Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why brands should use influencers for festive campaigns this Christmas

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI

Christmas is traditionally the biggest advertising event of the year.

In 2019, over £6.8bn was spent by brands, with the most notable outlay being the glitzy partnership between Walkers and Mariah Carrey, for which the Christmas diva pocketed a reported £9m.

And, as a result of these deep pockets, we’ve been treated to blockbuster TV ads from household brands, such as John Lewis and Amazon, which seamlessly blend film, TV, and marketing into a festive extravaganza.

COVID-19’s impact on advertising

But this year is different. With the COVID-19 pandemic turning the economy upside down, we’ve seen ad budgets shrink. And few were surprised when the Advertising Association and WARC forecasted that advertisers will cut more than £700m from their marketing budgets in the run-up to Christmas.

The reported £724m drop in spend represents a 10.5% fall compared to 2019 – the largest percentage drop in the so-called “golden” quarter of advertising since records began in 1982.

Part of this drop is down to the pandemic nullifying traditional advertising channels. With more people staying at home and avoiding contact with others, cinema advertising, OOH activations, and print cease to provide such a good return on investment.

Why brands should consider influencers for festive campaigns

However, this does not mean that every ad channel doesn’t represent good ROI.

With quarantine measures being reintroduced around the world, mobile phone usage, social media consumption and TV viewership is skyrocketing.

This is a trend that has been evident since the start of the pandemic. In March, Vodafone reported a 50% rise in internet use, TalkTalk’s daytime traffic rose by 20% since the UK went into lockdown in March and TV viewership also increased, with the BBC revealing a doubling of average 2019 audiences for its Six O’Clock News.

And, more recently, it was found that the average number of social media accounts per internet user has risen from 7.6 in 2017 to 8.1 in 2020, with average time spent increasing from 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 22 minutes.

In these unique circumstances, where consumers are spending more time at home and on their phone, influencer marketing emerges as an essential ad channel for marketers.

It’s unsurprising to see marketers dedicating more budget to influencer marketing: our recent whitepaper, Into the mainstream: Influencer marketing in society, surveyed over 3,5000 consumers, marketers, and influencers, and found that almost three-quarters (73%) of marketers have allocated more resources to influencer marketing in the last 12-months, with spend particularly increasing in the retail (79%), legal (79%) and manufacturing (75%) sectors.

Similarly, we found that marketers are also exploring additional social media channels: over the next year, 58% of marketers said they’d consider working with influencers on YouTube, followed by a further 55% on Instagram, 35% on TikTok, 20% on Twitch and 10% on Triller.

This is a trend we expect to continue into the festive period, with brands looking to market to consumers within the restrictions created by the pandemic.

Our creatives have been activated across Instagram to promote the fast-food brand’s new limited-edition Christmas jumper and to encourage consumers to create content in a neutral, relaxed, and engaging way.

The importance of considered messaging

However, if a brand does choose to use influencers in a festive marketing campaign, they must make sure the content produced is authentic and sympathetic to the complexities of a COVID-19 Christmas.

2020 has been a painful year for all of us and many will be having their Christmas dinner on the 25th with empty chairs at the table.

Marketers must be respectful of this and avoid creating content that is out of synch with the current restrictions and national mood this Christmas. Instead, they have two options: distract consumers from the pandemic with a joyous Christmas ad or address COVID-19 realistically and appropriately.

Amazon and TK Maxx have been lauded for their Christmas ads, which depict a festive celebration that isn’t the same as last year but without it being downbeat or exhausting. While brands like Argos have gone the other way by not mentioning the pandemic at all, and instead focusing on the magic of Christmas.

Marketers looking to use influencers in their activity this Christmas will face a similar challenge, and content creators should feel comfortable in discussing this with brands and advising them on the type of content that will work best with their followers.

With the pandemic negating the impact of certain marketing channels, brands should look to influencers to head up their festive activity. But, before they dive straight into a campaign, they must consider the type of content they put out. Too celebratory or glitzy and it looks like you are being insensitive, but equally if you are too dour then you miss an opportunity to cheer up consumers. There is a balance to be struck and influencers should help brands find this and communicate what messaging they believe will resonate most with their followers.