The John Lewis effect: Christmas goes social


When it comes to sparking an emotional connection with your audience, few can top John Lewis. The John Lewis Christmas advert has become a sort of tradition over the past few years, and it owes a debt of gratitude to the power of social media.

It used to be the case that when Christmas was starting to roll around, we’d all be on the lookout for the Coca Cola trucks to grace our screens (holidays are coming…holidays are coming…), because that’s when we knew Christmas was just around the corner.

Screenshot of the iconic Coca Cola Christmas advert, showing the heavily-branded Coca Cola trucks travelling on a snowy road with mountains and moonlight in the background.Not long now!

However, in recent years John Lewis have emerged as the pivotal point between it simply being November, or being just X amount of weeks until Christmas!

How have they achieved this? By producing some of the most poignant, touching Christmas advertising campaigns…well, ever! And in no small part aided by the power of social media for making high quality, engaging content accessible by millions of people.

You’d be hard-pushed to find a heftier generator of social buzz than the now traditional John Lewis Christmas advert.

Year on year social media buzz for the John Lewis Christmas advert has increased dramatically. In November 2011, over 90,000 tweeted about ‘The Long Wait’ – about a sweet boy who couldn’t wait to give his parents their Christmas present. This more than doubled to over 220,000 tweets with ‘The Journey’ (also known as ‘the snowman’) in 2012 for the calendar month. Safe to say that 2011 and 2012 had firmly established John Lewis as ‘the daddy’ when it came to hype around Christmas advertising, amassing close to 10 million YouTube views combined. So 2013s effort had a lot to live up to as it stepped up to the plate, but boy did it deliver…

The Bear and the Hare

Launched via YouTube on Friday 8th November 2013 – 24 hours before its Saturday night TV debut – ‘The Bear and the Hare’ accumulated near 50,000 mentions in its first day on Twitter, more than doubling the response to 2012s advert in the same time frame. On Facebook, the ad has been talked about in over 70,000 statuses so far and on YouTube it has garnered almost 8 million views and is well on track to surpass the total of 2011 and 2012s adverts combined. To add to this, the #bearandhare hashtag has been included in close to 30,000 tweets so far, beating all rival hashtags from other Christmas campaigns such as Marks and Spencers’ #magicandsparkle.

The power of social

Launching their 2013 Christmas advert on YouTube, John Lewis took the initiative that they wanted to get people talking and sharing online before they’d even been exposed to it on traditional media. You could say that they were pretty clever, getting their audience to do their job for them. In fact, a number of parody accounts have sprung up on Twitter, including the Bear and Hare – which may actually have been created by John Lewis – amongst others, less likely to be associated with the department store…

Screenshot of parody social media Twitter account for the John Lewis squirrel. Mediademon, digital agency Lincolnshire

Humourous tweet from the John Lewis squirrel social media Twitter page. Mediademon, website design Lincoln

Yeah…probably wasn’t created by them.

The fact that users care enough to put their own spin on the advert shows how John Lewis have connected with them on a deep, visceral level – and one of the greatest things about social media is that if you’re passionate about something you have the tools available to you to create something and get it out there. This is not limited to the public however, businesses can also do this. Waterstones have generated a lot of buzz with their bookish spin on The Bear and the Hare – telling the story in a way in keeping with their brand, harnessing the power of social and the popularity of John Lewis’ advertising to build up some positive word-of-mouth for themselves.

Whether you’re a fan of The Bear and the Hare or not, you can’t argue with the response it’s generated online, and the overwhelming effect social media has had to raise awareness and get people talking about it. In this day and age, social is a godsend to the brand with original, engaging content because not only does it have the potential to be one of the most powerful platforms for getting your message across, it’s also free, and down to you to decide how you use it.

If you would like to learn more about the role and benefits using social media can have on your business then please read our article on the role of social media in the customer journey.

Josh Ryan Gill

About Josh Ryan Gill

Josh is the voice of our social media channels and marketing communications, applying his depth of marketing knowledge to the digital environment and working closely with clients to connect with their target audience. Google+