Argos wants its playful Christmas ad to stir emotion as it focuses on ‘what Amazon can’t do’

Argos’ top brand marketer Garry Kibble is hoping its mischievous Christmas spot will both chime with shoppers emotionally and help it compete against Amazon.

Kibble joined the Sainbury's Argos from from Mothercare in 2017 following the grocer's acquisition of Argos for £1.4bn. He has spent the past 18 months defining the retailer’s brand purpose, which was crystallised in April with a new strapline: ‘You’re Good to Go’.

Instead of challenging on price, the marketing director has pivoted towards a more emotive strategy to show how the store can make customers’ fast-paced lives a little easier with its delivery options, wide-range of products and a little bit of the human touch.

“It’s more than a strapline… it’s a catalyst for change in the organisation,” Kibble explained to The Drum, saying the idea of Argos playing a role in solving the curveballs life throws at people informs everything from online interactions and the broader brand experience.

This year’s festive effort, created by longstanding agency The&Partnership, aligns with this ethos, but also introduces us to seasonal mascot ‘The Christmas Fool’ – a gremlin-like creature who sets out to ruin Christmas.

The bell-eared animal is shown bumbling around breaking fairy lights, knocking the angel from the top of the tree and generally causing chaos as families try to finish their last-minute Christmas preparation. However, major disasters are dodged thanks to Argos’ in-store click and collect and speedy delivery drivers.

The creative will run on TV as well as online, in-store and on VOD. When it comes to KPIs, Argos is treading the line between return on investment and brand affinity

Kibble mused: “You can't spend millions of pounds and not expect to be able to deliver return on that investment, so we're always trading off between those two.”

As with its summer ad, there's a nod to Sainsbury's in the spot, with a man shown picking up an order from one of the supermarket's 200 Argos collection points.

Following the Sainsbury's-Argos merger it axed its chief marketing officer role, with Kibble assigned to split the responsibilities with digital director Mark Steel. The pair work closely with the Sainsbury's team, which is headed up by Mark Given.

While Kibble sees the two stores bringing their marketing data closer together via their recently-launched digital centre of excellence, he can't envision running an entirely joint creative campaign as John Lewis and Waitrose have just done.

"[Sainsbury's and Argos] in their own right are massively iconic, they're very clear on what they stand for... they are credible to stand on their own and that's why we don't see a world in where there's any customer benefit in bringing those two together," he said.

Holding its own against Amazon

Kibble has previously cited the sheer "size and power" of Amazon (which made £72m in the UK pre-tax last year against Sainsbury's Argos' £589m) as the biggest challenge facing his own brand.

In response, he said his marketing team was doubling down on both its renewed brand purpose as well as “on what Amazon can’t do” to “hold its own” against the e-commerce giant.

So what can’t Amazon do that Argos can?

Well, according to Kibble it can’t create “a much broader proposition” that serves customers’ lifestyles.

“It’s very good at delivery but we've got delivery component. We've got our click-and-collect component we've got our walk-in component in physical stores.”

Argos also has over 1,000 points of presence and Fast-Track vans on the road, noted Kibble.

“We bring together technology with a human touch,” he said, pointing out that over the festive period it employs an extra 6,000 people, putting a “human face” on interactions with customers.

“When you knit that all together you start to get a sense of how we can win against Amazon.”

Getting closer to customers

‘The Christmas Fool’ was also engineered to make Argos’ marketing more “emotional” and less “rational”, said Kibble – because that’s what’s customers wanted.

When he arrived at the brand, he created a ‘customer closeness’ initiative comprising a panel of “tens of thousands” of people that are in regular contact with the marketing team.

The insights programme has become part of Argos’ “regular heartbeat” and the opinions and personal vignettes of around 100 Argos shoppers helped The&Partnership inform the direction of the Christmas spot.

“We also used [customers] as a sounding board throughout the process so as we iterated the ad we shared it with customers and they started to develop our thinking.”

It was the same panel that informed Argos’ wider pivot towards the emotional brand benefit it offers customers: “they want Argos to move at the speed of their lives so they feel ready for anything,” added Kibble.

“All of that was based on customer insight and that’s really important. It's not [coming from] an agency. It's not a team of architects. It was the customers saying ‘this is what you do for me’.”

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