Experiential marketing and Christmas go together like mistletoe and wine. With all the merriment and excitement – not to mention the shopping – it’s the perfect time for brands to get creative with how they engage and delight customers.
Just as Christmas does, experiential marketing makes us stop and draws us in; it has the power to bring people together in real time and put smiles on their faces. Over the years we’ve seen everything from the poignant to the spectacular, but one thing every campaign has shared is the ability to amaze and create wonder.
So, with the Yuletide season around the corner, here’s our pick of the very best Christmas experiential marketing campaigns…
Ferrero Rocher, Behind The Layers
What is it: With their 2017 campaign, Ferrero Rocher were really spoiling us. Westfield shoppers were invited into the brand’s luxurious pop-up to discover what lies ‘behind the layers’ of everyone’s favourite Christmas chocolates.
Once inside the branded brown and gold interior, customers could savour the chocolates, sip Ferrero Rocher-inspired cocktails and enjoy a multi-sensory five-layer taste experience. Complete with ambient lighting, mood-enhancing sounds and nutty chocolatey smells, the campaign was designed to remind people of the uniqueness of Ferrero Rocher.
Why it works: The Ferrero Rocher campaign was as layered as the chocolates themselves. Apart from being totally immersive, it underlined the core brand message and USPs; effectively reminding consumers why they love Rocher. It also gave the brand the opportunity to learn more about what resonates with consumers.
Pret A Manger, A Little Thank You
What is it: Nothing says Christmas like a giant gift – and that’s exactly what Pret A Manger transformed one of their central London stores into in 2015. Simple yet impactful, the brand literally wrapped up their Broadwick Street shop, inviting customers to tear through the wrapping to discover the gift of a free festive sandwich.
The experience was created to launch their Christmas sandwich range and to raise awareness of their ‘A Little Thank You’ campaign, in which 50p from the sale of each Christmas sandwich was donated to charity.
Why it works: The Pret Christmas campaign established the charitable side of the brand, aligning perfectly with the seasonal message of giving. Visually impactful and interactive, it got people talking and was great for social sharing.
Carlsberg, If Carlsberg Did Christmas Trees
What is it: How do you make a Christmas tree even more magical? Cover it in beer bottles, of course. Carlsberg’s 2015 ‘If Carlsberg Did Christmas Trees’ campaign saw people queuing to get in on the free beer action.
Unveiled at London’s Southbank, the tree was studded with 100 limited edition ‘beerbles’: glass baubles that doubled up as drinking vessels for people to drink Carlsberg from and then keep as a memento. People who couldn’t attend the event were able to join in on social media by guessing the number of beer bottles on the tree for the chance to win a variety of prizes.
Why it works: Fun, festive and perfectly Instagram-able, the ‘If Carlsberg did Christmas’ campaign ticks all the boxes for Christmas experiential marketing. It stuck to the core brand message, and, with the social media competition, it managed to extend its reach beyond the location as well as increasing dwell time.
WestJet, Christmas Miracle
What is it: If you’re feeling like a bit of a Grinch, WestJet’s 2013 Christmas Miracle campaign is guaranteed to warm your cockles and make your heart grow three times bigger.
After scanning their boarding passes at an interactive digital stand, flyers were able to speak to Santa and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. A team of staff at the arrival destination then quickly rushed out to buy all the gifts and wrap them in time for the plane’s landing.
Instead of their luggage coming out on the carousel, customers were greeted by wrapped presents with their names on them. From smartphones and train sets to a hockey stick and even a giant TV, there was barely a dry eye in sight as they unwrapped the surprise gifts.
Why it works: WestJet’s campaign is a masterclass in how to pull off the element of surprise and that all-important feel good factor. Making use of their captive audience (pre-boarding and at baggage reclaim), they were able to film the personalised campaign, maximizing both reach (48m views on YouTube) and impact.
IKEA, The Other Letter
What is it: Tapping into the importance of family and togetherness at Christmas, IKEA’s emotive ‘The Other Letter’ campaign asked children to write two Christmas letters. In addition to the letter to the three kings (the Spanish equivalent of Santa), the children were also asked to write to their parents asking them for something.
