Does Mog or the Man on the Moon tug on mums' purse strings as well their hearts?

Chances are that you have laughed at the calamitous antics of Mog the cat or shed a tear for the lonely man on the moon – either way, I’m guessing like most of us, you’ve been caught up in what has become the Christmas countdown – the annual battle of the big-spending TV advertisers, where, once a year, retailers pull at our heart strings as much as our purse strings.

Sainsbury's 2015 Christmas ad

These appointment-to-view ads continue to generate masses of buzz online and hundreds of column inches. For sure, only the most hardened – or cynical – consumer would fail to be drawn in by the feeling of goodwill Christmas advertising campaigns generate but what value do they deliver beyond that first moment?

Christmas ads are premiered with increasing event-marketing and high-anticipation each year. In recent years, John Lewis has owned the crown of Christmas TV marketing with big name soundtracks, animated bears and hares, cuddly penguins and poignant story-telling. The brand is renown for reducing us to tears with their mini-features built out of the evergreen festive themes of kindness and generosity packaged up with a warm, fuzzy glow of tinsel and mince pies. And the emotional intensity of last year’s Sainsbury’s ad had us reaching for the Kleenex in droves. Whilst other retailers stick to the more traditional ‘Christmas-made-easy’ approach.

But this year, there are two new factors. Firstly, the chatter on social media suggests that Sainsbury’s alternative comedy approach, borrowing Judith Kerr’s Mog, a popular children’s book character that almost spoils the family Christmas with a series of hilarious mishaps, has struck a chord with consumers who are more appreciative of the light-entertainment and LOLs.

And secondly, there’s the introduction of the charitable link by both John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, the two most popular ads as voted for by mums in Netmums' annual Christmas advertising report. Both brands come from the same point – that Christmas is for sharing – but the charity link has resonated with mums at a time when they are likely to be feeling most generous and sets these brands apart from the rest.

Almost half of the mums surveyed in our poll welcome the introduction of charitable links to reinforce these feel-good messages. Whether it’s John Lewis’ support of Age UK and heartwarming message to look out for those more vulnerable than ourselves, or Sainsbury’s partnering with Save The Children’s literacy campaign, mums view both as an expression of the true values of family and community at Christmas. In fact, 49 per cent of mums believe the ideal Christmas campaign is one that supports a good cause and would like to see even more charitable donations from retailers or in-store collections with only 17 per cent preferring brands to invest in shopper promotions.

So a savvy move from John Lewis and Sainsbury’s in leveraging the spirit of Christmas (and their marketing spend) to find a way to engender greater brand love and influence but what, if anything does this mean in terms of shopper behavior? Interestingly, this is where the campaigns could work harder. When it comes to the family purse strings, the mums we surveyed said they tend to stay with the familiar with 65 per cent sticking with brands they always use for their Christmas shopping and more than 3 out of 4 mums saying that Christmas ads alone are not persuasive enough to switch from one retailer to another.

The wholesomeness and community sense of these campaigns definitely drives the feel good factor but it seems that winning our hearts is much easier than winning our wallets. The generosity of shoppers is rather more short-lived than brands would like and certainly suggests brand love, like a puppy, is not just for Christmas.

Rimi Atwal is managing director, Netmums

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