We already know that this Christmas will look very different. With speculation around festive restrictions rife, consumer attitudes towards the holiday season may be different from previous years. As many marketers put the final touches to their campaigns, understanding these attitudes will be crucial to making sure they hit the mark.

Traditional festive marketing has relied on strong emotive themes to engage with audiences and get them spending. Who could forget John Lewis’s “Man on the Moon” ad highlighting loneliness in the elderly? Or “1914”, Sainsburys’ 2014 ad that revisited the Christmas truce of the First World War? Considering many families face the possibility of not being able to get together this Christmas, these traditional themes may not be right this year.

At Quantcast we’ve been reviewing a range of data – including our audience insights and market research we conducted with Dynata – to see how the events of 2020 have shaped Brits’ attitudes towards the festive season. Three key themes have emerged, giving brand marketers a steer as to how they can adapt and shape their campaigns this Christmas:

From luxury treats to altruism

The data reveals a mindset shift from indulgent treats to altruism this holiday season. In the research, 40% of UK consumers say they plan to donate to charity, with the 45+ age group most likely to do so. This focus on giving is backed up by a deeper look into the most common Christmas-related search terms through audience insights, with “charity” featuring prominently this year.

This is a big contrast to the 2019 festive season when the most common search terms around Christmas were more self-indulgent, such as “all-inclusive”, “cruises” and “party invites”.

Although Christmas campaigns of the past have focused on those in need, with the charity theme coming out so strongly this year brands will need to ensure any messaging around this theme is backed up with real-world action like a donation. More than ever, your audience wants to know that you share the same values and this will prove to them that you do.

It’s a family matter

Most of us have spent more time in our homes this year than we necessarily wanted to and now we are faced with preparing for a home-based Christmas. When asked what they would be spending their money on in the months leading up to Christmas in the research survey, forty one per cent of UK consumers said home improvements and DIY.

Audience insights search data from 2020 also showed a strong skew towards a home-based Christmas, with terms such as “knitting patterns”, “gingerbread” and “DIY Gifts” coming out on top. In contrast, 2019 search data saw people focused on getting away, with “holiday travel”, “New York” and “Christmas markets” some of the most popular searches around the festive season last year.

Despite the events of this year, it’s clear that people are determined to make Christmas an occasion and are willing to spend accordingly. Seventy five per cent of UK consumers said they plan on spending the same or more on Christmas food and drink this year compared to the year before.

Greater sensitivity to campaign theme/tone

Understanding your audiences’ preferences around campaign themes is always important but after a year full of adverts reacting to the pandemic, marketers need to take the time to look at how that’s been received.

When UK consumers were asked to remember what themes they liked and disliked in adverts since the beginning of the pandemic in the survey, the most popular themes were “family”, “giving to charity” and “distraction” (meaning humour or escapism).

Just as important as knowing what does resonate, is knowing what doesn’t. Abundant mentions of Covid-19 or the “new normal” were found to be the most unpopular themes in advertising since March.

Despite the headlines, Christmas 2020 is not cancelled. In fact, after considering the data, it’s clear it will be more important than ever to many. The events of this year have changed the way consumers are approaching the holiday, with priorities and attitudes shifting away from the self and towards bigger themes of charity and family. For marketers to really nail their campaigns this year, understanding the changing nuances of these audience attitudes and adapting accordingly will be crucial.

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