Argos invokes ‘Book of Dreams’ catalogue nostalgia in search of Christmas sales boost

Argos is putting its paper catalogue front-and-centre of its Christmas campaign for the first time in a decade as it looks to deliver a sales boost for owner Sainsbury’s following on from disappointing 2018 festive results.

The retailer has dropped the playful ‘Christmas Fool’ character it unveiled last year in favour of a more family-oriented spot it’s hoping will stir customers’ emotions.

“The last few years we run ads that have focused on what's unique about our business, like our same-day delivery offer,” explained Argos’ director of brand and digital marketing Dan Elton.

“Those were successful, but for 2019we wanted to start in a place that came from how customers actually interact with us, instead of focusing on what's unique to Argos.”

Created by The&Parntership, the result is an integrated push which plays on a joke from comedian Bill Bailey that the Argos catalogue is 'The Book of Dreams’.

The TV ad at the heart of the campaign shows a father observing his daughter has circled a drum kit in the book.

As he taps the page with his figure a fantasy scene unfolds, ending with the pair playing the drums to a rapturous crowd. Set to the sound of 80s classic Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, the film features several products including Cubby the Curious Bear (which is forecast to be one of this Christmas’ most popular toys for kids).

Though kids today are more au fait with iPads than they are paper, Elton insisted that insight from Argos revealed that the nostalgia of circling a ‘dream gift’ has carried through the generations and is still “going strong in today’s tech-obsessed world.”

For Elton, “softer” KPIs will measure engagement with the catalogue itself and the dedicated Book of Dreams website which will be hosting editions of the catalogue from the past four decades for customers to peruse.

Hard metrics, however, will come in the form of sales and Argos will be looking to outshine last year’s performance for certain.

In 2018, owner Sainsbury’s blamed Argos and Black Friday cutbacks for a dismal festive trading period in which like-for-like sales slid by 1%.

The grocer, which bought Argos in 2016, said customers held back on toys and electricals and were trading down to cheaper food products too amid a “cautious” customer backdrop.

Building emotional connections

‘The Book of Dreams’ marks a big pivot on last year’s creative, which was spearheaded by now-departed marketing director Gary Kibble who sought to show how Argos could “hold its own” against Amazon.

However, Elton said the wider ‘You’re Good To Go’ brand ethos crystalised by Kibble to underscore Argos’ convenience is still a prominent tenet of what the brand wants to stand for.

“That remains alive and well. The whole purpose of that strategy is to build an emotional connection with customers built around moments that are true to them,” said Elton.

In July this year, Sainsbury’s and Argos combined their marketing roles for the first under new group chief marketing officer Mark Given.

The business said that bringing together the two marketing functions was “the natural next step as we bring the businesses and brands closer together,” however Elton implied the teams aren’t yet working collaboratively.

“We’re one business and we work closely together,” he explained, “we have a friendly competition about whose Christmas ad is the best.”

The launch of Argos' Christmas ad follows a social campaign that has seen celebrities, influencers and members of the public surprised with their own ‘Book of Dreams’ from when they were young.

The campaign also included the creation of Argos’s first-ever digital repository of vintage catalogues from the past 46 years of its print run, which attracted over 1.8 million visits in its first 48 hours.

The full 360 drive encompasses online, television, cinema, brand response, bumpers, out-of-home, social and influencer outreach.

Despite cautions that consumer uncertainty around Brexit could put a dent in retailer’s sales this Christmas, Argos declined to comment on how it’s marketing or media functions would be impacted by these trends. Elton simply said he hoped the creative itself would “lift the mood of the nation”.

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