In Branding & Identity, Marketing & Advertising, Marketing Strategy, Social Media

I can’t wait for the John Lewis ad each year, and this year’s is no exception as it delivers on its story and brand promise! You may not have heard about it, but it is a phenomena shared around glasses of mulled wine all over the UK.  Claire, in our office, who hails from the UK can tell you all about it if you have 2 minutes…or half an hour, because they are that well loved! John Lewis is a national treasure and, for those that don’t know, a traditional department store that sells all things for the home and holidays for all ages–so focusing on the end of the year gift giving makes a lot of sense.

Since 2009, London-based agency Adam & Eve/DDB have produced the John Lewis ads. It has gone from strength-to-strength, with a series of award-winning advertising campaigns – each one creating a story based on the same broad, yet sure-fire formula that makes the old stories fresh.

  1. Make sure your story is ultimately driven by human (or anthropomorphized cute animals) empathy and thoughtful gift giving.  Usually this includes the tried and tested recipe of a cute kid, or lovable childlike animated animal character.
  2. Don’t duck a smattering of pathos because it is what makes the joyful ending so meaningful and relatable. There are kids with family challenges, disappointments which are often later revealed to be a misperception or surprising character revelations that turn a negative to a positive.
  3. Leverage a stirring soundtrack – and boy do they! Over the years Ellie Goulding, Gabrielle Alpin, Lily Allen, Aurora, Tom Odell, and Vaults have appeared in a John Lewis Christmas advert; with this year’s soundtrack, The BeatlesGolden Slumbers, covered by Elbow. Unsurprisingly, these soundtracks and artists rocket up the UK Singles Chart with a couple actually hitting #1.

From a brand strategy perspective, this formula is spot on for supporting what the brand sees as their biggest differentiator- being the home of “thoughtful gifting”. Their goal is to be known as the place where shoppers can find gifts that demonstrate “a little more thought” than the UK competition, most notably from Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Boots and online. Each year, John Lewis looks for a new way to bring that strategy to life in a modest and delightful, but highly emotive way – and getting their name out in a much-loved context is helpful as well. Each of John Lewis’ holiday advert protagonists from the last few years – include Monty the Penguin, Man on the Moon and Buster the Boxer – go on an emotionally powerful journey that is the stuff of water cooler conversations and massive social media viewing and sharing. Buster the Boxer – 2016’s offering, garnered 36million views and over 937,000 shares alone across Facebook. Since John Lewis started their annual commercial tradition back in 2011, collective viewership of ads just across YouTube amounts to over 106million views, with, Man in the Moon, Buster and Monty the Penguin leading the pack with over 25million views a piece, which is an impressive indication of the impact these stories have on society.

This year’s thought-provoking ad is no different as our protagonist’s story pulls at heartstrings with an unpredictable and sentimental payoff. Currently tracking at 14million views on Facebook and with over 104,000 shares,  Moz the Monster leverages the classic holiday tale of a developing friendship between a young boy named Joe and an imaginary monster under his bed. The story pulls you into the Christmas surroundings but at first it seems like this is a moral tale about being selfish and inauthentic Christmas feelings. However, the twist at the end makes it delightfully clear what real, honest Christmas FEELING is all about!

The impact of the John Lewis Christmas campaign goes far beyond short-term sales, as they have continued to expand their stores during the 8 years of the campaign while brick and mortar competitors shutter locations. This is the most high-profile marketing campaign in the UK, during the most commercially lucrative time of the year, a big risk for a not large chain and it has paid off both financially and in terms of brand loyalty.

We are storytellers with a passion for finding these kinds of avenues for reaching a targeted audience and moving their hearts and minds. So, when we’re not eagerly awaiting the launch of our favorite brands seasonal commercial, we’re spending time helping our clients such as Kelley Blue Book and Kaiser Permanente create a positive and impactful message that is in alignment with their brand and revenue goals!

For more information please contact our Client Service Director David Warren at and in the meantime check out our website for examples of our brand strategy work.

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