Tis the season to be nostalgic

….In the marketing sense that is.

“The Way I Was” VS “The Way It Was”

For many retailers, the emotional pull of Christmas is key to their seasonal campaign.  “The Pull of the Past” is an emotional tool used by marketers to signify Christmas.  According to Christopher Marchegiani and Ian Phau, there are two types of nostalgia: personal nostalgia and historical nostalgia.  Personal, i.e. looking back at your past is an emotional ploy which may feature scenes associated with childhood, such as old toys, retro items or memorabilia that in some way reminds you of some event featured in your past.  Historical nostalgia looks at past events which may or may not have happened during your time.  For the marketer, the aim of this will be to evoke a certain emotional response from their target consumers.

Marketers often use personal or historical references in their seasonal marketing campaigns to evoke an emotional response from consumers in the hope that this will lead them to making a final purchase or supporting a call to action.  Traditional symbols we associate with Christmas feature heavily in seasonal campaigns, such as the traditional family scene, Santa Claus and Christmas presents all set amongst a backdrop featuring an idyllic snowy background.  For most consumers, Christmas is a time when families get together, exchange presents and eat large quantities turkey and marketers can exploit this.

This festive season saw a mix of nostalgias exploited in various seasonal marketing campaigns.  The personal and the historical were featured across the UK this month as many retailers challenged each other’s creativity to market their brand and claim the coveted Best Christmas Aprize; aka thousands of teary eyed fans and a social media frenzy.

Seasonal Hashtag Frenzy

Penguins, chocolate and fizzy drinks are the key ingredients of this year’s festive ad campaigns.


Coca-Cola created Santa Claus.  Well, actually no they didn’t but they did create the Santa Claus millions of people worldwide know and love today.  The jolly bearded man in the red suit is the Coca-Cola Santa Claus; a much loved, key signifier of the holiday.  Coca-Cola’s seasonal marketing campaign features around their ‘Holidays are coming’ tagline which, for some people, marks the start of the festive season.  For the average consumer, the idyllic scenes usually depicted in the ads are close to the perfect Christmas.  The emotional pull of their ads stir up feelings of oneness amongst families, friends and neighbours which is depicted in the Holidays Are Coming ad.  Since 1995 the Holidays Are Coming ad campaign has featured the iconic red Coca-Cola Christmas trucks, a sight which most consumers associate with as being the start of Christmas, myself included.


Monty John Lewis
Monty the Penguin

Monty the CGI-animated Penguin took England by storm.  The video ad which was released earlier this month has just under 19million views on Youtube.  If that’s not enough Monty for you, he has a personal Twitter account, a dedicated page on the John Lewis website and his own merchandise.  The £7m festive ad campaign features a young boy and his animated-CGI penguin playing games, sledging and just having fun.  It shows the true innocence of childhood where one of life’s hardest decision was which toy to play with next.  The tear-jerking end introduces Mabel, Monty’s female mate.  The brand appears across multiple platforms, including: social media, video, physical merchandise and even a dedicated Monty storytelling app.  John Lewis have utilised a wide range of both print and digital platforms and encourage viewers to share the ad on social media.  To view Monty’s page, click here.


Sainbury’s heartbreakingly controversial Christmas ad features historical nostalgia at its finest.  The festive ad campaign to mark the retailer’s 20 year-relationship with the Royal British Legion, features a depiction of WW1’s Christmas Truce and has split viewers.  The ad shows the British soldier giving the German soldier his bar of chocolate which he had just received as a Christmas present.  The chocolate bar featured in the ad is available to purchase in stores where profits made will be donated to the Royal British Legion.  On one hand it has been dubbed ‘better than the John Lewis advert’.

Tweet about Sainsbury's Christmas ad
Tweet about Sainsbury’s Christmas ad from Ken Bradshaw MP

On the other hand however, it has come under fire from viewers who found it to be disrespectful and an inaccurate portrayal of the Christmas Truce, receiving hundreds of complaints.  The intention of the ad was to stir feelings of sentimentality and companionship, particularly at a time when consumers feel it the most.  According to Campaignthe ad has topped the viral charts ahead of John Lewis this week with the most social shares.  


2 thoughts on “Tis the season to be nostalgic

  1. H Aisling, How do you think Coca-cola integrate the real with the virtual in terms of the trucks? Are they expecting members of the public to tweet using a hashtag?


    • Yes Dara, this is what they are trying to achieve. This integration allows the public to connect with the brand on a deeper level as they can visit the trucks in person, take a picture and tweet about the event. Hopefully this will generate some positive e-WOM about the brand by doing this. Thank you for your comment.


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