How John Lewis’ Blip Created Aldi’s Christmas Gift

Goodness gracious! Have you been following all that shenanigans with retailer's Christmas advertising campaigns? John Lewis spends £7 million on a tear jerking Man in The Moon story. It's about elderly folk being lonely at Christmas. They even got Age UK involved. And as we're...

Written By : on December 2, 2015

Goodness gracious! Have you been following all that shenanigans with retailer’s Christmas advertising campaigns? John Lewis spends £7 million on a tear jerking Man in The Moon story. It’s about elderly folk being lonely at Christmas. They even got Age UK involved. And as we’re blinking back our tears we spot what looks like a mini version of it. But no! Instead it’s a cheeky spoof by budget retailer Aldi. Unbelievable! And uncomfortably funny, right? I worked in retail advertising many moons ago. So I can imagine how gutted the John Lewis marketing team must be. That’s despite dubbing Aldi’s satirical advert as flattery. To add insult to injury Aldi’s parody has been given the thumbs-up by most folk. It’s lauded as an excellent competitive coup. Aldi’s play could have been seen as churlish. But it wasn’t. It’s attracted tons of positive write-ups. Why? Are we thirsty for retailer rivalry? Do we love to watch them sock-it to each other. Or is there something else at play? And what, if anything, could John Lewis have done differently?

Goodness gracious! Have you been following all that shenanigans with retailer’s Christmas advertising campaigns?

John Lewis spends £7 million on a tear jerking Man in The Moon story. It’s about elderly folk being lonely at Christmas. They even got Age UK involved.

And as we’re blinking back our tears we spot what looks like a mini version of it. But no! Instead it’s a cheeky spoof by budget retailer Aldi. Unbelievable! And uncomfortably funny, right?

I worked in retail advertising many moons ago. So I can imagine how gutted the John Lewis marketing team must be. That’s despite dubbing Aldi’s satirical advert as flattery.

To add insult to injury Aldi’s parody has been given the thumbs-up by most folk. It’s lauded as an excellent competitive coup.

Aldi’s play could have been seen as churlish. But it wasn’t. It’s attracted tons of positive write-ups.

Why? Are we thirsty for retailer rivalry? Do we love to watch them sock-it to each other. Or is there something else at play? And what, if anything, could John Lewis have done differently?

Here are some ideas that came to me, as a corporate storyteller:

John Lewis opens the door to a cultural narrative about loneliness.
It’s a sign of our times. Families are often living half a world away from each other, as the song goes. Loneliness at Christmas among the elderly is a heartbreaking reality.

The Man on The Moon is an emotional story. An elderly man alone on the moon and a little girl on earth wanting to connect with him.

The story ends with the elderly man receiving a telescope for Christmas. He peers through it, tears running down his cheeks. He’s watching people from a distance enjoying Christmas. He waves to the little girl who sent him the telescope. We assume she’s his grand-daughter. It all seemed to be going so well. But something was amiss.

You can watch the John Lewis advert here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuz2ILq4UeA

It’s a bitter-sweet ending.
There’s connection but the loneliness hasn’t gone away. And we the viewers are hanging in the discomfort of a narrative that’s not fully resolved. A telescope is a great gift. John Lewis’s message is ‘show someone they’re loved this Christmas’. And implies that giving a gift is the way to do that.

We, the viewers, don’t believe that. We know better. Lonely people crave people – hugs, conversation and togetherness. Real human connection heals loneliness. Cats and dogs help too. But telescopes? Not really!

John Lewis engaged charity Age UK with their campaign. Age UK’s message is ‘no one should have no one at Christmas.’

So there is a message mismatch between John Lewis and Age UK.

John Lewis left the door ajar for Aldi.
Aldi’s Christmas advert is a parody of John Lewis’s Man on The Moon. The Aldi advert does a cheeky telescope price comparison. Well they would – wouldn’t they.

And then Aldi plays a trump card.
As the old man looks through the telescope his eyes light-up. He sees Jean arriving to join him on the moon. In her balloon powered armchair.

Aldi has resolved the loneliness story.
We’re reminded that lonely people want to connect with others. As Age UK says – ‘no one should have no one’. And now The Man on The Moon has someone special. And the story is resolved for us, the viewers, too.

German retailer Edeka also tapped into the loneliness narrative.
Their storytelling hits home powerfully. It would be hard to spoof it without coming across as irreverent and not funny. So tissues at the ready – here it is:

John Lewis let another opportunity slip.
You’d never know from their advert that John Lewis is supporting Age UK. They’re selling Man on The Moon products. The profits go to the charity. Cause-related marketing campaigns move people. We like to know that we’re buying from a company that’s supporting a charity.

So John Lewis, tell us about your altruism, like Sainsburys did. That’s not to brag but so that we can get involved.

Sainsburys engaged with charity Save The Children. We learn that towards the end of their Christmas story – Mog’s Christmas Calamity. It’s a heart-warming bonus.

They worked with 92 year old Judith Kerr, author of the original series of Mog books. She wrote their Christmas story about Mog the mischievous cat. Hence we’re entertained by great storytelling. And there’s a message that ‘Christmas is for sharing’. Food is integral to that. Profits from the Mog storybook go to Save The Children to support child literacy.

Here is the Sainsbury’s advert:

So there you have it – thoughts on Christmas retailer campaigns.

And what lessons can we learn?
Well glossy production alone doesn’t cut it. Great stories are created inside-out.

Creating the ideal Christmas storytelling campaign would include all of these elements:

1. Define what you stand for as an organisation and therefore as a brand.
2. Craft a powerful narrative that encapsulates your beliefs and values.
3. Resolve your story so that people resonate with your ah-ha moment at the end.
4. If you’re tapping into a cultural narrative, reflect it fully.
5. Engage with a partner with whom you have shared values and beliefs.
6. Show your audience how you’re living the values that you’re espousing.
7. Produce your brand story in engaging ways and reinforce it everything you do.
8. Broadcast it to ensure that it reaches your audience in multiple ways.

Do you want to touch people with engaging stories about your brand, your strategy, your idea or your leadership? Get started on your storytelling journey.

DOWNLOAD FREE – THE 12 SECRETS TO INFLUENCING WITH STORY

Author:

Claire Taylor is co-founder of The Story Mill – a business that creates innovative programmes to support organisations to make their brands more human and foster a culture of authenticity and innovation. We run engaging storytelling workshops including: Storytelling in Leadership, Influencing, Branding, Strategy, Culture and Innovation.Claire is a Corporate Storyteller, Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Author of The Tao of Storytelling.

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