The holidays are an emotional time of year, and 2020 is certainly no exception to that! In fact, thanks to the crazy year we’ve all had, this time of year is bound to be even more emotionally charged than usual. For some, the holidays represent joy, happiness, love, and nostalgia. For others, they signal grief, loneliness, and bittersweet memories. You’d be hard-pressed to find a time of year when companies portray and inspire these emotions better than the end-of-year holidays. These holiday commercials bring it ALL to the table, putting a smile on your face, a giggle on your lips, and a warmth in your heart.
A staple since 1992, this Hershey’s commercial “rings” in the holidays every year. It’s just not Christmas until you hear those Hershey’s Kisses Bells on the TV! That kind of nostalgia holds immense power, especially over the holidays. Dr. Sedikides, the foremost pioneer in nostalgia study, says, “Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity. It made me feel good about myself and my relationships. It provided a texture to my life and gave me the strength to move forward.” In these uncertain times, nostalgia reminds us of the times we’ve lived through. It can give us the strength and courage to carry on. While this commercial may just be Hershey’s Kisses chiming, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” the playful sound and familiarity brings joy to hearts and homes everywhere.
The holidays are about connection, especially to family. Bouygues celebrates this familial bond with a holiday commercial that’s sure to tug at your heartstrings. The commercial shows the cross-generational bond developed between a father and son. That bond is then eventually shared with a grandson. Not only is the song an absolute jam, but the relatable awkward dad dance brings to mind all those fun, sometimes awkward things family and friends do together. This commercial also ages well considering that COVID-19 could be separating lots of families this year.
Lil John/Kool-Aid “All I Want For Christmas” Music Video
While this next video wasn’t a commercial per se, it was a music video created by Kool-Aid to bring some holiday fun to their brand. As the scene opens, you get the warm, content feeling of Christmas morning, with all the toys under the tree and the stockings. That is until you realize the scene is about to get rocked by Lil Jon and the Kool-Aid man. What follows is an energetic Christmas song chock full of, “Oh, yeahhhh!” This led to a massively positive reaction on social media. While Kool-Aid isn’t necessarily a holiday staple, Kool-Aid put out a fun Christmas video mixing a lot of traditional Christmas dressings with (albeit a little cheesy) Lil Jon and Kool-Aid’s hip-hop fun.
Apple “The Surprise” Commercial
There are several shorter versions of this commercial out, and odds are you’ve seen a shorter version of it. You should definitely take this opportunity to rewatch the full video to really gain an appreciation of what’s happening here. There’s so much going on in this commercial. Nostalgia is great, but for some, nostalgia can remind people of loved ones who are no longer with us, and it can contribute to some holiday depression. Remembering those who can’t be with loved ones during the holidays is important. There’s also another relatable bit in here, especially if you come from a large family with kids. Kids can be a handful, and sometimes it’s a necessary evil to hand them a device or turn on the TV so you can prepare for the holidays. Apple expertly marries these two ideas into one heart-melting commercial. You may notice that most of the commercial shows a lonely and depressed grandfather being taken care of by two parents who are tired and also still grieving. One could ask the question, why is this depressing topic being broached by a holiday commercial? First, the emotional valley allows for the emotional climax reached at the end of the commercial. Secondly, according to USC’s Master’s of Applied Psychology infographic, 31% of successful advertisements were emotion-based, and loneliness/friendship is a popular topic. The infographic also explains that viewers are more likely to stay engaged with an ad if there is an emotional rollercoaster. The idea of “kids being kids” interwoven with the grandfather’s struggles create an emotional ride that you have to see the conclusion of.
Sainsbury’s 1914 Commercial
This might be the most cinematic commercial on the list, and it stands out as one of the best holiday commercials of all time. The commercial commemorates the Christmas Truce of 1914 and the popular sentiment that giving is better than receiving. Once again, focusing on the aforementioned popularity of friendship, this advertisement shows the power the holiday spirit can hold over people. That two warring factions can come together and share a moment of peace in the midst of war, recognizing each other as humans first, is a powerful message. The entrenched men begin to open up, taking time to clean themselves up, play a game of football (soccer to us Yanks), and talk about their lives and loved ones back home. The heartwarming scene eventually fades back into the desolate state of war, but in the end, you can see the soldiers still respect each other and recognize one another’s humanity. The commercial was released in 2014, but with such deep division in our society, it can be appreciated as much now as ever before. The feeling of hope at the end of the trailer can be carried on in our hearts. Maybe like the old song says, “And the bells they’re ringing/ Like a choir they’re singing/And with our hearts we’ll hear them/Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
As you can see, emotion plays a huge role in marketing. The holidays are a time when many people reflect on the blessings they have and also the time that has passed them by. It makes sense that some of the most successful holiday advertisements touch the heart as much as or more than the product itself. You can be fun, you can be serious, but as long as you tell stories that matter to others, you will never go wrong.