Tuesday, 7 January 2014

John Lewis, a bear, a hare and a lesson in advertising

Well that is Christmas done for another year and decorations are being taken down across the land. Although retailers are already at the tail end of the January sales the inquisition into Christmas performances has already started.

In some cases it is not good news. Debenhams has issued a profit warning stating same store sales for the 17 weeks to 28 December increased 0.1%, below expectations. Although you could blame part of this on a forgettable Christmas marketing campaign, the real blame lies with the increased pressure on early discounting.

Way before the usual Boxing Day sales started, many big name high street brands slashed prices and introduced flash sales in an attempt to gain footfall and sales. French Connection, New Look, M&S, House of Fraser and Boots all used discounting, offering up to 50 per cent cuts to entice shoppers. Unfortunately when one does, the rest are often forced to follow.

Both John Lewis and House of Fraser though have posted strong results. John Lewis enjoyed a 6.9% increase in sales with sales from its website accounting for almost a third of its total income over the festive period.

John Lewis credited the bear and hare television campaign as a key driver of this growth. The £7m campaign (£1m on the production of the ad alone) was launched like a movie premiere and garnered press coverage like it was. It was watched 11.5m times on YouTube alone. However as well as the ad itself you could also buy toys of the characters, a book telling the story (which became its best selling children’s title over Christmas), chocolate, slippers and of course the alarm clock itself. The soundtrack even went to number 1 in the charts.

Not everyone has £7m to spend on a campaign but it helped deliver sales of £734m over 5 weeks. John Lewis managed that rare trick of creating a multi-channel event from a simple creative idea. Rather than just creating a TV campaign they created a whole world for people to be part of, share and purchase. I suspect next year we will see similar from the other high street retailers still left.

Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant