Christmas: A Brand In Need

‘Christmas’, and I use the word loosely, is it in need of a re-brand? Or perhaps just a little brand refinement? Or is Christmas actually in dire need of a complete strategic re-think? Who sits defiantly at the head of the Christmas table in your house? The Holy Lord Jesus Christ himself or the rather less holy and the rather more merry Father Christmas? An obscure series of questions I know, but an intriguing set all the same. Which one of these two giants of Christmas is actually coming out on top these days, with Church numbers in decline I rather think it is the later. But why? Christmas is actually a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. So surely he should win by default. But I wonder how many children were considering that when they dived into this year’s bundle of presents.

"We will spend £312,500 every minute, that’s £5,208 a second, on this one day alone."

— Visa

Bare and a hare!

The Bear & The Hare. A christmas advert. A John Lewis christmas advert! A recognised success. A heart-warming story about two unlikely animals befriending one another through the joyous spirit of Christmas. Brilliant. Of course in reality the Bear wouldn’t befriend the Hare he would eat it! And he would not, without question, appreciate an alarm clock as a gift this Christmas, he would sooner rip your face off than be awoken by a rattling alarm. But we can overlook such details, because it’s Christmas and we all love each other at Christmas time. Or as the KFC advert would have us believe we don’t unless we’ve just consumed a bellyful of KFC.

But of course these are all very minor details because, as always, there is a much bigger picture behind all of this. Christmas is a business. In fact Christmas is a HUGE business. More money will be exchanged during this festive period than at any other time of the year. Prior to this year’s Black Monday, Visa predicted that we would spend £312,500 every minute, that’s £5,208 a second, on this one day alone. That’s some serious backing for the humble Father Christmas. In the week after the John Lewis advert was first aired, the department store reportedly took £101 million – which has reportedly given the retailer its best ever start to the Christmas Period. Ho ho ho, Happy Days indeed. But Father Christmas is not just winning the poles when it comes to financial stats alone. John Lewis’ brand presence in the market is unprecedented; 10,406,606 million youtube viewers (As of 10th December and set to rise!) have absorbed the heart-warming Bear & The Hare story. Numbers Jesus Christ could only dream of turning up to Church every Sunday morning. In stark contrast to John Lewis’ youtube viewers, a mere 2.6 million attended a Christmas congregation last year.

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Big business

Of course we are talking about two very different sets of animals. John Lewis is a business. And the primary objective of any business is to be a viable one, with as higher turnover as possible. And to achieve that a business must market itself. Pretty much every retailer in the country will see profits rise over the Christmas period, providing they get their market strategies right. If retailers weren’t to strategically approach this lucrative period, and cash in, then they’re probably in the wrong business. Retail giants like Coca-Cola have created a fairy tale Christmas to aid the retail process. And it is working very well. Christianity on the over hand is not a business, not in the retail sense anyway. It is a religion built upon a belief and a faith and the Christian faith does not encourage its disciples to sway others to part with their money. That would be classified as Greed, which is yep, one of the 7 deadly sins. Which leaves us with a tricky conundrum: Are retailers immoral? Are we as consumers immoral? Are the millions of young children penning their wish lists to Father Christmas immoral? Have we all become greed driven machines?

If that were the case then we would need to rethink the very fabric of Christmas itself. We would need to reconsider and re-define the foundations that Christmas sits upon. Which is most probably most of, if not all of, the 7 deadly sins. If we were to re-consider the 7 deadly pillars that Christmas perhaps sits upon, then we would most likely remove most of what we love about Christmas. Stuffing our faces, drinking to excess, lusting after new items in the sales … we may even have to reconsider Father Christmas himself. Seeing as he is clearly the face of Christmas these days. A very dramatic re-brand would be implemented. But I don’t think we should do that. Evolution not revolution.

Above all, and most important of all, a brand needs a consistent brand message. A message that the brand endorses and owns. A message that all its fans adhere to.

Defining the core message

Lets not get ahead of ourselves and instead, lets take a more light-hearted approach to the original question: Does Christmas need a rebrand? Well I would say a stringent set brand guidelines wouldn’t be a bad idea. As a parent to three ever curious children it is becoming more and more difficult to keep the whole Father Christmas charade going. Some serious brand consistency would really help with this problem. In the first instance we need a uniformed, brand template for each and every Father Christmas letter received. A consistent brand mark, top left, top right I don’t mind, but consistent. This consistent brand mark could be applied to present labels as well. It will become the seal of approval that I need, that my children need and that every other parent and child combo is in desperate need of. This consistent brand mark will become the Father Christmas endorser. But it’s not just brand marks and templates that I’m after. I want consistency at all touch points, and the biggest inconsistency culprit of them all is actually the numerous Father Christmas imposters rolling around the festive Fetes! Be it a Church Fete, School Fete, or your local village Fete. Even the makeshift grottos tucked away within the broom cupboard of your local garden centre or anywhere else for that matter, we as parents need consistency. I have seen all manner of Father Christmas’ over the years. Consistency please. Father Christmas has a general look and feel. We all have a rough idea of what he looks like by now, so let’s rein that look in, tie it down and lets stick to it. If you’re to underweight for the role – don’t apply. We need a watertight brand presence rolled out across all creative touch points. Kids are clever. They will and they are seeing through these avoidable inconsistencies.

But above all, and most important of all, a brand needs a consistent brand message. A message that the brand endorses and owns. A message that all its fans adhere to. And that is that Christmas is a time for giving. Not receiving.

Happy Christmas.