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Christmas TV ads: what are the magic ingredients needed to win the top spot?

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By Mwamba Malama, PR and Digital Account Executive 

Every year the never-ending debate on whether the Christmas season begins in December or November causes a stir. But our favourite brands and retailers are set on making the decision for us by releasing their new Christmas adverts from early November to get us in the festive spirit.

With all the effort and big budgets marketing departments put into their creative campaigns, what is the ultimate recipe for a successful Christmas ad?

A spoonful of synergy

Brands are increasingly optimising multiple platforms to deliver their new Christmas messaging to audiences, and this year is no exception. Incorporating different media such as TV, print and online as part of a strong marketing strategy ensures that the ads have a wider reach and impact.

Marks&Spencer – Go Jumpers

M&S has broken the mould this year from the standard warm and fuzzy Christmassy ad with an energetic dance ad. Dancers shoulder roll to the soundtrack of House of Pain’s Jump Around. With an undeniably good pun, the retailer also partnered with Spotify to create the ultimate throwback playlist and developed the Metro’s first ever video embedded wrap for selected London commuters. And if that wasn’t enough, a flash mob recreated the infectious dance at London stations which sparked online conversation Traditionally, the target market of M&S has been perceived as an older generation, so this modern campaign appears to be a step change from that to entice a younger audience.

Sainsbury’s – Nicholas the Sweep

Sainsbury’s uses age old tropes such as the Dickensian fairy tale and a falsely accused orphan, Nicholas, to pull at heart strings and to commemorate 150 years of service. Like M&S, the supermarket giant invested in a wrap of the Metro designed as an old newspaper that reported on the escapades outlined in its TV advert. The appearance of orange satsumas in the black and white scenes is a smart highlight of the retailer’s brand image and a nice tie in with the festive season. The company has utilised multiple channels to grab consumer attention and no doubt sales of easy peelers will be up this festive season.

A pinch of community

A common theme appearing across many adverts this year is a strong sense of community and the importance of unity during the merry season. This is a theme that is always well received at this time of year and is bound to win hearts and minds all over the country (take a look at our previous blog to see how the Christmas ads tug at our heart strings!).

John Lewis and Waitrose – Excitable Edgar

John Lewis, the godfather of Christmas adverts, joined forces with Waitrose this year to create a two and half minute cinematic experience around Edgar the Dragon. An emphasis on acceptance and inclusion is beautifully depicted in this short film, as the little girl’s flame breathing friend is excluded and eventually welcomed back by the community. The advert has been received remarkably well with #ExcitableEdgar trending for days on Twitter after its launch, achieving over 45k Twitter retweets and eight million YouTube views gained online – not to mention the Excitable Edgar merchandise that’s selling out in stores. Once again, it appears John Lewis is the front runner in best Christmas ads.

A dash of originality

IKEA – Silence the critics

A Christmas ad with no sign of snow, Santa or sleigh bells ringing? Unheard of! We can’t look at this year’s Christmas ads without mentioning IKEA. The home retailer has creatively disrupted the status quo in its very first Christmas ad. The Swedish store enlisted UK grime artist D Double E as the voice of inanimate objects that convince homeowners to redecorate for the holidays. The unexpected arrival of the ad and inclusion of D Double E stimulated conversation online which resulted in #IKEA trending nationally. The retailer is hosting in-store events to help customers be ‘home ready’ for guests over the festive period as part of the campaign.  This is a great example of how originality can help set a brand apart, get people talking and create something memorable for its audience.

Brands continue to compete for the top spot with their Christmas ads each year and while they choose their own flavour, these core ingredients still pop up. Whatever your favourite is, it’s clear a true feast of Christmas ads has been served for 2019.

Which one has been your favourite and why? Tweet us on @PRexpertsUK to tell us or leave a comment below!

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Identifying the right communications practices for your business

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A communications strategy isn’t something that any business would doubt is important, but the reality of developing it is a lot easier said than done when there is a wealth of tools and practices at a company’s disposal, with their own benefits and risks attached.

This month’s issue of the Law Support Network’s Briefing Magazine features some invaluable insights from Peter Rogers, Director of Risk at Bevan Brittan, as part of the feature entitled ‘Brain Training’.

While focused on the legal sector, the piece gives a great analysis of the challenges faced by many businesses when choosing the most appropriate internal and external communications tools, due to the wealth of them on offer. Rogers also offers interesting anecdotes on the evolution of information transfer – from a telex machine that occasionally spurted into action to a more recent scenario where emojis were used to instruct a lawyer!

Overall, the piece encourages businesses to maintain a view of evolving trends, ensuring enough assessments and measures are implemented by your risk, communications, HR and IT teams to appropriately mitigate potential issues across your workforce ahead of time.

This evolution of communications channels is something we know all too well working within the PR and marketing industry. Gone are the days when our focus was placed squarely on traditional PR – we now maintain relationships with our friends in the press, while also building a reach with other, less-traditional influencers across a wide variety of outlets and channels.

This is proven to be a more realistic and time-efficient approach to communications and opens a huge opportunity for our clients, but also requires that we offer clear counsel to help manage the potential risks associated with spreading your message too broadly.

