Christmas 2020; how to do ‘different’ well

As the Christmas ads roll in, we had a think about what Christmas 2020 was really about. In the year like no other, how can brands reach people in a way that hits the right notes, be that through social, activations, traditional advertising or events?

Consider it a ‘how to’ guide in a world of ‘please don’t’ . This year is a challenge but if brands get the tone right, it can be more powerful than ever. So let’s deconstruct the emotional minefield that is Christmas 2020:

Tone is a Tightrope Walk

So, we need to talk about tone. This is a proverbial tightrope walk for many reasons:

Virtue Signalling 

In a year where the unsung heroes took the leading role, brands need to hang back and show support, this means, no virtue signalling, no telling people how it’s done or no trying to pilfer kudos for their own good deeds. People now have a much more advanced sense of morality and brands who try to look overly virtuous will be called out as inauthentic. People want to see brands acting for good, but be careful how you shout about it.


Christmas time and extravagance have become synonymous, and though we want to feel spoiled at least once this year, since our collective value-sets have found a new equilibrium, brands can’t appear to be pushing opulence. Think Kim Kardashian’s private island 40th and then do the complete opposite.

New Nostalgia 

Christmas has always been a time for nostalgia, but this year people are craving the comfort of the familiar more than ever.  How can brands help to feed into a new nostalgia? Help people to make new traditions and ride the wave of trends around traditionalization.

Christmas has always cantered around the home, so maybe it’s the one time of year when a 2020 experience could measure up to those from previous years. How do we maximise the experience in the home so that it feels less like lockdown and more like quality time? There are plenty of safe ways to reach people in the home in a way that feels personal, such as the Alpro Creamy sampling campaign we ran in September, we played the modern milkman with a personalised Alpro door-drop to the doorsteps of people in Dublin.

Be Minful of what you reflect 

The holidays are usually a time when brands mirror life back to people in a romanticised way, this will be a little tricky this year. People don’t want to be reminded of all the things they’ve become tired of –Zoom calls, social distancing and too many takeaways.

Permission to Treat 

Though brands should avoid sounding overly materialist, people will be looking for permission to treat themselves. After months of restrictions, both government and self-imposed, and with the threat of a looming recession, people have felt the need to be quite sensible with their spending. There is an opportunity for brands to reframe within the competitive set; “you deserve X because you haven’t done Y”. It gives people the go-ahead to loosen the reigns a little and find some joy where they can. Research by Kantar Media shows that Gen Zs are feeling the most cautious about their spending this year.

Brands who are compassionate towards people’s fragile financial situation will be appreciated, whether that’s with free experiences or festive discounts.  ‘Shop local’ continues to be the retail phrase of the year, so aligning with a strong local ethos will help brands show that they’re on the right side of capitalism this year.

Lift Spirits 

With Pinterest searches for Christmas beginning to soar all the way back in April, it’s obvious that Christmas 2020, though different, is in many ways more important than previous years. People are due a lift, they need this time to make up for a months of missed occasions and heavy news headlines. People have proven how resilient they are but this break from the daily struggle is well overdue.

With the tinsel paired back, family and friends are the key components of this Christmas, so above all else, just help people to enjoy themselves – it doesn’t need to be any more compilated than that.

The blockbuster Christmas ads are one way to reach your consumer, but there are also thousands of other meaningful ways to help bring some merriment into their holidays with digital messages or innovative at-home activations that help to make the Christmas feel more special.

If you’re interested in ways of creativity reaching your customers this Christmas, get in touch for virtual, digital and hybrid campaigns that help this ‘different’ Christmas to feel familiar where it counts.