Winning the Holidays

The 2016 IPA Effectiveness Awards were recently announced and the Grand Prix Winner was John Lewis, a retailer whose holiday adverts have become part of the culture in the UK.

I don’t think there is a campaign quite like this in the US.  Each holiday season, John Lewis releases a new ad on TV and online that is eagerly anticipated by everyone in the country.  Each story is highly emotional and is supported by an in-store experience that invites shoppers to become part of the story.

The campaign is credited with driving up sales by an average of 16% during the holidays and have boosted the company’s market share to nearly 30%. The holiday season accounts for 40% of John Lewis’ annual profits.  The campaign itself has generated more than £8 of profit for every £1 spent. 

Here is the 2016 campaign in all its glory – the ad, the in-store experience, the music, and the merchandise.  You can see campaigns from the previous years here.

Marketers often look for points of differentiation.  There is no point of differentiation here; many retailers could have made an ad like this.  But none of them did. 

So although there is no differentiation, there is, as the marketing wizard Al Ries calls it, pre-emption.  No other retailer (and probably no other brand of any kind) can play in this space now, because John Lewis “owns” it – simply because of how effective these messages have been.