9th December 2014

What Can We Learn from Monty the Penguin?

You would have to have been hiding under a rock for the past month not to have heard of Monty the Penguin and his paramour, Mabel, by now. The stars of this year’s Christmas advert from John Lewis, the cute pair have tugged the nation’s heartstrings and got us all talking about the retailer.

And it seems they’ve been making waves (geddit!?) online too. A study published last week by analysts, Talkwalker, into the social media conversations about the major retailers’ Christmas marketing campaigns found that, since it fired the opening salvo in the annual festive battle for hearts and sales in November, John Lewis and its feathery mascots have dominated the digital space.

More than 47 per cent of related chatter was about the retailer’s innovative integrated campaign, which makes use of a battery of traditional and new media channels, including Twitter and YouTube, to maximise consumer engagement. John Lewis even created a range of high quality Monty and Mabel merchandise in anticipation of the public’s positive response to the advert to further encourage footfall over the holiday period.

Coming second in the Talkwalker study, in spite of the media controversy surrounding it, was Sainsbury’s at 38 per cent, again thanks to a clever integrated campaign based around its Great War themed ad.

The brands that weren’t quite so cutting-edge in their Christmas campaigns, on the other hand, didn’t fare anywhere near as well in the statistics. Tesco’s inoffensive and rather standard “Christmas Lights” offering, for example, barely scraped together a three per cent share of social media conversation.

So what can we learn from all this?

Well, Talkwalker’s study shows that, in order to stand out in today’s market, it’s crucial for brands not just to have a little spectacle on the gogglebox, but to take advantage of the new digital media channels as well. By drawing consumers excited by the TV advert onto dedicated microsites or social media accounts, for example, brands can capitalise on public interest in their marketing campaign to maximise engagement. Not only can this raise the brand’s profile among consumers, it can be used to boost footfall in store, which can have a significant positive impact on sales.

The run-up to Christmas is a key time of year for brands and retailers. Every sale counts, so they need to do all they can to attract consumers and persuade them to make a purchase. The Christmas ad has long played a key role in this, but with growing competition for sales and with the rise of new digital media, an ad alone is no longer enough. It is vital that brands find new ways of engaging with consumers to build a relationship. John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, with their multimedia campaigns, have certainly succeeded in this goal this year, which should stand them in good stead for a bumper performance over the festive season. Other brands need to take note to ensure their efforts have as big an impact in 2015.