaigns, or building on them. They also all acknowledge something lurking in the background of their advertising and build on that, rather than try to ignore it. For Coca-Cola, it’s the pandemic. COVID-19 has prevented many families from gathering this year, and strained resources for millions. Rather than issue a tone-deaf ad that simply celebrates the magic of Christmas and encourages people to drink a Coke, the company acknowledges that most people just want to be with their families this year. 


On the other hand, Pizza Hut’s commercial subverts the “Christmas creep” complaints -- holiday promotion efforts that start earlier and earlier each year -- by acknowledging it, and making light of themselves. The American Egg Board takes two pretty common Christmas advertising cliches -- diamond rings, and vehicles waiting in driveways -- and turns them on their heads. 


What all of these commercials do well is avoid cliche. The holidays can be an excellent time to refresh your marketing efforts, but it is easy to fall into tropes and easy outs. And please, we beg you -- no more versions of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” (We’d also request no more remakes of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”) It’s not that we don’t understand the appeal. But they’ve been done -- and redone -- so many times, your audience will tune them out. Some other cliched phrases we’d recommend avoiding:

  • Deck the halls 

  • ‘Tis the season

  • 12 Days of …

  • Nothing says Christmas like …

  • Christmas comes/came early …

  • Give the gift of …

  • Jingle all the way


Basically, if you’ve heard it 100 times, so has your audience. Whether you’re aiming for a campaign that makes your audience belly laugh (like the proverbial bowl full o’ jelly) or something a bit more heartfelt, the main thing is to stay on message.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

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