It’s that time of the year again and – if I had to dub this year’s holiday season, based on the series of innovative campaigns emerging from high-end retailers recently – I think I’d have no choice but go with 2016’s Alternative Xmas. As in: “of or relating to activities that depart from or challenge traditional norms”.
As unimaginative as my off-the-cuff caption may be – campaign efforts from luxury players this year have been everything but that – for the most part.
From department store revivals and first-class collaborations, to muppet guest star spots and riveting brand-centric films – 2016 has seen luxury businesses raise the bar in 2016 by reinterpreting the Christmas spirit for the modern age – and making it fun.
Here’s a handful of Christmas campaign trends and on-point executions we rated best.
1. Holiday-Themed Films
Nothing brings the Christmas spirit to life more than well-executed visual interpretation – and this year, brands have gone the extra mile to deliver some truly excellent videos and stunning short film campaigns.
Burberry – The Tale of Thomas Burberry
The crème of the crop in this category is, without a doubt, British brand extraordinaire Burberry – who, with the help of stars such as Sienna Miller, Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Harry Potter), Dominic West and Lily James – has crafted a superb visual Christmas campaign which is truly a feast for the eyes.
Written by Matt Charman and directed by Asif Kapadia, the three-minute cinematic trailer dubbed “The Tale of Thomas Burberry” reimagines key events that have shaped the company’s history and values in a story which captures the audience’s curiosity from the get-go and keeps engagement levels high throughout.
The brilliant and beautiful product placement weaved in subtly is super classy – as you would hope to expect from a haute luxury label – and the music, film quality, aspirational acting and short story with substance seal the deal.
The fact that it harks back to the Burberry heritage, reminding consumers about the values of credibility, integrity, tradition and family foundations – which happen to tie in perfectly with the pillars of Christmas, is just an added bonus – but certainly means that this ad is on-point and has thankfully avoided a detour to tacky-mania, unlike so many others. Thank you Burberry.
Burberry & Harrods – The British brand can do no wrong and, joining forces with another English institution for a customised collaboration which also included Harrod’s first-ever Christmas tree, six-meters high and designed by Burberry gives it a nice wow-factor.
Tommy Hilfiger – Short, snappy and to-the-point, fronted by IT girl and model-of-the-moment Gigi Hadid, this video spot from US brand Tommy Hilfiger is both catchy and fun with an old-world Xmas feel to it.
Cartier – Upbeat, light and punchy with a great soundtrack to turn heads and nice incorporation of the jewellery marque’s leopard mascot.
Christian Louboutin – Engaging and imaginative film that presents like a luxury fairytale, and somehow works for Christmas without any explicit mention of the holiday. Interesting.
Kate Spade – I’m on the fence about this one, because it’s a bit long for my liking – but the curious use of Miss Piggy from The Muppets makes it different from the rest and probably works quite well given the recent launch of the designer’s first kids Girl’s collection (after the success of her “Kate Spade for GapKids” collaboration) around this time last year.
2. Innovative Collaborations
The festive season is all about coming together, so it stands to reason that collaborating with like-minded brands for mutual benefit would be a natural evolution. This year, luxury brands banded together in force for the holidays to awe consumers through the delivery of new and exciting executions with extra sparkle and wow-factor.
Google + 18 retail partners
The top pick in this trend category goes to Google and a raft of high-end retailers, who joined forces this year to create the “Window Wonderland” – a virtual walk which gives audiences around the world the opportunity to experience 18 of New York’s best braded storefronts this Christmas.
Combining hundreds of high-resolution images to create an interactive panoramic display for each store, Google allows users to access the walk via their desktop computer, mobile phone or tablet. Those with a virtual reality headset, can go a step further and enjoy a full 360-degree panoramic experience, complete with the surrounding sounds of New York’s streets.
Retailers who participated include: ABC Carpet & Home, American Girl, Barneys New York on Madison Avenue and downtown, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Burberry, Cartier, Fendi, Henri Bendel, Lord & Taylor, Louis Vuitton, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Tory Burch.
La Mer x Missoni – These two luxury players have come together to create an innovative collaboration with a worldly, ethereal feel to it which adds both value to the consumer holiday purchase and creates desire via the ‘limited edition’ tactic, while also providing cross-pollination of target markets without diluting either brand. The behind-the-scenes interview clip with Italian designer Margherita M. Missoni also adds something extra to the promotional push.
Neiman Marcus + Infiniti Limited Edition – This ‘Midas Touch’ inspired partnership again draws on the appeal of limited edition/one-off, has the ‘wow-factor’ and screams opulent, over-the-top luxury, for those that are into that.
3. Insider Knowledge
Finding the perfect gift is something on everyone’s mind come Christmas and this year, luxury retailers are lending a helping hand in innovative new ways.
Nordstrom + Jaeger-LeCoultre Chatbot
In a bid to offer shoppers the unique opportunity to have a dedicated assistant and tailored advice on gift giving, both Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre and department store Nordstrom have adopted the chatbot.
While Jaeger-LeCoultre’s chatbot works only via Facebook, Nordstrom’s chatbot works on both Facebook Messenger and Kik – but both fill a niche and provide an ‘add-value’ service by recommending the perfect gift based on users’ responses to questions which build a customised profile of the potential recipient.
The array of questions about the gift recipient ranges from hobbies to favourite destinations and playlists, and – rather than force the consumer into a Spanish inquisition – the user is given the choice to either answer the series of questions or chat with customer care for more personalized help.
Ticking the boxes of the ‘insider’ category from a different angle, both Hermes and The Real Real score honourable mentions for taking consumers behind their brands and offering rare, one-off experiences for a limited time.
Hermès – Fashion house Hermès has opened its doors in time for the holiday season and is welcoming consumers in New York to a series of pop-up stores and craft workshops via its ‘sustainable’ spinoff label Petit h.
