Can brands save Christmas?

Posted by Communicator London

Normally by this point Christmas marketing planning would be well underway, if not wrapped up for most brands. But in a year that’s seen the best-laid plans torn up and disposed of, things are a little different, and the rule book won’t work. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed many lives and brought on new habits that will shape our behaviour this Christmas season. However, with us settling into whatever this new normal is, is anyone up for that Christmas challenge? Every marketer is surrounded by the same questions: Will there be a second wave? Will our consumers shop the way they used to? What role can our brand authentically  play in our audiences lives when we have no idea what will be permitted and what the nations mood will be? This is not an easy time for anyone to navigate, so we’ve put together our top tips to help brands maximise Christmas planning.



1. Plans A, B and C! 

Wanting to be where your customers are is difficult when none of us know where we’ll be, which is why scenario planning and a willingness to adapt content and tone on the fly is key. Taking advantage of media-owners’ flexible policies and more agile channels like paid social will be important, and it’s crucial to make sure your campaign messaging can adapt too. For example, at the beginning of lockdown, Mastercard took its ‘Priceless’ platform, which usually features real-life experiences, and pivoted to digital, giving members exclusive access to virtual events, and crucially, switching from sales to support mode at the same time. If your brand is promoting real-life experiences as gifts, are you set up to provide them digitally if needed? Working with Jack Daniel’s this year for Father’s Day, we had planned to run a competition to win a whiskey-tasting for one fan and their dad, which we decided to continue, carrying out the prize tasting via Zoom, which had the added advantage of creating a special experience for two family members who weren’t able to celebrate together in person.

2. eCommerce and social selling 

While eCommerce would regardless have been part of every brand’s strategy this Christmas, lockdown has accelerated many new features (read our latest analysis here) and increased familiarity with online shopping. And not just among Gen Z and millennials – 42% of Gen X and 34% of boomers are prepared to shop online more following the pandemic. It’s worth taking a fresh look at how to reach these demographics rather than relying on data from previous years and of course streamlining your shopping experience as much as possible. Many consumers will have got used to shopping on mobile, so make sure your consumer journey is just as seamless there as on desktop. And if consumers will be switching from retail to online, make sure your customer service doesn’t disappear when they make that switch. 47% of shoppers globally messaged a business during the Christmas season in 2018 and it wouldn’t be surprising for this figure to rise in 2020. Whether via a chatbot or a community manager, make sure you’re at the end of a DM to solve problems, make recommendations and guide consumers through their journey to purchase.

3. A tight Christmas 

With many hit hard by the effects of the pandemic, 1 in 3 say they’ll wait for products to go on sale before buying, which means Black Friday could be set to be bigger than ever. But tread carefully: there’s been suspicion in recent years around the day, with 62% believing in 2018 that they could get better deals at other times of the year, and that’s before you factor in the potential distaste for a holiday centred around shopping months after the worst recession in history hits. If you want to engage, make sure the benefit or saving to your consumer is clear, because they won’t fall for marking up prices only to knock them down again. Also consider how you can create a community buzz around the event – like Burger King‘s activation in Brazil, which used memes and chatbots to spread the word of the deals in a climate when the average Brazilian was lamenting a lack of money to spend in Black Friday sales.

4. Authentic influence 

During lockdown, our expectations of ourselves and influencers on social media came to accommodate a lot more honesty – 42% felt under less pressure to portray an unrealistic image of their lives in the pandemic, and influencers’ low-fi content gelled with our new normal. With lockdown relaxing and influencers attempting to make up for a year of cancelled campaigns by jumping on new brand partnerships, we’ve seen some of that refreshing honesty dissipate slightly – and this Christmas after a tough year it will be all-important to claw it back. You can help by relaxing the reins a little when working with influencers. For example, instead of a perfectly posed and shot product shot, could an influencer incorporate your product into an Instagram live shot on iPhone?  The lockdown TikTok boom saw many teenage creators living at home rope their families into trends – could you create scope for influencers to include their loved ones in branded content to make it feel relevant to festive gatherings or acknowledge those who might be apart from family?

5. Christmas compassion 

32% of global consumers want to see informative social media content from brands over the festive season, so it stands to reason that this is a good time for brands to feature the work they’ve been doing to help support the community. It’s worth considering what your audience will see as your reason for speaking out – is it just to toot your own horn? Or are you bringing awareness to an important issue, or giving your followers a chance to nominate a deserving loved one for a treat as was so popular in lockdown?

6. Don't mention the C word

We’ve already experienced the outpouring of coronavirus-prompted ads about togetherness (which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the same ad over and over again). By Christmas, no one’s going to want to hear that same message or be reminded of the year we’ve had, especially if we’re hit by a second wave, which is where humour can step in – carefully. Up to 68% of European consumers are looking for ads that make them laugh, and most willing to hear that from the food and drink sector – if that’s your brand, Starbucks’ recent digital ad which plays on the difficulties of ordering wearing a mask is good inspiration – it’s topical without being disrespectful or sigh-worthy.

This year hasn’t been easy for any brand, but it’s true that it forced us to rethink and reimagine how we connect with our audiences – particularly on social. That doesn’t mean anything’s going to stop changing in time for Christmas, but it is the perfect time to put the lessons we’ve learned into practice and make a different-looking Christmas work.

Communicator is a social-first creative agency that focuses on the person behind the platform. We believe that the power of human truths drives impactful creative and adds real business value.


A full service social creative agency providing strategy, creative and content production, paid, social media management and work with brands such as Jack Daniel’s, Heineken and Berry Brothers & Rudd to create compelling social campaigns that make a difference.


If you want to hear more about how we can help you visit or contact Danielle Smith, Managing Director at

August 14, 2020 

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