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Christmas with a cause

By Carrie Greene

6 November 2015
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Despite many of my Forster colleagues doing their best to convince me otherwise, it’s clear this week that the great Christmas countdown has well and truly begun – at least in the world of marketing.

First we had the Starbucks red cups, attempting to convince us that nothing says Christmas better than 400 calories worth of toffee flavoured coffee, followed by the reveal of the much anticipated John Lewis Christmas advert – an event that has reached such a level of hype that last years’ offering ‘Monty the Penguin’ received over 97,000 mentions in one day on social media.

Whilst it remains to be seen whether their ‘Man on the Moon’ advert this year will receive the same rapturous response, I was excited to see that John Lewis had decided to use their most important marketing campaign of the year to draw attention to the issue of loneliness amongst the UK’s elderly population.

Their partnership with Age UK this Christmas to raise awareness and funds to support the million older people in the country who may being facing the festive season alone should be commended as a great example of a cause engagement partnership. I only wish they had made the partnership more explicit in the ads themselves, so that they moved from simply emotionally engaging people with this important issue, to driving action as a result.

John Lewis is not the only big retailer to have opted to put social issues at the heart of their advertising creative this Christmas. TK Maxx’s ‘Love Your Neighbour’ campaign encourages us all to find our community spirit by reaching out to our neighbours this festive season and build new connections with those in our immediate locality. It would be hard to argue against the sentiment behind the advert, but where I feel TK Maxx have missed a trick is that they don’t follow through on this message with any meaningful call to action.

TK Maxx are known to support some great charitable causes, including being one of the leading retailers to support Comic Relief. However they have failed to link their messaging around community engagement with a charitable cause or intent, which sadly leaves their ‘Love Your Neighbour’ rallying cry sounding rather hollow, instead just looking like an attempt to flog more pairs of cut-price socks.

Our recent Business to Society survey, which looked at what business leaders and consumers thought about the role businesses are playing in social change, showed that 64% of consumers feel businesses should be doing more to tackle social and environmental issues. The study also revealed that 53% of consumers are more likely to give their custom to a business with a strong stance on social and environmental issues.

This year’s Christmas ad campaigns are a sign that some of the UK’s biggest retailers are wising up to this consumer demand, and are using the increasingly commercialised festive season as an opportunity to promote positive social change. I hope that next year will see many others follow suit, but in the mean time I’m afraid my friends and family can expect to find one of these delightful ‘Man on the Moon’ mugs under their tree when the big day finally arrives.

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