Two Brands I Love During the Holidays

By Jeff Philbin, Director of Business Strategy

Maybe it’s the change with the cooler temperatures that has me in the spirit. Or maybe it’s the Apple Music playlist that’s already on shuffle with my favorite holiday jazz songs, from greats like Vince Guaraldi, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Whatever the reason, the holiday season is here and now for me.

So as a marketer and admirer of the way that brands shape our culture, I have to ask, do you find yourself in awe of the way some brands can connect with us this time of the year? You know, those brands that you come to expect great creative from. Those brands that let you admire and marvel. Those brands that know just how to find the perfect emotional context to be able to turn any Grinch into a Kriss Kringle or, for me, fanboy.

Brands’ Biggest Time of the Year
Marketers today are working harder than ever to push their brands to iconic status, utilizing content strategies and social media platforms, and marrying themes of creative content and social listening in the hopes that something will catch on. They aim for the right foundational branding strategy to empower the message to work harder with the creative because all the ears and eyeballs are on them this time of year. For many, it’s about trying to get that quick hit for instant recognition, because they’re industry leaders and expected to have something to stand for under the backdrop of the holiday season.

So why not take the time to appreciate the work of others? Beyond that, what about me fanboying by the Christmas tree because some brands have it totally dialed in already? Would it be too much to ask to expect that your brand could become “hallowed”? Maybe . . . maybe not. I believe there is no better way for a brand to grow than by staying true to what makes it unique.

Here at Schifino Lee, we talk about driving a brand identity for our clients with what it should stand for, which is a critical step in developing a successful positioning strategy. The problem is that, for some, it’s relatively easy to stand for something. That’s to say, many brands can get lazy, trying to satisfy every possible opportunity and audience, and becoming a jack of all trades and master of none, afraid to give something up from discipline and focus.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at two brands that have found distinct and powerful ways to stand for something this holiday season. Their identities probably won’t be surprises to you.

One Brand That Doesn’t Disappoint
I’m always on the lookout for what Coca-Cola does every holiday season, and it usually doesn’t disappoint. It’s always consistent with its  message, and its creative truly brings to life an identity that highlights all that it stands for in a time frame bringing relevancy.

Take a look at the company’s latest.

I’m not crying – you are. 🙂 How pure of a brand to visually bring out a theme acknowledging that Christmas is magic when we share it.

In the same vein, one of my favorite quotes in life is from the anthropologist Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I try to live that ideology every day and love seeing others who talk the talk and also walk the walk. I see that in this spot, when an entire apartment complex comes together, doing the  unexpected to bring joy to each other with a little help from what we all aspire and a magical push to make things happen.

Launched in September, Coca-Cola’s “Real Magic at Christmas” campaign invites everyone to celebrate the real magic of humanity by refreshing the company’s trademark promise: to unite and uplift people all over the world every day, with renewed relevance for today’s world. What a message.

It’s another holiday success for Coca-Cola. In fact, the modern-day image of Santa Claus as we know it was instilled by Coca-Cola advertising back in the day, and nearly 100 years later, Coca-Cola still hasn’t lost that touch.

In tandem, the “Real Magic at Christmas” campaign has made a unique partnership with the online fan connection platform Cameo. People in the U.S. and Canada can request a personalized Cameo video from Santa himself (in English, Spanish or French) by visiting this site. The videos are sent to consumers at random to spread real magic throughout the holiday season.

To me, this is the embodiment of a brand being activated and never losing course for what it is and what it stands for.

Another Brand to Remember This Holiday Season
Let’s look at another company renowned for its holiday campaigns. Check out any Reddit forum, and you are sure to go down the rabbit hole of a conversation that says the only place to get the best Coca-Cola from a soda fountain is at a McDonald’s. So it comes as no surprise that the new McDonald’s Christmas ad, “Imaginary Iggy,” is right there with Coca-Cola as far as the power of its emotional appeal to capture our hearts this Christmastime, too.

McDonald’s U.K. released a 2021 ad titled “Imaginary Iggy” that is fittingly set to Mabel’s piano-ballad cover of Cyndi Lauper’s song Time After Time. With a standout performance from the youngest Matilda actress, we become drawn in by the joy and innocence of her relationship with her imaginary friend Iggy.

The two form a bond with “reindeer treats” (carrot sticks) that she feeds her friend as the two bond, and Iggy becomes a source of holiday spirit as she grows from that little girl in the spot to a mature woman. In the process, she comes to recognize that same kindred spirit in a little boy waving a carrot stick in the air and comes to the conclusion that Iggy is still with her.

“Christmas is such as joyous time for children and adults alike — with this year set to be better than ever as families reunite all over the country after a difficult few years,” Michelle Graham-Clare, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s U.K., said.

She added, “We want to make sure that McDonald’s is on hand to help the British public get Reindeer Ready in the lead-up to the big day. We’re confident our advert perfectly encapsulates the magic of childhood imagination which comes alive at this time of year and provides a helpful reminder that you’re never too old to make-believe.”

Not only did McDonald’s talk the talk here, but it decided to walk the walk with this spot. And for every download of Mabel’s version of the song Time after Time, a financial donation is being made to the food charity FareShare, which is the UK equivalent to Feeding America (a charity I’ve worked with and one that’s near and dear to my heart).

Special Ads for a Special Time of Year
In a nutshell, the holidays are special time of year, and this time allows us all to aspire to be more of the people we should. This includes everything from never losing touch with old friends to drawing them near to finding the magic through the holiday season to dream and do the impossible.

At Schifino Lee, we recognize the art and the talent of these awesome ads, and we hope you do, too.

Happy holidays, everyone!


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