‘Tis the Season for Enhanced Brand Awareness

Updated: Feb 11, 2019


If you’re anything like me, then Christmas is probably one of your favorite times of the year. Aside from the myriad of fun traditions like driving around looking at Christmas lights, curling up with a cup of hot chocolate to watch the Polar Express and spending cold winter evenings inside with loved ones, one of my favorite parts of the holidays is seeing the new and innovative ways in which brands use this festive season to their advantage.


Every November and December, the world around us turns red, green and gold, as companies clamor to stand out amidst the onslaught of capitalist Christmas cheer. If effective, these holiday campaigns can make a big impact, but if done poorly, those responsible for said campaign just might find themselves on next year’s naughty list. Here are five of my favorite holiday campaigns throughout the years and the reasons why they were successful.

Unhappy Honda Days, #Grinchtakeover

Honda recently rolled out its annual “Happy Honda Days” campaign, but this year there’s a twist. The Grinch has stolen Happy Honda Days, but spoiler alert: He eventually returns it. With the early November release of the new, animated Grinch movie, the integrated campaign between Honda and the film flows seamlessly. Viewers were able to tune into NBC's TODAY with Kathy Lee and Hoda on Nov. 20 and E!'s Snapchat show, The Rundown, on Nov. 19 and 21 to see what the Grinch had in store for Honda. The Grinch also took over Honda’s Twitter, sending out humbug messages using #Grinchtakeover.

The campaign generated impressive coverage in the press, and ultimately, the Grinch was able to break through the clutter of competitors’ holiday ads and steal not only Christmas cheer, but the hearts of consumers. While Honda’s end-of-year sales will be the deciding factor in determining the success of this campaign, it’s safe to say at the very least that the Grinch has successfully revitalized Honda’s usual holiday image, subsequently boosting brand awareness.


Coca-Cola’s “A Coke for Christmas”

There are few brands that have become synonymous with the holiday season. Coca-Cola is one of these brands. After commissioning an artist to create a rendition of Santa Claus holding a coke in 1931, the company soon became known as a holiday brand. In 2016, Coca-Cola released its “A Coke for Christmas” ad campaign in conjunction with its famous Christmas trucks, creating one of the biggest brand pushes the company had seen in a few years. Coca-Cola’s brand identity is built around concepts of love, warmth, family and giving, all of which adhere to the spirit of Christmas and resonate soundly with consumers. Christmas is about giving, so why not give a Coke? It just makes sense.

Starbucks #redcupcontest

Since the debut of Starbucks’ holiday cups in 1997, the dominant coffee chain has become known for its seasonal drinkware. Every November, coffee lovers worldwide wait in anticipation to see what new design will grace the famous cups.


In 2015, these cups caused a political uproar with the debut of a plain, holly-red cup featuring the Starbucks logo. Those opposed to the design, or the lack thereof, said the coffee chain was attacking Christianity and the “true” spirit of Christmas. In response to the controversy, the company stated the cup was a symbol of inclusion and intended for the promotion of individuality. Starbucks encouraged its customers to design and share their own artwork on the blank canvas of the cup in order to win one of five prizes. Within days of the release of the campaign, the verdict was in. The campaign was a huge success, with a picture being uploaded every 14 seconds and a total of over 40,000 entries.


While 2015 marks the beginning of the yearly holiday cup controversy, the publicity generated from the campaign, both good and bad, secures the #redcupcontest as a major success for the brand.


12 Days of HBO Now

Winter is coming, and so is access to the pilot episodes of 12 of HBO’s most popular series. In 2015, HBO brought its top performers together for a campaign advertising the gift that keeps on giving: an addiction to a new show. Fan favorites such as Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham and True Blood’s Kristin Bauer van Straten were featured in the social campaign that saw the release of 12 separate videos in the days leading up to Christmas. Each video spun a fun twist on the classic Christmas carol and encouraged viewers to give friends and family the gift of 12 free HBO episodes, and 12 free reasons to make them love HBO.


Toward the end of the campaign, HBO offered customers the chance to interact on True Blood’s Facebook and Twitter pages and help craft the lyrics for the finale. By appealing to the giving spirit of Christmas, and the certainty that viewers want their friends to love the same shows they love (binge watching anyone?), HBO was able to build upon the strength of its online streaming platform.


Spotify’s Annual ‘Wrapped’ Campaign

While not necessarily related to Christmas, Spotify’s annual “Wrapped” campaign is one of my all-time favorite seasonal ads. Spotify began this brand campaign in 2016, one of its biggest, by engaging with its listeners’ desire for authenticity and individuality. The campaign pulls data from the music streaming service that tell weird, quirky stories in relation to what has happened around the world in the past year. The billboards quickly garnered attention for their simplistic, yet eye-catching designs, posted around major city hubs and featuring unusual streaming data.


Now in its third year of the campaign, Spotify has recently released its #2018Wrapped ads. They showcase a variety of odd playlists, comparisons in listenership, and coincidences in song choices, such as the one person who listened to Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” on the day Sean Spicer resigned in 2017. The material links to cultural trends and gets its witty quality from the minds of Spotify’s listeners. If the statistics can make you laugh, pause and consider, or maybe even relate, then they’re doing their job. Considering the popularity of the ads and the coverage each year of the new data, I’d say Spotify went platinum with this campaign.


By Hannah Taylor, Publications Committee Member

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