British television comes into its own in December. Husbands everywhere lose their evenings for four weeks straight of I’m A Celeb. Children are continually hushed during the one hour Gavin and Stacey special. Conversations dedicated to the Doctor Who plot twists infiltrate living rooms up and down the country. But above all of this seasonal saccharine, there’s one television occasion that tops them all. The infamous John Lewis advert that floods onto our screens each year. Christmas is a hugely competitive time for brands everywhere to fight to the forefront of consumers’ minds and confirm their place under the Christmas tree. Yet this British retail giant has forged out a ring-fenced space in everyone’s calendars, hardwiring its Christmas season position in all our minds. And while not every single person may love this year’s advert as much as their overly-excited friend, it gets everyone and every news outlet talking, which is surely half the battle? So let’s take a look at what we can learn from the heartwarming story of the little girl Ava and Edgar the Dragon. 

Consistency and reliability

In today’s world, when a business is facing financial hardship, everyone knows it. And sadly, that is very much the case for beloved John Lewis, reporting major losses for 2019. However, their Christmas spirit prevailed and regardless of their struggles, they certainly lived up to their festive reputation and delivered the goods. And they are rewarded for this dependability. As inevitable as the Brussels sprouts and family arguments, Gen Z can no longer remember a time where Christmas didn’t include a John Lewis advert. They’ve become a household name and their adverts have become synonymous with their brand identity, creating a department store hardwired into the language of Gen Z. All building on their existing values with the older generation, who do quietly remember a time before Monty the Penguin, that they are reliable, trustworthy and quintessentially British.

Let’s get emotional

A clever component of John Lewis’s advert is the emotion that they evoke and it shines through during every single one of their festive adverts. Year on year, the retailer pulls on heartstrings to associate them firmly with the Christmas spirit. Don’t believe us that this soppiness hits the mark? Well, you better; there’s data to prove it. Market research firm System1 asked audiences to determine how they felt about an ad and how powerful that emotion was by giving it an IPA-verified ‘star rating’. John Lewis triumphed with the highest star rating awarded to any brand so far this year with a score of 5.8.

“It’s wonderful to see so many ‘right-brain’ features appear in this year’s John Lewis ad.”

- Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer of System1

Tapping into this side of the consumer brain forges meaningful connections, which in turn encourage audiences to truly buy into your presence. So, how can you incorporate these emotive right-brain ideas into your next campaign? 

The art of storytelling 

And on that note, opting for the tagline ‘Show them how much you care’, the campaign’s theme is thoughtfulness and bringing people together, whether through food or gifts, solidifying the emotional nature of the ad. Following a tale of human-dragon friendship, despite the whimsical nature of the advert, everyone watching can relate in one way or another. Why not  take a leaf out of their playbook and empower your students to take the lead, and depict the lifelong friendships they have made throughout their university journey. 

“The magic of friendship and making our loved ones feel special, are some of the most wonderful things about this time of year.”

- Martin George, Partner and Customer Director, Waitrose & Partners, part of the John Lewis family.

There’s a reason why John Lewis has carved out a very secure three minutes of our Christmas television with their highly anticipated advert. And why brands and competitors everywhere face the task of raising to the lofty standards of Monty, Mox and Edgar. Why not take inspiration from a brand that clearly knows the way into their audience’s heart, and use these elements to encapsulate the John Lewis spirit in your next ad campaign. 

Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Marketing Executive