Campaign Trail: Brands say happy holidays with nostalgia, airline Santa and boozy caroling
Captain Morgan and EasyJet deploy costumed ambassadors to spread good cheer, while Toys R Us hearkens back to the golden days before its bankruptcy.
Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world.
Holiday marketing is always interesting to watch, but it's also an area frequently bogged down by creative that spreads the same seasonal messages and sentimentality. This week, Marketing Dive's editors examine one marketer that falls victim to this stale approach and two that do enough to break the mold to come across as fresh:
Toys R Us harkens back to its heyday — and away from bankruptcy woes — in nostalgia-heavy spot
The rundown: Toys R Us's holiday campaign this year includes a 30-second spot largely spliced together from older ads it ran in the '70s and '80s. The commercial, created by BBDO Atlanta, is backed by a redone version of the brand's recognizable "I Don't Want to Grow Up" jingle, according to Adweek.
The updated tune, performed by Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame, makes reference to more modern toy offerings like video games, and the end of the ad features a kid today walking through arches that read "Today We Play" — also the name of a brand platform unveiled earlier this year.
Versions of the video are being shared on the company's social media pages but don't appear to be available on its official YouTube channel. A Facebook post of the spot has racked up around 88,000 views at press time.
The results: Nostalgia is a potent tool in any marketer's toolbox, but Toys R Us might be eyeing it as a necessary one following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed in September. The holidays are a make-or-break sales period for most retailers, and this is doubly the case for Toys R Us, which has felt a pinch in recent years as parents and families are more frequently buying Christmas gifts for their kids from e-commerce sites like Amazon.
Harkening back to the nearly 70-year-old company's heydey serves as a gentle reminder to those consumers about why they loved shopping at Toys R Us in the first place and might create emotional resonance in that regard. It also feels like a misguided move for a brand that's eager to position itself as more modern and innovative.
Other recent initiatives by the company might do a better job at stoking excitement with kids and at driving parents into stores. Making its some 1,600 store locations more interactive is a key part of Toys R Us's turnaround plans, CEO Dave Brandon previously told USA Today, and it rolled out a mobile app called Play Chaser in October that uses augmented reality to enhance the shopping and toy-demoing experience.
When the guy in the red suit handing out gifts is Captain Morgan
The rundown: Diageo Rum brand Captain Morgan teamed up with actress Anna Camp, from the upcoming film "Pitch Perfect 3," and the caroling group New York Holiday Choristers for some seasonal festivities in New York City on Monday, Dec. 18.
A live incarnation of the brand's namesake joined the others as they surprised the firefighters at FDNY Engine 21 as well as people throughout Central Park with branded hats and t-shirts while singing well-known holiday songs that had been altered to better suit to the company. Lyrics included "Deck the bar with Captain Morgan" and “Don we now our pirate's onesies."
The results: In a year when sentimentality appears to be running heavier than usual in holiday marketing, Captain Morgan gets points for taking a lighthearted and fun approach to the season.
The brand hits multiple marketing high points with this effort, including out-of-home experiential marketing, holiday giveaways and themed merchandise. A holiday landing page for the Captain Morgan website is peddling some of the same items handed away as gifts, like a Funsie Onesie — which was sold out by press time — a Captain's sweater and towel. The site also features cocktail recipes and a store locator.
Part of the Like A Captain program, which includes TV ads depicting a variety of types of captains enjoying themselves, the effort shows how overarching brand strategies can be customized when appropriate, with the tweaked tagline "Holiday Like A Captain" appearing across the brand's digital and social media channels.
Santa takes to the skies with EasyJet this year
The rundown: The world's most storied pilot, Santa Claus, who somehow manages to fly to countless homes in a single night, is surprising 20,000 EasyJet passengers with a festive surprise this week, according to the Little Black Book. The jolly old elf is flying on over 100 flights from the U.K. to other European cities from Dec. 19-24 leading up to Christmas, in a move by EasyJet to bring some holiday cheer during what's often a chaotic travel experience. Lucky passengers on the flights will hear Santa's voice over the intercom during pre-takeoff announcements and receive gifts from Father Christmas throughout their journey.
Security at England's Gatwick Airport got in on the fun and inspected his sack of presents as he prepped to board an Airbus A320 on his first flight of the season.
The results: EasyJet's feel-good effort stretches beyond the special in-flight appearances. The airline rigged one of the planes with hidden cameras to capture passengers' reactions, then spliced the video into a short clip to promote across YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Throughout the campaign, the airline is sending the video via email to ticketed customers and also aiming to spark some user-generated content by encouraging passengers to share photos and posts with the hashtag #CaptainClaus on social media.
On top of that, travelers at Gatwick and Amsterdam's Schipol airport will be able to access a geolocation-based Snapchat filter that says "I'm flying with Captain Claus" to boost the festive campaign's reach.