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This is a self-funded case study using our Ad Testing solution.
Iconic Australian department stores, Myer and David Jones, have been fiercely competing for a slice of Christmas shoppers’ wallets for decades. With each having a long-standing heritage, shoppers flood to their stores during the holiday period.
However, when it comes to their annual festive advertising, each has been “consistently inconsistent”, both in terms of their positioning and communications style. This has resulted in both lacking a familiar and distinctive campaign format and style — ingredients which have underpinned this year’s strongest performers.
So, did either brand crack the code in 2021? David Jones showed youthful and fashionable people celebrating Christmas festivities (contrasting last year’s timeless storefronts), while Myer’s musical parody somewhat mirrored the humorous, end-of-lockdown extravaganza of 2020 (albeit still not the brand’s “typical” style of communications).
To look at the performance of these higher-end retailers relative to previous years, we used our 3 C’s framework:
In the past, both brands shined when they stepped outside the box and did something distinctive and emotionally impactful. While Myer’s 2021 campaign centered around a playful song (an approach that proved highly engaging in 2020), the intended humor didn’t hit the mark.
David Jones adopted a softer tone, with visuals of stylish people engaging in festive celebrations more effective at evoking warmer, sentimental feelings; however, this passivity — combined with lacking a strong narrative — ultimately impeded a deeper level of engagement.
David Jones has steadily improved its strength of brand connection over recent Christmas campaigns, bringing the tone and visual aesthetic more in-line with the up-market connotations people expect of the brand. Secondary cues such as the font choice, product ranges, and retro-inspired treatment helped reinforce this connection.
Myer has also frequently sidelined the brand, with this issue exacerbated by frequent changes in creative direction. By far the most well-branded execution we’ve ever tested for the brand was ‘Naughty or Nice Bauble’ in 2018, leveraging a product consumers had prior knowledge of and associated with the brand. Subsequent executions have struggled to latch onto anything as powerful.
While the latest musical theme has the potential to be ownable by the brand, it will require greater perseverance than has been afforded previous campaigns. However, there was some who interpreted the creative style as being at odds with the up-market and ‘sophisticated’ positioning consumers have come to expect of the brand (the ad cued Target and Kmart associations for a small group of people).
While Myer and David Jones adopted contrasting creative styles, the ultimate brand impact driven by both was underwhelming. For David Jones, while the ad set a relatively happy and warm-hearted tone, it did little to explain how those emotions were enabled by David Jones. This was an aspect, in 2020, where highlighting the brand’s heritage was successful at imparting something meaningful about the brand.
Myer’s success in shaping and influencing people’s perceptions of the brand has also yo-yoed around over the years, with this year’s effort another downer. 2019’s ‘Where We Are’ saw Myer save the day, deploying a “Global Positioning Stocking” (GPS) to connect a little girl in the outback with Santa. In comparison, 2021’s campaign was unable to stir any of the same feelings of happiness and excitement, resulting in very little favorability carrying-over to the retailer.
Myer and David Jones have fallen into the trap of throwing out the old, and bringing in the new, each and every year. Looking at just the past 6 years, the brands have utilized animation (Elf, Reindeer, Mouse, and Angel — Myer, Gingerbread man — DJ’s), had celebrities fronting their campaigns (Cate Blanchett, 2016 — DJ’s), deployed humor (Bigger Than Christmas, 2020 — Myer), and told sentimental stories around their heritage (The Home of Christmas, 2020 — DJ’s).
Not only does this put a lot of strain on the creative team to come up with something new, fresh, and original each year — in an attempt to continually set the bar higher and higher — but it’s shortsighted and tactical, paying little regard to how brands grow over the long-term.
Consistency, in terms of tone, style, structure, and branding devices — not just at Christmas, but throughout the year — aids familiarity and recognition. Over time, its effects are cumulative, making the brand’s positioning in consumers’ minds clearer and more meaningful, and the brand more easily recognizable. It also reduces the need for brands to play a role in what’s going on, allowing for increasingly greater creative freedom over time. Will we see either retailer capitalize on this opportunity in 2022?
Check out our full Christmas Ad Testing leaderboard.