Astonishingly, the children didn’t ask for any material goods, rather for their parents’ time. The letters were then given to the parents to read, reminding them and the rest of us that the best things in life are free.
Finally, the children were asked which of the two letters they would send if they could only send one. The answer: the one to mum and dad, of course.
Why it works: ‘Ikea’s campaign managed to cleverly link to the brand message: the importance of home. The concept was simple and low in cost yet powerful and emotionally impactful.’
Coca-Cola Christmas Truck
What is it: It may be controversial, but, like it or loathe it, there aren’t many sights as synonymous with Christmas as the famous Coca-Cola truck. Huge, red, dazzling and bearing a jolly, 1930s Santa Claus image, the truck reminds us instantly that the ‘holidays are coming’.
For the past eight years, Coca-Cola have taken their iconic TV advert on the road with the truck touring sites from Glasgow to Croydon. Each year, thousands of people turn up to greet the famous vehicle, and so far over 50,000 images have been generated and shared on social media.
Why it works: ‘Coca-Cola prove that a consistent brand message can effectively allow a brand to ‘own’ a season. By using the same visual and audio elements each year, Coca-Cola has become synonymous with Christmas.’
KLM Bonding Buffet
What is it: KLM’s 2016 Bonding Buffet campaign aimed to bring solo travellers together in a positive, heartwarming experience.
The airline constructed a large dining table in their departure lounge at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam – the only snag being that it was high up on a platform which would only be lowered once all the seats were filled. This encouraged those sitting to interact with passers-by, inviting them to join in.
Once they were all seated, the table magically lowered, revealing a festive feast, complete with silver cloches, wine and Yuletide decorations. Cue photo opportunities, laughter, festive fun – and that lovely warm fuzzy feeling.
Why it works: ‘Similar to Westjet, KLM’s campaign capitalises on consumers being in a situation where they have time to give. It effectively draws on the human attraction to the promise of a reward as well as using the persuasive power of crowd mentality. Most importantly, it highlights the core brand message of bringing people together.’
Hamleys Toy Parade
What is it: Hamleys’ 2017 Toy Parade did exactly what it said on the tin. The renowned toy shop pedestrianised Regent Street, transforming it into a vibrant Christmas fiesta complete with live music, giant balloons and floats.
The colourful parade attracted thousands of visitors who turned up to interact with their favourite kids’ TV characters and get into the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, last year’s event saw a few of the grown-ups getting a little bit too spirited so the parade won’t be taking place this year.
Why it works ‘Hamley’s toy parade took the brand to the consumer, delivering it in a spectacle that literally brought its products to life. The interactive nature of the campaign made it easy for the audience to share and connect.’
Argos, Ready for Take Off
What is it: Give parents the chance to see their little darlings as the stars of a Christmas TV ad, and they’ll jump at it. Argos’ ‘Ready for Take Off’ ad campaign invited parents to submit pictures of their children in a social media competition which had three lucky winners.
The chosen ones got to star in a Christmas ad which ran for three nights in a row – and the rest were honorary winners, each receiving their own personalised version of the advert.
Why it works: ’The Argos campaign achieved the challenging task of personalisation without adding extra cost. Their clever use of social media ahead of the campaign increased participation rates and raised awareness.’
Not On The High Street, Gift-o-Matic
What is it: Free gifts are lovely, but add a little creativity and they can become exciting and immersive. Not On The High Street’s 2015 ‘Gift-o-Matic’ campaign did exactly this with their Christmas vending machine concept.
Targeting last-minute shoppers, the vending machines were placed at Paddington and Waterloo stations on 21st December, or ‘Man Dash Monday’. Passers-by were invited to stop and tweet Not On The High Street with one of five hashtags, such as #gardener or #foodie, and the clever machine would dispense a corresponding free gift.
Why it works:
Not On The High Street’s Christmas campaign is a good example of how brands can effectively implement a ‘holy trinity’ of experiential marketing: personalisation, an element of surprise and strategic social media to extend the reach.
Whether it’s fun, indulgent or sentimental, great Christmas experiential marketing is about capturing the magic, joy and hope of the festive season. It’s about creating an emotional connection and going the extra mile to delight your customers. Most of all, it’s about creating positive memories; ones they’ll remember long after the last of the festive leftovers have been eaten.