The holidays are a time of warmth, joy and, of course, highly amusing marketing efforts from the brands we love. Brands step up their game at the end of the year – and we’re enjoying the show.
As marketing becomes increasingly visual, we delight in content that is increasingly engaging and entertaining. These are the best examples of visual content we’ve seen this holiday season – from warm holiday greetings to hilarious spoofs to stories that pull at our heartstrings.
Let the visual content sleigh ride begin!
Giddy-up giddy-up giddy-up let’s go
Let’s look at the show…
The Man on The Moon
British retailer John Lewis is establishing a reputation for the best holiday ads. The Man on The Moon, released on November 5, seemed to kick off the holiday season. The video created significant buzz and started trending within hours of its launch.
So what drives the popularity? Masterful storytelling. Instead of talking about all the great gifts you could find when you shop at John Lewis, the brand shifts your attention to the joy of giving. The Man on The Moon combines everything we love about great movies – likable characters, beautiful visuals, a plot that holds your attention, an amazing soundtrack and a happy ending. We forget it’s an ad, and focus instead on the story.
Plus, this powerful, relatable story is so much more shareable than a run-of-the-mill holiday ad. This tactic has allowed John Lewis to promote its brand through word-of-mouth and to reach a new audience.
The Takeaway: Focus on storytelling, not selling.
Who thought John Lewis could top Monty the Penguin?
Behind the Holiday Videos
If anyone is trying to compete with John Lewis for the top spot on the “best holiday videos” chart, it might be the San Jose Sharks. The NHL team scored with this ridiculous holiday sweater rap video last year, and this holiday party spoof in 2013 (don’t miss the line, “these guys are notoriously bad dancers,” delivered in perfect sports announcer cadence).
Now, the team is spoofing VH1’s Behind the Music and telling us the real behind-the-scenes story of their own holiday videos.
Sports fans love seeing their favorite athletes outside of their typical arenas. The Sharks’ holiday videos give fans exactly what they want, showing them a sense of humor and personality they don’t usually get to see.
The Takeaway: Step out of your box, have a little fun and show your audience another side of your brand.
Holiday decorating tips and inspiration
— The Ritz-Carlton (@RitzCarlton) December 15, 2015
Ritz Carlton is sharing beautiful imagery on Twitter with a twist – offering pointers and inspiration, instead of selling the experiences. But just try to scroll through their photos without thinking, “They have a Nutcracker themed package?! That sounds amazing!”
— The Ritz-Carlton (@RitzCarlton) December 15, 2015
The Takeaway: Highlight the best of what your brand has to offer by sharing tips with your eye-catching visuals.
Learn how to make…
People love holiday recipes. This is the one time of the year that even New Yorkers might actually consider using their ovens. And where do we turn for clever holiday recipes nowadays? Social media, of course!
— IKEA USA (@IKEAUSA) December 14, 2015
This mixed media tweet from IKEA catches your attention as you scroll through your feed. Never has a recipe been so visually engaging. Then, when you click the link, you get to see an even more engaging, step-by-step version. The win here is that IKEA created two videos from the same content, and each version shines on its own platform. On Twitter, the :45 second version would get lost. But if the simpler version catches your eye, you’re more likely to click the link and pay attention to the longer version on IKEA’s website, without the distractions of your Twitter feed.
The Takeaway: Think about how you can do more with your videos, and tailor them to each platform.
The Wish Writer
Macy’s department store goes hand in hand with Christmas, from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the kickoff of the Christmas season) to Valentine Davies’ classic novel Miracle on 34th Street.
This year, Macy’s experimented with a long form online video, clocking in at 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Macy’s CMO Martine Reardon told Adweek the team wanted to focus on storytelling, and decided to create a short film that shares the message of the Macy’s “Believe” campaign. The result is a sweet story that incorporates the “magic of Macy’s” that signifies the brand, but shifts the focus to a broader theme.
The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try something new. It’s possible to blend traditional brand messaging with a new medium.
Bonus: Check out this feature on the making of The Wish Writer.
2015 GW Holiday Video
George Washington University’s holiday video is a celebration of visual content, so it was naturally a shoe-in for this list of best holiday visual content of 2015. There are more photos and videos in this video than there are tourists at Rockefeller Center.
This is a fantastic example of how you can leverage your crowd to create great content. The photos on GW’s photo wall tell personal, individual stories, while the voiceover weaves them all together with an overarching narrative. The video seamlessly incorporates photos from throughout the year with video shot in front of the photo wall. The final product wows a non-GW grad, and I’m guessing the students in these photos (and their parents) are sharing this piece with everyone they know.
The Takeaway: Tell the real story of your crowd by incorporating their content, and involving them in the making of your videos.
And, keeping with the behind-the-scenes trend we saw with Macy’s, here is an awesome timelapse showing off how they made the video.
This holiday season, Glade is sticking with a simple theme: Feel Joy.
— Glade (@Glade) December 17, 2015
The brand’s visual content perfectly demonstrates this theme – each video shows little moments of delight. And as you see these people feeling joy, you can’t help but feel it right along with them.
