What We Can Learn From The Big Brands About Seasonal Storytelling



“Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.”

Winston Churchill



Every year we wait expectantly to see what advertising treats the big brands will delight us with for Christmas. They rarely disappoint and this year is no exception. From Aldi’s tale of Kevin the carrot to the epic story about the founder of Burberry’s clothing empire there is some great seasonal storytelling and visually stunning videos on our screens.

These brands spend millions on creating and promoting their video content. Some brands will not have the same resources but this should not stop them from learning from the big brand seasonal storytelling. I have included some of my top tips from this years seasonal video ad campaigns.



The Tale of Thomas Burberry – Burberry Festive Film 2016


This is probably the most cinematic ad this year. It is an epic tale that includes one of the most inspirational events of his time when Ernest Shackleton’s led his 1914 Antarctic Expedition. It stars Domhnall Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Dominic West and Lily James and is obviously a big budget affair.


Top Tip

While not every brand has Burberrys resource, most brands can find and tell the most inspirational part of their story.


Aldi Christmas Advert 2016 – Kevin The Carrot


Probably my favorite ad this year, it really embraces seasonal storytelling. It is a simple story about a carrot that ends up powering Santa’s sled. It shows the carrot stumbling through a variety of seasonal fare and having a close shave with a cheese grater before ending up as reindeer bait on the sled.


Top Tip

In this ad the story is easy to understand and humorously told. Keep your storytelling simple and to the point.



Sainsbury’s OFFICIAL Christmas advert 2016 -The Greatest Gift


This is a wonderful stop motion advertisement that tells the story of a father, employee and friend who faces the old age dilemma of how to be everywhere at Christmas. I am sure there is not one of us who has not struggled with how to meet all the demands on our time at this seasonal time.


Top Tip

The video succeeds because of the catchy song sung by James Corden and shows the power of a well chosen music score to enhance the story.



M&S 2016 Christmas Ad: Christmas with love from Mrs Claus


This ad stands out because it has a twist. The day is saved for a little boy, not because of Santa but because Mrs. Claus intervenes. The ad is well shot and includes a more contemporary setting including the use of a helicopter for Mrs. Claus.


Top Tip

This ad appeals because it has a twist on the usual seasonal storytelling. Don’t be afraid to include a twist in your storytelling.



John Lewis Christmas Advert 2016 – #BusterTheBoxer


This visually engaging seasonal storytelling is estimated to have cost £1M to make and makes use of some expensive CGI effects. The ad tells an engaging story of a family pet watching the local wildlife having a ball on the family newest Christmas gift a large trampoline.


Top Tip

The video works well because it tugs at our emotional heartstrings using a dog looking at other animals having a good time and not being able to join in until Christmas day. The added surprised look of the family when the dog eventually gets to jump adds to the emotional appeal. Include an a emotional hook in your storytelling.



Waitrose Christmas TV ad 2016 | #HomeForChristmas


This simple story about a poor robin struggling to get home for Christmas is a classic tale showing the heroes journey. Despite adversity, risk of death and ferocious weather conditions our hero’s struggles on and finally arrives home to the little girls delight. All for the prize of a mince pie.


Top Tip

It is important to include the adversity your hero overcomes in your storytelling.


“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes. “

Oscar Wilde


Seasonal storytelling is a great opportunity for brands to engage with their customer. Brands that show that they understand what it takes to tell a great story will do well. It is not all about selling sentimentality it is about engaging content that entertains your audience and encourages them to feel good about themselves. It does not have to be a Dickensian view of the season it can be a story told for our times of our times.

Seasonal storytelling is all about brands trying to connect with their audience on a more personal basis than is normally possible.