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Christmas 2020: How have trends changed this year?

Sophie Thompson
30th December 2020

The pandemic has affected everything in 2020, and Christmas is no different - businesses have had to change their Christmas content marketing ideas in order to survive. Volatility, like we have seen this year has also led to some notable shifts in content marketing trends and the types of Christmas content we are seeing has summed this up in many ways.

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Christmas is different in 2020

As this article is being penned, one of the emerging Christmas content marketing trends is Christmas at home. As families plan to spend Christmas in their own homes, with limited social contact, Christmas 2020 is moving online. Whether that be through Zoom, or bringing their favorite restaurants to their home when we're not able to go out and celebrate.

This is added to the wider picture of content marketing trends in 2020 which have also seen some key developments:

  • Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials are all embracing e-commerce with digital-first approaches to both celebrations and purchases.
  • Customer experience is of paramount and growing importance.
  • Customers look to how brands treat their employees and how this affects the customer experience.
  • Visual content continues to expand its dominance.
  • Customers want and expect personalization in every aspect of the customer journey.
  • Customer loyalty is more prized than ever so relationships really matter.
  • Gen Z is a diverse audience and is starting to really need your attention.

Let's take a closer dive into this, by looking at some other emerging content marketing trends for 2020 and at Christmas particularly. Looking at the five year Google Trends for some key search terms, we are witnessing a spike in searches for a range of terms such as ‘Christmas gifts’, ‘gift set’ and ‘Christmas groceries’.

Retail Research presents some fascinating data about how Christmas shopping and spending have changed over recent years, and we should bear this information in mind when shaping our own Christmas content marketing ideas.

While Christmas spending has increased every year for the last nine years, the balance of spending varies by market and channel.

The best results in 2019 were seen from online businesses and the online departments of multichannel retailers (10.7% growth and accounting for 32.4% of Christmas retail sales). Grocery and supermarkets did very well, with only a slight fall in Christmas spending on non-grocery items.

The markets which lost out were clothing, household, hardware and music. But most notably, there was an 8.5% drop in sales of computers and telecoms. In 2019, sales in bricks and mortar stores fell 1.5% in the 6 weeks before Christmas compared to previous years. In 2019, Black Friday was already fundamentally moving to an online-only event.

What are brands doing differently this year?

Brands typically work up to a year in advance with their Christmas content marketing ideas. They look at ongoing content marketing trends and shape their Christmas content around this.

Whilst some content marketing trends (such as the push online) have been accelerated by the pandemic, some have been tossed out of the playing field altogether. That has made it hard for brands that favor advance planning.

The result is that there are some common elements to Christmas content marketing in 2020 and also a sense of brands carving their own path.

One common element of what brands are doing includes a focus on nostalgia marketing. We are seeing this in social media and advertising campaigns such as Sainsbury’s flashback style ads.

Some brands are focusing on attempting to spread festive cheer at a time when people are feeling understandably glum. We are witnessing this with the Argos ‘magical Christmas’ theme campaign.

Then others are focusing on the human relationship and social responsibility aspect of their brand persona. This is very clearly central to this year’s John Lewis ‘Give a Little Love’ campaign.

There are others, such as this LEGO post, which is both packed with festive cheer and carries the campaign #BuildToGive which manages to do both.

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2020 has also seen an increase in social media campaigns which highlight the role of employees in business branding. We’ve seen it with Amazon sharing stories of its warehouse workers, and we’ve seen it again with B&M including in their campaign that they will be giving all their retail workers the day off on 1st January. Asda is sharing stories of how its employees are spreading kindness.

It’s probably fair to assume that some aspects of these Christmas content marketing ideas were in the pipeline before the pandemic struck. However, it’s also likely that brands have had to adapt their content in line with the enormous changes they’ve seen and in response to content marketing trends as they’ve emerged and developed throughout 2020. At the very least, any campaign which was created showing large numbers of people together will have needed to be shelved.

Spending on big ads has dropped

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Every year there’s excitement and build up over the big retailer’s releasing their Christmas adverts. And they spend the big bucks to make it happen.

But that’s not happened this year. John Lewis reportedly spent £7 million on its 2019 advert, and just £1 million in 2020. In total, advertisers look set to spend nearly £725 million less this year. This inevitably means that Christmas content marketing ideas need to be more creative, and utilise all social channels, in a bid to get the attention they need.

Brands have needed to be careful to show their sensitivity to the mood of the nation. Even where big bucks are spent on Christmas adverts that are aired on TV, the success of those ads and the chatter behind them is all played out on social media.

What does this mean for your Christmas content marketing ideas?

At the end of the day, it’s important to look at Christmas content marketing trends over the years, but of greater importance is your ability to look at the content marketing trends of 2020 specifically. This year has taught us that planning your social media campaigns is essential, but so is the ability to strategically redirect them in response to external events.

For smaller brands, they can learn from the big guns, as in the case of Christmas, the fact of the matter is that the heritage brands have been doing it the longest and adapted with the changes of time. Continue to use your Christmas content to build relationships and loyalty with your audience, but be sure to add in elements of social understanding, particularly in a year like this. Building your brand and its persona in the digital-first environment must be your priority.

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