Much like Rogers’ own recommendations in the Briefing article, we work with clients to determine the most appropriate methods of sharing information, with key considerations including:

  • Which of your target audiences do you hope to reach with this information?
  • What communications channels do you plan to use and why? How do these fit with your targets?
  • Is this information time-sensitive?
  • Has the information been approved by all stakeholders, both internal and third-party?
  • How will you manage any follow-up, especially relating to enquiries or feedback? Have you considered the impact upon your internal team and put plans in place to manage this?

Rogers also makes recommendations for implementing best practice within your organisation, including carrying out a review of how staff currently disseminate information internally and their experiences with this. Here are some additional thoughts from us on implementing communications best practice:

  • Consider running internal workshops, to inform and promote communication policies and practice.
  • Implement guidelines to cover the use of tools which may increase informality or indiscretion, e.g. social media or messaging apps.
  • Ensure that your workforce understands potential communications risks and are well-versed on the importance of protecting both your business IP and corporate reputation with appropriate, responsible activity.
  • Raise awareness of any relevant legal implications – especially where something might be considered as innocent or informal by your employees.

If you would like to discuss this in more detail, or learn how brookscomm might help your business to implement similar communications practices, please do get in touch.  

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Audience Psychology: Content Messaging Development and Emotional Connection

Messaging and audience insights are an essential step in building your communications strategy.

The ability to understand your target personas, whether these be customers, partners, industry authorities or other audiences, along with their goals and challenges – and how your business value proposition answers these – is critical. The more that you can keep this approach at the heart of your content, the more likely you will be to successfully resonate and engage with your targets and, ultimately, achieve your objectives while building authentic brand confidence.

However, as sustainability and environmental considerations continue to dominate the news agenda, there is an increasing pressure for businesses to demonstrate their values and ethics beyond pure product or service positioning, acknowledging and responding to the broader concerns of their target audiences.

Big brands taking notice of consumer values

This morning’s news includes an announcement from Unilever, stating that they are committing to reduce their use of new plastic by half. The BBC article states that the firm currently produces 700,000 tonnes of new plastic every year and they have cited this commitment as a direct response to the concerns of their customers in the Millennial and Gen Z age brackets, as well as securing the company’s market relevance ‘for years to come’. This story follows similar announcements from other large FMCG corporations, including Coca-Cola and Nestle, highlighting the importance of considering your company values in alignment with your audience interests.

Audience insights and persona development are pivotal elements of our strategic communications work with clients. We work to produce content, messaging and supporting outreach across a range of marketing, PR, social and digital touchpoints, to ensure that the results achieve client objectives and remain customer-centric.

So, as you review your communications activities, consider your audiences:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their priorities?
  • How does our business offer clear benefits which answer their challenges?
  • How do we best demonstrate this?

Corporate Social Responsibility

Then consider your CSR strategy and how this may add to your value proposition. What matters to your audience personally and how does your business meet this, to benefit society beyond pure sales? Does this differentiate you from your competitors and are you able to use this to influence your industry?

Demonstrating your positive connection and commitment to these additional values will ensure that you further engage your targets and increase their ongoing trust in your brand, which can only serve to further enhance the authenticity of your business proposition. If you’d like to discuss how brookscomm can help you to adopt this approach and align it with your communications strategy, please do contact us.

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The Benefits of a Placement with a PR & Digital Marketing Agency

Looking for a career in PR & Digital Marketing? Our current Junior PR and Marketing Expert Aaron Jackson discusses how a placement with brookscomm has benefited him.

A foot on the career ladder

Often, when I tell people that I’m studying a degree in Media Studies with Film Studies, questions are raised about the employability that accompanies this type of qualification. The connotations with subjects associated with ‘the arts’ are that opportunities following graduation are few and far between thanks to the extremely competitive nature of the industry.

While it may be true that the bright lights of Hollywood are reserved for that select few, studying media equips you with a broad range of skills that can be applied to a number of professional disciplines.

I was introduced to brookscomm through the online recruitment portal that University of Surrey has in place to help students secure a placement in fulfilment of a ‘sandwich’ course (3 years study, 1-year work placement).

The role brookscomm offered was that of a Junior PR and Marketing Executive. A handful of the modules that I had studied covered areas of marketing directly, but PR was more or less uncharted territory from an academic perspective. However, having dabbled in music journalism for the last couple of years, I had been working with PR agencies to some degree.

What attracted me particularly to the role that brookscomm were advertising was the opportunity to dip my toe into not one, but two areas of knowledge that I had a prior interest in. The marketing element would allow me to break away from a lecture theatre and put theory into practice. The PR element would afford me invaluable insight into a world that I had to thank for affording me so many fantastic opportunities as a music journalist.

Moreover, I recognised the role as a rare chance to take another step on the career ladder. As I mentioned, I was already recognising how competitive the media industry is – particularly for students fresh out of university with very little experience.

Research “show(s) that almost two thirds (69%) of hiring employers believe experience is the most important asset when recruiting with 72% of employers also admitting that too much emphasis is placed on qualifications and not enough on experience”.

