Sound Ideas Banner December Christmas

The merriest memories: marketing holiday nostalgia

Dec 05, 2019
The treasured childhood toys… the feasts shared with family… the treats left for Santa and his reindeer… we all have our own fond memories that make it easy to feel a little nostalgic during December. And when it comes to remembering Christmases past, so many of these moments are tied to the stories that weave themselves around the holiday season. From the manger and the dreidel to Kevin McCallister and Mr Scrooge, the time is characterised by those well-known narratives – on screen and stage, in storybook and song. And with these treasured tales so ingrained in our celebration, it’s no surprise that brands are drawing on their associated nostalgia to forge an emotional connection with their audience.

It’s not only in December that we enjoy the warm and fuzzy feelings brought on by a trip down memory lane. University researchers have proved that nostalgia can counteract anxiety, boredom and loneliness; enhance generosity; and even provide emotional equilibrium during our uncomfortable states. When used effectively in advertising, it promises an immediate return on happy memories with a little investment. And when these happy memories are tied to the festive season, the result is all the more powerful. It’s during the holidays that we reunite with loved ones, perhaps rekindle lost relationships, or hark back to the simpler times of childhood – and every year, brands use their campaigns to spark these emotions, and remind us of the possibilities of a perfect Christmas.
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There’s many a layer of seasonal nostalgia gift-wrapped in our favourite festive movies – both in the actions playing onscreen, and in the very act of watching them. The happiness associated with seeing Mr Grinch’s heart swell, Buddy the Elf navigate New York, or even John McClane emerge triumphant from the Nakatomi Plaza isn’t necessarily tied to the plot – it’s in remembering how you felt during your happiest moments watching it, and almost becomes a cultural marker as to how your life has progressed through each repeat view. From ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ released way back in 1946, through to more modern examples of ‘Love Actually’ (2003) ‘The Night Before’ (2015) and ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ (2018), each era gives us new classics to shape our celebrations around. And while many reinvent themselves for new generations (take A Christmas Carol as the prime example), they all share the same themes of love, joy and happiness that add to the nostalgic sentiment of the season.
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Every year, new festive film releases vie to become the next beloved classic, and a big contender for 2019 is Paul Feig’s ‘Last Christmas.’ As well as the star power of Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson, this rom-com has another big draw – the music of George Michael, in particular, the classic hit from which the film takes its name. Just as much as movies, Christmas songs tell their own stories – and even more so than film, they have the power to transport us back to the times and places we heard these songs in little more than the opening bars. This phenomenon of musical memory means that Christmas music carries perhaps the highest levels of nostalgia at this time of year – and this is just a contributing factor as to why these seasonal hits are such lucrative business. When played in stores, they have a unique power to drive customers to cash registers. And for the artists themselves, they promise unrivalled longevity – which is perhaps why the likes of Robbie Williams, Idina Menzel and queen of the holiday hit Mariah Carey have all released new material this festive season.

The nostalgia factor in seasonal advertising is nothing new – and this year, many high-profile campaigns have continued this tradition by drawing on the memories associated with festive stories and songs. UK supermarket giants Tesco and Sainsbury’s both travelled back in time with their adverts – the former showing a delivery driver teleporting to classic Christmases through history, and the latter reinventing the story of Santa in a spot that harks back to Victorian times. Musically, we’ve seen advertisers shy away from the most-heard classics, but still sustain high levels of nostalgia. Apple’s tear-jerking holiday ad cleverly deploys the music from Disney classic ‘Up’ – reinforcing the film and the ad’s shared themes of loss, and inspiring happy memories in viewers from the times they’ve watched the film (most likely during the festive season.) John Lewis meanwhile has stuck to its tried and tested formula of a wistful, acoustic style cover – Bastille taking on REO Speedwagon’s ‘I Can’t Fight this Feeling Anymore.’ While this may not be one of the renowned retailer’s best, the very style of the song sparks nostalgia from when the John Lewis festive advertising phenomenon was at its peak – inspiring more Christmas memories that encourage sales.

Just as festive nostalgia is universal, its effects are achievable for every business thanks to audio branding – both in musical and narrative ways. Every production begins with the script, as talented writers craft powerful copy designed to captivate listeners. During the holiday season, this content can cover special promotions and changes to opening hours, or simply pass on the business’ best wishes – all with a little sprinkle of Christmas magic that sparks the same festive feelings as the classics of the big screen. This is coupled with an exclusive seasonal track penned by talented composers that represent the best in the business. This year, our holiday hitlist channels the wistful whimsy of the nutcracker, the merry majesty of a Hollywood orchestra, and a little bit of sleighbell rock – reminding listeners of the most beloved songs. Just take a listen by clicking here. When these elements (along with a suitably cheery voice artist) combine, the results is a nostalgia-packed production that can’t fail to spark a joyous feeling – which in turn, translates to brand loyalty.

This festive season, take your customers on a trip down the candy-cane memory lane – and enjoy the valuable benefits come the New Year.