Dubbed the Petit h Holiday Factory, the activation consists of three Petit h locations, hidden around Manhattan which consumers can find via a map housed on the Hermés website. Once located, they can seek out one-of-a-kind gifts which Hermés artisans have crafted from leftover materials and attend workshops which show off the skills on which the luxury brand has built its acclaimed reputation.
The RealReal – Online luxury retailer The RealReal is making its retail debut this Christmas with a holiday pop-up shop in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood. The start-up’s first physical store, located at 79 Greene St, will be in good company alongside Longchamp, Saint Laurent and Burberry, with the shop set to stock an array of wares, fine art and home furnishings from brands such as Chanel, Gucci, and Hermès. The store aims to simultaneously attract new customers and engage existing clients in-person, within a gift-giving atmosphere where experts will also be on hand to educate shoppers on the authenticity of merchandise or the heritage behind a historic item.
4. Taking Experiential Luxury To The Next Level
The trend of experiences over goods has taken the luxury landscape by storm in recent times and brands have followed suit, creating new and sensational set-ups for consumers willing to pay the premium for a true taste of upper-echelon luxury over the holidays.
Langham Place Hotel – Christmas State of Mind
Taking this concept to the limit, the Langham Place Hotel on Fifth Avenue is offering its guests an exclusive and extravagant holiday package dubbed “Christmas State of Mind”, which starts at $150,000 for a three-night stay, with each additional night priced at around $10,000.
The seasonal sojourn takes place at the Langham’s newly designed Roche Bobois penthouse suites, which come with views of the Empire State Building, furnishings by Roche Bobois and amenities by Paul Smith and Maison Lacroix, with each of the rooms to contain a fully-decorated Christmas tree, stocked with various gifts. These include: an edible chocolate box with Langham pink diamond gifts inside, cashmere blankets and complimentary basket of hand-selected, New York-specific items from Chelsea Market.
Additionally, guests who book the “Christmas State of Mind” package will also benefit from a dedicated, daily Rolls-Royce and driver; a curated private shopping itinerary with personal shopper; an eight-course tasting menu, prepared in-room by award-winning Chef Michael White, proprietor of Langham Place's Michelin-starred restaurant, Ai Fiori; premium seats at any New York show; VIP tickets to the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building; and in-room massages.
During the month of December, any Langham Place guest who orders an in-room, Langham Hotels branded chocolate bar will also have the chance to win an upgrade to a Roche Bobois Penthouse Suite – assuming they find the Golden Ticket hidden within one of the sweets.
Bergdorf Goodman and The Quin – Department store Bergdorf Goodman and The Quin have expanded their existing relationship over Christmas to offer guests a full shopping experience whereby guests are granted a $200 gift card to the department store and invited to attend a personal appointment with an expert member of Bergdorf Goodman’s personal styling team, in addition to other benefits.
H.R. Owen – British automotive dealer group H.R. Owen – which stocks marques such as Bentley, Bugatti, Rolls-Royce and Maserati – has boosted its successful Chauffeur Drive division and launched a special offer in the lead-up to Christmas eve, in a bid to ease the stress of navigating the shopping whirlwind. Up until December 24, the dealer’s Chauffeur Drive fleet will ferry consumers to-and-from a variety of retail destinations, including the iconic Harrods department store in central London, Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, and even the designer outlet of Bicester Village in Oxfordshire outside the capital, which has become a hugely popular destination of late. H.R. Owen drivers are also on hand throughout the trips to assist with any other customer needs, including carrying and storing bags.
5. Fun, Interactive + Shareable Content
Last but not least – Christmas is meant to be fun – and this year, it seems most luxury players got the memo and have reacted accordingly, unleashing entertaining, interactive campaigns that engage the consumer and encourage them to participate with the brand and share the content.
Fortnum & Mason – Interactive Holiday Hunt
In a bid to spur repeat visits to its website, British department store Fortnum & Mason added an extra flourish to its digital pages as part of its “Together We’re Merrier” holiday campaign. Encouraging consumers to participate daily, the “great gift chase” asked consumers to find a green Fortnum gift box, decorated with a yellow bow and arms and legs, which had gone missing. If a consumer spotted the character on-site, they were asked to alert Fortnum & Mason via a tailored submission form and – between December 1-14 –the retailer would select a winner per day who would be gifted with a jar of Fortnum & Mason’s St. James Christmas Pudding.
Sometimes, less is more. Don’t underestimate the allure of amusement – it’s surprisingly effective.
Bottega Veneta – Holiday Harmonies
Bottega Veneta is on par here with its clever “Holiday Harmonies” campaign, a unique music project whereby a selection of its products – velcro straps, bag clasps, perfume bottles, stiletto heels, a tea set and more – are used to create festive melodies by merging the products' sounds. Brilliant, interesting and shareable.
The one-minute film, depicting the product symphony on pedestals with golden microphones positioned beside them, was filmed at the brand’s atelier in Italy and consumers are encouraged to take the experience further on Bottega Veneta’s website, where they can explore each of the products’ sounds individually while selecting their chosen Christmas gift.
Salvatore Ferragamo – Honourable mention goes to luxury label Salvatore Ferragamo which has added an extra flair to the traditional ‘Christmas catalogue’ concept, by making its seasonal product selection and recommendations interactive. Much more appealing than a standard list and, presumably, also encourages consumers to explore more of what is available to purchase on-site.
And that’s a wrap. Moral of the story is: Think outside the box. Consumers will respond positively and become more curious about your brand, which fuels engagement, reputation, repeat visits and sales – and, once you start operating creatively, the next innovation is just around the corner. What’s not to try?
Hope you enjoyed the countdown – happy holidays everyone!