Mercedes-Benz and Myer share their secrets for winning holiday content

It wasn’t long ago that brands would mark the coming of the holidays with an ad in the local newspaper or a jingly spot on TV. You don’t need to look farther than YouTube to see how much seasonal marketing has changed. Today, many companies turn to branded entertainment, often investing in cutting-edge concepts and high production value worthy of a Hollywood feature, but does the effort and expense pay off? Are holiday themed online videos capable of translating into positive brand experiences and ultimately sales?

In the spirit of the holiday marketing season, we asked the branding experts behind two of this year’s most noteworthy projects to weigh in.

Myer goes big

“For many retailers, Christmas is the biggest sales period of the year, so it merits the biggest advertising investment,” says Simon Lamplough, group managing director at Clemenger BBDO. The agency is the force behind Australian department store Myer’s new 60-second stop motion Christmas ad, Where Christmas Comes For Christmas.

The company hired Academy Award-winning animation studio Aardman – creators of Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit – to manage the animation, which required a four month long production process and hand sculpted characters. In addition to YouTube, the resulting video appears on a campaign microsite that offers behind-the-scenes footage and an interactive “Giftorium” full of gift giving ideas.

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“It’s rare for retailers to be able to focus purely on brand messaging, but at Christmas an increased budget presents marketers with the opportunity not only to drive seasonal retail behavior, but to build long-term brand equity,” Lamplough says. “In the last five years, we’ve seen more and more retailers deliver big emotive Christmas campaigns designed to create a brand halo that lasts longer than just the Christmas season.”

It’s a common assumption that this “brand halo,” along with brand affinity and equity, are the main motivation for companies to invest in extravagant videos. But Lamplough stresses that holiday showstoppers like Where Christmas Comes For Christmas don’t exist in isolation. Rather, they’re judiciously integrated into a cross-channel effort designed to drive holiday sales.

“There’s the bit everyone sees and talks about, which is often a big budget Christmas film, but there’s also those hard working retail messages, sales driving tactics, and omnichannel activity that sits underneath,” Lamplough says. “It might be the emotive brand piece that people have noticed, but the bulk of our spend is actually directed towards converting that awareness and getting tills ringing.”

Mercedes opts for a lively and quick approach

Busy consumers will give a resounding cheer this holiday season when they hear the news that automaker Mercedes-Benz has launched a new model. Why? It’s the world’s first elf-driven automobile.

This is the premise behind the brand’s tongue-in-cheek holiday video, which launched at the beginning of the month. Known for being a leader in the autonomous vehicle space, Mercedes-Benz seized the opportunity to use a fictional concept to highlight its real world innovation while entertaining viewers.

“The holidays are always hugely important for Mercedes-Benz and the auto industry, as we try to finish out the year,” says Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services at Mercedes-Benz USA.

This holiday season, the brand’s marketing effort includes:

If that wasn’t enough, the brand also challenged its agency Merkley+Partners to come up with some branded entertainment ideas, particularly around autonomous driving. “Elf-Driving brought a smile to the face of everyone in the room,” Aikman says. “We could quickly envision how it was all going to come about.”

The purpose of the video, he says, was to complement the brand’s broader, sales-centric campaign. “We don’t anticipate that it will drive tremendous amounts of traffic to the showroom, but it really rounds out the marketing mix.” To generate video views, Mercedes-Benz is promoting Elf-Driving on its social channels and advertising with pre-roll ads. In addition to using past content as a benchmark, the company intends to look at sentiment and the video’s virality when measuring its success.

Nothing about the content feels rushed – and yet, this concept and execution played out in a matter of days. “It was produced very nimbly in our engineering facility in Montvale, New Jersey,” Aikman explains. Merkley+Partners had produced other brand videos for Mercedes, many with a more serious tone, so the decision was made to maintain that style for Elf-Driving. “It has the right amount of fun for the holidays, right down to the legal disclaimer,” Aikman says.

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When asked about the trend toward holiday content, Aikman says he’s seeing it grow and evolve more each year. “It’s about striking a balance between telling a brand story and delivering a product message,” he says. “This value exchange is becoming more typical. We’re definitely seeing that there’s a lot of appetite for this.”

Indeed, branded holiday content is one of those gifts that is a thrill for both the giver and recipient in equal measure.

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