Holiday advertisements and marketing campaigns are almost synonymous with the season. Nothing quite puts us in the celebratory mood like a familiar jingle or a polar bear with a bottle of Coca-Cola (in fact, many say that Santa’s suit is red because of Coke’s early holiday marketing campaigns). So what gives — why does a holiday spin on familiar brands work so well? Here are some ways you can use tactics from the brands you love to craft your own spirited messaging. 




First stop on the holiday train is of course the North Pole, where Coca-Cola has set one of it’s most iconic holiday marketing campaigns. Here, the popular soda brand has checked their list (twice!) to hit every nostalgic moment. Since their arrival in 1993, many consider the polar bears themselves to be beloved brand icons. This video also relies upon common holiday tropes: the blustery cold, holiday parties with friends and the notion of giving. To top it all off, “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys gives the ad an upbeat, sentimental vibe. Together, these elements make the campaign a memorable way for audiences everywhere to reflect on its fun storyline and remember their holiday moments with Coke. For your brand messaging, consider taking a page out of the nostalgia handbook: see if you can infuse moments with a sense of classic merriment and the past by using recognizable images from shared experiences.  



Simple + Spirited

It seems like Hershey’s has been using their classic “ringing Kisses” for ages — and there’s a good reason why: it’s the chocolate company’s longest-running product commercial ever, debuting in 1989. So why keep the same commercial around for 29 years? It focuses on a simple message: promoting the brand’s whimsy with a holiday twist. The set-up for the ad doesn’t require a lot of backstory and still makes us feel relieved for the little bell who nails its big solo at the end. By pairing a classic holiday song with a simple message, Hershey’s spirited campaign rings true every year. As a communication pro, you know that sometimes simple is better. Think of how you can capture the essence of the holidays without going overboard to let your message shine.



HotelTonight puts a humorous twist on family time


Friendship + Family

When people think holidays, they usually think spending time with friends and family — whether that means traveling to see loved ones or gathering to share a meal. One of the most memorable feel-good depictions of family time comes from Apple, with an Emmy-winning iPhone commercial that captured hearts far and wide. Cementing its place at the top was the touching story of a boy who seemingly spends his holiday stuck on his phone instead of with his family. At the end, when the boy surprises his family with the video he had been making of their time together, people around the room (and the world) were misty-eyed. Of course, everyone knows that families can be frustrating, even around the holidays. HotelTonight played off of the stressful and goofy situations inspired by family visits. With a commercial and a social media campaign called “Visit, Don’t Stay,” they asked followers to share funny, and cringe-worthy, family holiday stories. By appealing to audiences’ sense of humor, HotelTonight boldly went the opposite direction of most holiday advertising and forged a new, interactive path where people were encouraged to commiserate together. Whether you want to tug heartstrings or have a witty, honest approach to your campaign, consider using family narratives to paint a portrait of the holiday experience. Doing this will allow your audience to respond and feel included across platforms. 



Starbucks makes the ordinary more extraordinary during the holiday season



Of course, we can’t forget one of the most prevalent holiday campaigns of all time: the Starbucks holiday cup. In December, coffee gets a pick-me-up as the cups are decorated with holiday-inspired hues. Not only does Starbucks use the holidays to remind us that even a simple cup of coffee can be special, they’ve also encouraged their millions of followers to participate in campaigns linked to their cups like #redcupcontest and #givegood. Part of what makes Starbucks holiday storytelling so successful is their ability to catch people’s eye with an enchanting color and by encouraging conversation and community among their followers. You can replicate this feeling of holiday magic in your brand messaging by using a narrative that shows how joy can be found in surprising places, (even a coffee cup!) no matter our age. Consider how rebranding parts of your campaign to fit a holiday theme might be useful in creating user-generated content — the more people on board, the more your message will be seen.

Though it seems like holiday advertising starts earlier and earlier, as soon as December ends, we’ll miss these classic favorites and the magic they bring to brand’s messages this time of year. With these tips, your content can go from plain to red-cheeked and full of cheer. Try bringing some cookies for inspiration to your next holiday content brainstorming session!