In the run up to Christmas, which British retailers are going the extra mile to fuel their sales? 

Christmas campaigns have become as much of a staple as turkey and brussel sprouts - get it right or face the wrath of the people.

Although we would rather have a face full of mince pies washed down with mulled wine, it’s British retailers’ Christmas campaigns that are right in our face this November.

As the last ember was crushed from Bonfire Night, an avalanche of festive laced campaigns were released into the marketing hemisphere by retailers across the land.

No surprises there, but there is everything to play for this season with Mintel predicting retail sales will reach £36.5bn in December. 

But who is going above and beyond the usual TV ad? In this age of digital, there is an expectation for a meatier campaign from retailers that engages consumers.

I’ve set the magnifying glass against the biggest Christmas competitors to see who has pushed the boat out this year.

John Lewis: Child-friendly technology

The Campaign: A tiny CGI penguin is pulling at the heartstrings of the nation to generate much needed sales for John Lewis this Christmas.

The retailer has ploughed £7m into its 2014 campaign, focusing on the story of a little boy giving his toy penguin Monty a furry female friend for Christmas. John Lewis’ ad reached 4.6m YouTube views before airing on TV, as well as #montythepenguin being used 146,674 times within the first three days of release; talk about the power of social.

The Extra Mile: John Lewis is using cutting edge technology to bring the campaign to life across 42 stores nationwide. Monty’s Den is an instore experience using innovative technology to tell the stories of the characters from its ad - Sam, Monty and Mabel.  

The retailer has created an Antarctic themed environment featuring brand spanking new technology and educational content, including Monty’s Goggles.

Created through Google Cardboard the goggles provide a 360-degree virtual environment showcasing Monty and Sam’s world that children can step into and interact with.

Verdict: Statistically, the campaign is set to be John Lewis’ most successful to date, with now more than 16.3m YouTube views, topping last year’s Bear and the Hare which amassed just 14m.

The extra mile is a slice of genius; although it doesn’t target its audience, it does target their children. Never underestimate the power of persuasion.

Aldi: Posh pop ups

The Campaign: Aldi has forgone comedic comparison this Christmas for a showcase of expensive trimmings and Jools Holland tinkling away on the piano, with the tagline ‘Everyone is coming to us this Christmas’.

Perhaps rubbing in the faces of the Big Four supermarket giants that as their sales continue to plummet, Aldi’s are rocketing month-on-month. There are no more whispers of low priced European imports, Aldi is focusing on incredible value for money (I am a convert).

The Extra Mile: As part of the campaign, Aldi is opening up pop up restaurants in the run up to Christmas at the helm of celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.

Members of the public are being invited to win a dining experience at the eateries by simply tweeting using #AldiFestiveFeast. Hosted in top rated hotels across five cities, dinner is comprised of products from its specially selected festive range, including caviar, crab, turkey wellington and a 12 month matured Christmas pud. Yum.

Verdict: Marketers everywhere, take note. The best way to a consumer's heart? Through their belly of course. The campaign links well all the way through with clear messaging. I expect to see another quarterly sales increase!

Sainsbury’s: Chocolate for charity

The Campaign: Sainsbury’s has caused a stir with its 2014 campaign in partnership with the Royal British Legion.

The supermarket giant has created a cinematic masterpiece in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War 1 and the infamous tale of truce between British and German soldiers for just one day in 1914.

The Extra Mile: Selling special edition chocolate bars for the charity is part of the campaign - and it must be working. Sainsbury’s has reported that the tasty treats have been flying off the shelves at the astonishing rate of 5,000 per hour.

Verdict: Tongues have been wagging up and down the country since the campaign dropped; some believe it has knocked John Lewis off the number one spot for best Christmas campaign, others find the concept downright insulting.

Either way, the campaign has launched itself into a global spotlight with huge engagement.

M&S: Random acts of kindness

The Campaign: Marks & Sparks has ditched the usual roster of celebrities and mouth watering dishes for two do-gooder fairies performing random acts of kindness.

The ad features fairies Magic & Sparkle (I see what you did there) granting wishes and bringing joy to families this Christmas, recycling last years joyous concept.

The Extra Mile: M&S has filtered the campaign through to social, with a dedicated Twitter account run by the fairies, listening to followers to find those in need of help to grant them wishes this Christmas.

It seems to be working, with more than 28,000 followers keeping up with the account. The retailer is also sprinkling their magic on outlets across the country by bringing the concept i-store - look out for surprises in your shopping bags!

Verdict: I love that all bases have been covered by the retailer - it hasn’t just focused on the digital experience but also the importance of brick and mortar. All in all, a feel good campaign that even the most cynical will find difficult not to smile at.

Boots: Sharing the love 

The Campaign: No surprises when Boots revealed its campaign this year, targeted at a female audience.

Using the tagline ‘because she’s so special’, the campaign focuses on the story of a girl returning home for Christmas from a gap year to surprise her hard working mum.

The touching campaign is full to the brim with feel good factor, playing on the concept of the joy of giving, which will hopefully be successful in capturing customers.

The Extra Mile: Boots is inviting the nation to celebrate the special people in their lives with the launch of #specialbecause campaign, to inspire customers not to just give gifts at Christmas, but to share how much they value them.

Customers are encouraged to share the reasons why their loved ones are special through their Twitter hashtag.

Verdict: This isn’t the most memorable campaign of them all - but it is heartwarming. Which is perfect for their target audience.

And so...

The battle continues - we won’t know the real winner until retail reports are released in the New Year. But for now in my eyes, I’m backing the underdog, M&S.

Rebecca Baines

Published 27 November, 2014 by Rebecca Baines

Rebecca Baines is senior content writer at Stickyeyes and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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