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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

True Christmas spirit thrives in recession-battered "Brand Britain"

From: Engaging thoughts

Last year we published a qualitative research study that showed how Britons were rejecting traditional consumption and wanted to use Christmas to reconnect with the things and people that mattered most and are closest to them.

A year on and the evidence suggests that this remains the case as Britons look more to the simple things that encapsulate the spirit of the season, rather than a more naked, commercial approach to Christmas.

It is interesting to see how brands and retailers have been using these insights to inform their product and marketing campaigns. Consumers continue to view this Christmas as a buffer against a painful present, a time to recharge batteries, and to reconnect with matters they view as genuinely important.

While they do this, they are perhaps thinking more about practicality, planning and early budgeting than last minute magic and spontaneity, at a time when thrift has become more than merely a lifestyle choice.

Such insights are also reflected in Christmas advertising this year as Waitrose presents us with a stripped-back television advertisement, for which Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal have both waived their appearance fees (instead the cash will be spent on Waitrose’s Community Matters charity scheme). 

John Lewis’s advert, which follows last year’s epic, features the tag line “Give a little more love this Christmas”, features a snowman searching for the perfect present for a mystery recipient whose identity is not revealed until the final scene (whilst the choice of “The Power of Love” for the soundtrack should not be overlooked), and ASDA, which supports the contribution of mothers, with the strapline ‘Christmas doesn’t just happen by magic’.

ASDA said that the ad reflected the fact that for mums, despite the pressure, their big reward is looking back at the end of Christmas day, at a happy and smiling family, and thinking ‘I did that’. So the themes of Christmas this year are modesty & homeliness, intimacy & love.

In the midst of all this Christmas spirit, consumers are making savvy decisions and feeling good about it. Greater effort will surely be invested this year in finding a bargain or in doubling up vouchers, finding a discount code, collecting and using points across all purchases, really checking deals in order to make hard earned money work harder and go further.

Recent research by first direct found that 58% of people are looking to save money on the perfect party outfit over the festive period with women more likely than men to shop for a clothes bargain (60% versus 49%) - and more than three-fifths of them get thrifty when it comes to their party attire compared to half of men.

The most common ways of saving money, according to the research, are shopping around more than before (46%), using discount codes or vouchers (31%) and retail reward points (29%).

Christmas is still about enjoyment and escape, and a certain degree of excess is traditional but, in keeping with the subdued times, the sense of modesty and restraint reported by our respondents last year remains the order of the season.

In spite of the jubilympic summer (or perhaps because of it), Christmas 2012 will be a contained affair in many families and so the conclusions for brands appear to be the same a year on:

  • articulate hope and a positive long term vision as consumers are looking for inspirational light at the end of the tunnel;
  • reflect the way that consumers have, in some ways, temporarily lost faith in materialism and focus on values rather than things;
  • focus on the local, facilitate family, be active in communities and, at very least, continue to overtly support the British economy with products created and built locally.

Brands should continue to tap into rituals which offer familiarity, comfort and trust for consumers and create promotions which reward planning and effort, as well as “hard to ignore” deals.

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