Advertisers Are Feeling Homesick for the Holidays in 2020

BY: ZACK MISKEL  |  DECEMBER 7, 2020 – 6 MIN READ

Key Takeaways (6 minute read)

  • Social distancing and reduced travel have shifted consumer mind-sets.
  • The best ads of the season focus on storytelling and consumer connection.
  • One nostalgic holiday commercial just got a major 2020 overhaul.

Shift. Pivot. Rework. Relearn. These and similar buzzwords seem to permeate most businesses’ plans for Q4 2020 and heading into the new year. Entire corporate cultures and protocols have had to change, thanks to the curveballs thrown at the world. With Thanksgiving under our belts and Christmas just a few weeks away, it’s the time when advertising turns to that final push before December ends. But many 2020 holiday ads look a bit different, thanks to unexpected marketing trends resulting from a tumultuous year.

As the global mind-set was rocked by COVID-19 and everything else that’s happened, brands were left wondering how to market themselves the right way. Embrace “cancel culture” and ignore holiday traditions entirely, look to the heartfelt nostalgia of bygone times as recent as 2019, or acknowledge the “new normal” and roll with it? It seems that, for some of the most successful holiday ad campaigns this year, it’s a mix. As consumers’ behaviors have been forced to change due to safety concerns, travel restrictions, and canceled events, marketing trends had to follow suit. Audiences are celebrating the season differently this year, and so must brands.

Connection through Storytelling

Shopping platform Etsy’s latest “Gift Like You Mean It” campaign includes this tear-jerking spot called “Nana,” which depicts grandparents lamenting how they will not see family members for the holidays this year. It ends with a sweet custom gift from their grandson as they all gather around to FaceTime on Christmas morning.

With the uptick in people looking for activities to do at home, trying to support small businesses, and millions searching for unique and cost-effective mask options this year, Etsy saw a boom in growth like never before. According to AdAge, the retailer’s revenue saw a 128% increase over the year-earlier period from July through September, with a 42% increase in active sellers and a 55% increase in active buyers. With consumers looking for unique, meaningful gifts this season and many hoping to support artists and friends on Etsy, it’s likely those impressive numbers aren’t going anywhere.

This is a time when consumers are truly craving human connection, and Kohl’s department store’s latest commercial hits hard. It’s proof that advertising isn’t all about the product but rather the customer journey and real human emotion. Cue the waterworks . . .

Okay, I’m sorry, please grab a tissue if you need it. I promise that’s enough happy-sad videos for one day.

It’s worth noting that some brands are still putting out great 2020 holiday ads that have nothing to do with social distancing. LEGO’s “That’s a Pretty Cool World” is a cinematic work of art that, although not directly acknowledging the challenges of this year, is still on brand. It remains current and hopeful, reminding consumers of all ages that your imagination is a great place for escaping reality and connecting with friends through shared interests, and LEGO is always there to help with that journey.

Digital Marketing Strategy

Moving on to marketing trends and how and where brands are advertising this holiday season; online seems to be the biggest platform, although television is still prominent. The Etsy ad above and other videos in the campaign are also running promotional spots on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. As consumers are spending more time online due to social distancing and staying home, brands are taking advantage of the ease of online advertising but also creating the most competitive online marketplace we’ve ever seen.

Lowe’s Home Improvement went a step further with its 2020 holiday ads by creating a storytelling platform that invites consumers to become part of the campaign. By using the hashtag #LettersToHome and writing a heartfelt letter to their houses or favorite spaces at home, they can share what they love most and connect with each other, while Lowe’s generates free content and leverages influencer marketing to spread the word. You can read some of the Letters to Home on their website here. As a twist on the classic Letters to Santa, Lowe’s shoppers can also drop off their Letters to Home at special in-store mailboxes. The campaign on Instagram has around 776,000 views and likes so far across Lowe’s and influencer accounts (including actress Tabitha Brown) since it launched around November 9.

Betting on Nostalgia

Other top brands are still going with the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” theory, and although we’re suckers for innovation, even we have to admit that some holiday ads are timeless. Here are a few of our favorites—and one very new evolution:

M&Ms: He does exist! Who can forget this 1996 classic? It’s still going strong and holds up well all these years later, even amid this strange new era.

Coca-Cola Polar Bears: Although they made several commercials and an educational film to promote protection of polar bears, some of the most memorable ads are Coke’s holiday ones with the animated furry friends.

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup: What could be better on a cold winter day? This long-running soup commercial originally aired in 1993 and was revived in ’98 with the classic holiday tune. If it doesn’t make you feel nostalgic, I don’t know what will.

Hershey’s Kisses: Largely considered the quintessential Christmastime commercial, this bell has been ringing since 1992. But wait—in a somewhat surprising move, the brand updated the iconic ad in 2020 for the first time in 31 years.

How’s that for making a statement? The new version brings in the storytelling and connection to the consumer that reflects marketing trends for the 2020 holiday season. It’s even bringing a slight shock factor that to us says, “We appreciate our history and the love from our consumers, but it’s time to look to the future.”

Here’s to looking to the future in 2021 and beyond!

About A&P

A&P, a brand agency, excels in finding innovative ways for clients to provide exceptional experiences to their customers. Their work includes consumer insight, brand innovation, creative development, mobile and technology solutions for global brands such as AT&T, Mini USA, DIRECTV, Newell Rubbermaid, Tenet Healthcare, and Barco Escape. For more information about A&P, visit them on Facebook, Twitter or antonioandparis.com.

Zack blog profile image

WRITTEN BY
Zack Miskel

Short Bio — Zack joined the Antonio & Paris team at the beginning of 2019 after spending the previous five years running two start-up companies in the Bay Area Now a strategist, Zack works alongside the strategic planning team at Antonio & Paris to deliver a big-picture perspective for clients such as MINI USA, Barco (Belgium), and Brookdale Senior Living, to name a few.

Zack blog profile image

WRITTEN BY
Zack Miskel

Short Bio — Zack joined the Antonio & Paris team at the beginning of 2019 after spending the previous five years running two start-up companies in the Bay Area Now a strategist, Zack works alongside the strategic planning team at Antonio & Paris to deliver a big-picture perspective for clients such as MINI USA, Barco (Belgium), and Brookdale Senior Living, to name a few.

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