Now, with nearly a year of experience as an industry professional at brookscomm, I feel well equipped to finish my degree and have a go at that ‘real life’ thing that my parents kept going on about…

The importance of integrated approach

One of the most crucial lessons from this placement that I will take away with me is how important it is for companies to manage their communications with an integrated approach.

In an industry that moves as fast as this one, it’s not enough to focus attention on PR or marketing. The average consumer won’t be thinking about a brand in terms of PR, marketing or social media – they will recognise a brand and their message as one whole entity.

The different areas that contribute to a company’s communication strategy will naturally overlap and cross over into one another to produce the message received by the customer. In light of this, communication professionals should be observing a brand’s messaging strategy through the same lens as a consumer would.

In practice, this involves being flexible and adopting a skillset that spans across the likes of social media, PR, traditional marketing and digital marketing. It has been a massive learning curve to become familiar with all of these variables and, as is often the case, it has taken a bit of time to comfortably work with this mindset.

However, the induction process at brookscomm ensured that, from the start of my placement, I was given a wealth of knowledge and resources with which I could get to grips with this industry.

Within the space of a week, I was contributing to crucial work in the office and was already beginning to feel like an important member of the team. At the point of writing this, I can confidently say that brookscomm has helped me reach a professional standard that has allowed me to work in a way that is integral to the team’s day to day success.

Now is your time

At brookscomm, I have learned things that books could have never taught me. If you’re keen to learn what it takes to work in a professional environment and further progress yourself towards being a top candidate for your dream job in the media industry, then look no further than a work placement.

Our MD Mandy Brooks says: “The placements we offer bring young energy into the office, which is a great way to share experience, generate new ideas and keep the business fresh and exciting.  With the original founders, myself and Chaz, still an integral part of the company, we have established a wide and diverse, knowledgeable, productive results-based team. Each team member is hugely valued and in turn adds particular value to brookscomm.”

At brookscomm we have over 20 years of PR & marketing expertise and a proven track record of providing an integrated communications strategy. We can help you boost your business, email hello@brookscomm.com or call us on 01483 537 890. 

Twitter @PRexpertsUK  Linkedin: brookscomm  Facebook:brookscomm Website: www.brookscomm.com

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Lush quits social media: smart or a stunt?

On Monday, the popular British cosmetics brand Lush announced on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that they would be “switching up social”. The brand will be shutting down its LushUK accounts as well as Lush Kitchen, Lush Times, Lush Life, Soapbox and Gorilla. This dramatic shift comes from the brand being “tired of fighting with algorithms” and that it does “not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed.”

Lush concluded its announcement by stating “This isn’t the end, it’s just the start of something new. #LushCommunity – see you there.”

It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the brand’s digital presence. Could this announcement simply be a headline grabbing tactic, or does it speak into the future power of influencer and community marketing over corporate messaging?

Controversial marketing

Lush hasn’t been a stranger to causing a stir with publicity tactics that push boundaries and provoke conflicting reactions in the past.

The particularly divisive “Live Demonstration” from 2012, where a performance artiste was subjected to animal laboratory tests in the shop window of Lush’s Regent Street branch, was a provocative move. Most would agree that the overall message of the campaign was positive, however, this graphic approach to the issue certainly ruffled a few feathers and had a memorable impact. Much like this move away from social media, it certainly goes against the grain.

Maintaining online influence

The term “#LushCommunity” appears to hint towards a new way for Lush customers to engage with one another and the brand itself. Through which platform is unclear, but maybe that’s the point – that the community isn’t confined by a platform, or indeed by role.

Lush has collaborated a lot with online influencers in the past and in distancing itself from social media in one sense, it’s likely the brand will put more time, money and effort into working with lifestyle influencers and online ambassadors to keep the brand alive online.

The brand has already been successful in this arena, largely via reciprocated content. There are large numbers of videos on YouTube of popular beauty, fashion and even family vloggers testing Lush products. Some of the most successful videos are Lush factory tours which have come about as a result of Lush inviting influencers to come down to its factory for a tour. The success of these videos may be a sign of content yet to come for the brand.

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Redefining community

The future of Lush’s communications strategy is unclear, other than the fact that it appears the brand is moving its engagement with consumers into a ‘community’, which will likely include vloggers and influential online ambassadors.

What is clear, however, is that Lush is on the front foot when it comes to making bold decisions in its marketing and communications strategy. This decision has already given them a lot of exposure, but it’s hard to tell whether this short-term win will translate into a long-term gamechanger. The bottom line is that Lush’s attempt to reshape the structure of online communications is relatively uncharted territory and worth keeping a close eye on.

#LushCommunity – see you…where?

Aaron Jackson – PR & Marketing Executive

At brookscomm we have over 20 years of PR & marketing expertise and a proven track record of providing an integrated communications strategy. We can help you boost your business, email hello@brookscomm.com or call us on 01483 537 890. 

Twitter @PRexpertsUK  Linkedin: brookscomm  Facebook:brookscomm Website: www.brookscomm.com