— Glade (@Glade) December 14, 2015
The visuals are bright and fresh (a word consistent with Glade’s brand) and these short pieces of content are easy to digest in a busy Twitter feed. Plus, the videos are consistent not just in theme, but also in visual style, creating a cohesive campaign.
The Takeaway: A simple theme can have a big impact.
Switching gears from simple theme to simple concept, check out this holiday hello from American University.
American turned the beloved tradition of the tacky holiday sweater into a a fun, light hearted video greeting from the University. And who doesn’t love admiring a bunch of tacky sweaters in a row? The song is upbeat and the students in the video are clearly having fun with the task before them. The video is sure to delight American’s fanbase.
The Takeaway: Keep it simple and have fun!
Ugly Holiday Sweater Billboard
Speaking of tacky holiday sweaters…
A giant ugly sweater in Times Square is bound to make people wonder, “how did they do that?” And in this case, the answer is extremely compelling. Watching London Kaye and her team painstakingly assemble the massive sweater is entrancing, and her enthusiasm at the end is contagious. The final product in Times Square is a spectacle, but so is the process it took to get there. Kudos to Miller Lite for documenting the journey and turning the backstory into such a fantastic piece of visual content.
The Takeaway: Take advantage of every step of the journey. If you’re planning a big stunt, think about how you could share more of the behind-the-scenes story with your fans.
Photos highlighting the brand experience
LEGOLAND Florida has the advantage of being super visual. Bright colors, kids having fun, Florida weather – all of these things make for great pictures. But one thing we can all learn from is that LEGOLAND seizes the opportunity.
— LEGOLAND Florida (@LEGOLANDFlorida) December 15, 2015
Their photos, like this one of a LEGO Santa (promoting their Christmas Bricktacular event), capture the experience of LEGOLAND.
The Takeaway: Get creative and seize your brand’s visual opportunities.
This heart wrenching story by Spain’s national lottery will definitely have you reaching for a tissue. The character, a nightshift security guard at a mannequin factory, is a Boo Radley-type figure – an unseen loner, who amuses his coworkers with surprises and doesn’t ask for anything in return.
Justino is the hero of this story – he wins over the audience as we watch him win over his coworkers. And when his coworkers repay him with a winning lottery ticket, we cheer for Justino, not for the lottery ticket. The lottery isn’t the hero here, it’s just the vehicle for rewarding the hero.
The Takeaway: Shift the focus away from your brand onto your customer, the real hero of the story.
Bonus: The Spanish national lottery hosted the video in a terrific visual showcase with bonus photos. Plus, the campaign went above and beyond with an Instagram feed for Justino and a Facebook page for the mannequin factory.
This video from the German entrepreneurial initiative Edeka takes pulling at your heartstrings to a whole new level. First, watch the video, then, let’s discuss.
Surprise! Not what you were expecting? The character in this video pulls the world’s most powerful guilt trip, and surprises his family and the audience.
The Takeaway: Surprise your viewer.
GIFTS | for Mobile Photography Enthusiasts
As a photo book company, the team at Artifact Uprising knows a thing or two about visual storytelling. The company is active on Pinterest, and launched a fantastic board for the holidays: GIFTS | for Mobile Photography Enthusiasts. And who isn’t a mobile photography enthusiast these days?
Presenting this gift list on an interactive, inherently visual, social media platform is a smart move for Artifact Uprising. It allows them to join a conversation and highlight their products (and even those of other companies) in a natural setting.
The Takeaway: Consider how your brand can join a conversation seamlessly on social media, and make sure your visual content is strong enough to stand out.
The French ad agency Publicis Groupe is changing the game with the company’s holiday video. It starts out with the company’s CEO, Maurice Lévy, sitting in a grey board room and welcoming you to the company’s traditional new year wishes video. Then, he throws in a twist.
I have long suspected that only a handful of you were actually paying attention to what I have to say. Although it’s often tempting to skip the ads and get to the content, this time, you should be glad to skip me and watch some ads.
But when you hit, “Skip Maurice,” you’re in for a surprise. Maurice crashes every ad, continuing on with his speech.
The video is fun and surprising. It keeps you giggling as Maurice barges into each ad, sticking out like a sore thumb.
The Takeaway: Delight your audience with the unexpected.
Nick Offerman’s ‘Yule Log’
Everyone loves those long YouTube videos that transform your computer screen into a cozy fireplace. But this year, whisky distillery Lagavulin released the most epic twist on that old holiday favorite: 45 minutes of Nick Offerman drinking whisky by the fire.
The video generated a lot of buzz when it launched at the beginning of December, and already has almost 2.5 million views. For Parks and Rec fans, this is a Christmas gift in itself. For non-fans, it’s still worth a chuckle.
I have a feeling Nick Offerman is gracing many a bookshelf this holiday season.
The Takeaway: Subtle, clever humor can be just as effective as a funny commercial.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best holiday visual content of 2015! Have a great holiday season. We can’t wait to see all of the fantastic photos and videos you produce in the new year. Here’s to 2016!