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Marketing at Christmas with Music

SFX: Christmas Bells; Ring, ring. Ring, ring!

Music has long been associated with Christmas, and Christmas with music. The first specifically Christmas hymns (carols) for Christians appeared in the fourth century. Music is also a terrific gift; the size of the market increases in the run up to Christmas when record labels battle to win the coveted #1 single and album slots. Marketers are also catching on to the power of music at Christmas.

For the last three years, John Lewis has been top of the pops in using music to market their business. The Gabrielle Aplin cover of ‘The Power of Love’ used in John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas campaign by Adam & Eve/DDB knocked Olly Murs off the top of the official UK singles chart on 10 December. You can watch it here.

John Lewis’s sales for the week ending Saturday 8 December rose 15% year on year to £142m. John Lewis attributed this to the success of its “omnichannel strategy”. It says sales were driven by customers looking for that special Christmas gift, including gloves, cashmere, lingerie, handbags or jewellery. The strong performance of gloves as a gift coincides with the Christmas ad showing a snowman making a long journey to get a pair of gloves for his snowwoman.

In 2011, John Lewis used the Slow Moving Millie soundtrack, ‘Please, please, please’ to promote its Christmas offer. This amassed nearly 5m You Tube views at the time of writing.

Ellie Goulding’s haunting cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ appeared in its 2010 Christmas ad. But can you recall the ads pre 2009?

Our Christmas card to you!

Since we founded our marketing consultancy in 2005, we’ve included lyrics from Christmas songs in our cards. Finding lyrics that convey the right sentiments is a tough task! Matching words and pictures is equally difficult. This year we’ve selected lyrics from a song written by Leigh Haggerwood called ‘My Favourite Time of Year’. Disappointed at the high-jacking of the Christmas charts by likes of X-Factor, Leigh wrote this song to reflect the true values of Christmas. Funded without the backing of a record label, and promoted only by social media it charted at just 40 in December 2010. You can watch it here. ‘There is goodwill in the air tonight’. We wish you a Merry Christmas and prosperous year ahead!

Marketing Inspiration

1. Music elicits powerful emotional responses and influences behaviour. It’s also powerful in rekindling memories. Thus if used correctly the sound of sleigh bells can have a powerful effect on tills.

2. Remember the narrative. While many John Lewis ads pre 2009 also used music, none are arguably as emotionally engaging and heart warming as the more recent ads. For example, Taken by the Trees version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ in 2009, Virginia Labuat’s version of ‘From me To You’ in 2008 and Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet in 2007.

3. Ensure consistency in marketing communication (through different channels and over time) in order to get your message across. And thus make sure it is understood and acted upon.

Guy is a leading UK marketing consultant with a background at major brands and in the media. He is Founder of The Marketing Directors, a successful research and marketing consultancy working with aspiring and global brands in the UK and beyond. He is co-author of The Marketing Director's Handbook with Tim Arnold.

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