December 18, 2019
This is a blog about the day that cannot be mentioned. You know the one: it’s just before New Year’s Eve, involves reindeer and wreaths, starts with the letter “C” – and absolutely must not be used in Canadian advertising.
The funny thing is, a few years ago, brands could wish people “Merry Christmas” without blinking. Today, not so much. So, should we, or shouldn’t we?
Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons.
It’s limiting: There are countless iconic associations we could make in ads (stockings or Ho!Ho!Ho!’s, for example). Being politically correct means that we can’t tap into any of that.
It’s the elephant in the room: We base our statutory holiday, our gift-giving culture, our offers, and a big chunk of our marketing budgets on a religious day. In fact, even the word “holiday” stems from “holy day”. But we point-blank deny that’s what it’s about. Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply acknowledge it?
It’s ironic: One of the most iconic figures associated with that holiday (good old Saint Nick) was redefined by a brand to spike sales (Coca Cola) – and is now widely accepted as the big, jolly man in the white and red suit. And yet here we are avoiding putting him in our ads.
It’s missing the point: Sometimes, you really do want your ad to be about Christmas.
It helps sales: By associating gift giving with a season – rather than a religious day – we can be more inclusive in our targeting, and potentially extend the buying timeline.
It’s in our nature: Our country is made up of countless cultures that celebrate many different holidays and traditions. Not excluding them is the Canadian thing to do. Plus, it feels good to be inclusive.
It’s what’s accepted: That’s just the reality of it. With the majority of brands deliberately avoiding the C-word these days, choosing to say the C-word stands out like Rudolph’s nose.
There are many brands out there referencing Christmas. Here are a couple of iconic examples from around the world:
Durex (in India)
KitKat (in Dubai)
Maybe it’s their cheeky tone or light-hearted brand voice that allows it, but you’ll notice that both of these ads went live in countries where the majority of the population wouldn’t celebrate Christmas religiously. So why can’t we?
There’s no black-and-white answer. The truth is, using the C-word – or anything heavily related to it – is making a statement these days. You may risk certain people feeling disconnected. You may even get scolded by some. On the other hand, you may just be able to connect with those you want to, in a much more impactful way. That’s why it’s incredibly important to know your target and how they see your brand.
To sum up: If you feel strongly that using Christmas references is right for your brand, go for it. You may even feel that wishing people “Happy Hanukkah” or “A Bright Solstice” works for your audience. That’s perfectly OK. Just make sure you feel comfortable owning it.
If you’re not swayed either way, however, it might just make more sense to stick to the more inclusive messaging of “Happy Holidays”. That is, until the next shift happens and “holidays” becomes the H-word. Give it a few years… It could happen.
In the meantime, Happy Holidays, everyone!