John Lewis' festive campaign is the talk of social media

With a few weeks to go before Christmas, fresh sentiment analysis for PRWeek shows that the John Lewis and Sainsbury's highly integrated festive campaigns are dominating the social media conversation, leaving the other major retailers trailing.

Dominant: Sam and his penguin companion Monty are a big talking point on social media
Dominant: Sam and his penguin companion Monty are a big talking point on social media

Talkwalker carried out a study last week that monitored the social media conversations about Christmas campaigns run by John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Waitrose, Boots and Asda.

The research shows that, in the time since John Lewis fired the opening shot in the festive battle for hearts and wallets on 6 November, it has dominated the share of conversation. More than 47 per cent of the social media conversation went to John Lewis with its integrated campaign around ‘Monty’s Christmas’, starring a boy and his cute penguin companion.

In second place was the Sainsbury’s campaign on 37.9 per cent, which features as its centrepiece a film depicting the famous World War 1 1914 Christmas Day football match between the trenches.

According to the study, there was a sharp drop-off for third place in the social media conversation, with just 4.8 per cent talking about Marks & Spencer’s ‘Follow the Fairies’ drive.

Tesco’s inoffensive ‘Christmas Lights’ campaign received 3.1 per cent of the social media share, with Waitrose, Boots and Asda on even smaller percentages.

The top Twitter hashtag themes among the supermarkets put John Lewis in first place once again, with 4,800 mentions of #MontythePenguin over the past 30 days, compared with 4,200 for Sainsbury's #ChristmasisforSharing and 1,100 for Boots’ #SpecialBecause.

Sainsbury’s has increased positive sentiment towards it on social media, rising from 35 per cent to 38 per cent thanks to its (to some) controversial campaign.

Tesco, which has had a torrid year with regard to its reputation, also enjoyed a ‘bounce’ effect from its Christmas campaign, with negative sentiment towards it decreasing from 28.1 per cent to 16 per cent. 

Commenting on its findings, Robert Glaesener, chief executive of Talkwalker, says: "With YouTube engagements of 17 million for John Lewis and 12 million for Sainsbury’s, these iconic and increasingly emblematic ads seem to go straight to the heart. They create enormous buzz and improve social reputation. The only question facing marketing directors with budgets to apportion in 2015 is whether to save their money and put them on TV at all."

Rebecca Scully, managing director at Smarts Illuminate, believes the frontrunners in the battle for Christmas have chosen universal themes that were always likely to play well with the public. She says: "Both brands have chosen to tap into core values that are particularly poignant at Christmas. John Lewis chose love and Sainsbury’s chose peace. In theory, both should have a positive outcome."

A separate study for PRWeek, carried out by Gorkana and looking at national newspaper coverage, reveals that almost 440 articles have been written about the Christmas campaigns since 6 November, many of which mentioned more than one.

Sainsbury’s leads the way with 256 national newspaper mentions, with 189 of these neutral in tone, 38 positive and 29 negative. John Lewis follows with 239 mentions, 186 of which were neutral, with 39 positive pieces and 14 with a negative tone.

M&S and Tesco were left trailing in the national press, with 61 and 60 mentions respectively, while Asda racked up 22 mentions and Boots came last with just 12 mentions.

John Lewis appears to be winning the war, if reach and sentiment are good indicators. But Sainsbury’s is also fighting a stiff rearguard action and providing a lesson in alchemy by turning the lead-shot of national newspaper criticism into pure gold of positive public sentiment.

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