Social-first: not just for Christmas

In the marcomms world, November means blockbuster Christmas campaign launches, writes Olly Honess at Cubaka.

Social is for all year round, not just for Christmas, argues Olly Honess
Although it’s no surprise John Lewis is yet again high up the leader board, but scratch the surface and you’ll see something less predictable happening this year: a new ‘social-first’ seasonal seeding strategy. 

Until now, social’s role has mostly been as a mere barometer of a TV ad’s popularity. But this year, social has been gifted with a weightier role. 

Some big players have previewed their Christmas TV commercials through social channels ahead of the ad’s official TV debut. 

John Lewis has – almost inevitably – been a trailblazer here, having trialled the idea back in 2014 and using 2015 to cement the strategy as a way of really building hype and anticipation. 

But it’s not alone. Other retailers like Lidl are also following suit. 

Although Sainsbury’s didn’t give a sneak peak of its lovable Mog the Cat Christmas TV spot over social, the brand has made bold moves to thoroughly embrace social as a crucial campaign pillar. 


Sainsbury’s is encouraging children to submit their own version of Mog’s Christmas Calamity over Twitter and Facebook; a move that brings social centre stage and more effectively embeds the campaign in people’s hearts and minds. 

Although big glossy TV ads are most brands’ BHAGs, TV ads – no matter how glossy – are pieces of branded content (albeit very expensive ones). 

And branded content is much more likely to resonate when it’s been shared peer-to-peer.
As any PR professional or WOM advocate already knows, this type of sharing is the exact principle that underpins all social media.

Yes, TV still has a role in festive marcomms. But it’s the social channels that give fans the chance to spend more time with a brand. 

Social is, without doubt, the best way to foster a deeper and more personal relationship between businesses and their customers on a mass scale. 

So an awesome TV commercial is only ever one part of the story. 

And how better to amplify today’s PR prerequisite – ‘Social Purpose’ – than via social? 

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, the two highest profile campaigns with charity tie-ins, have well thought out social strategies this year. 

Social is the un-preaching way to subtly remind people that John Lewis’s Man on the Moon is supporting Age UK while Sainsbury’s moggie is helping Save the Children and Read On. 

This socially-amplified tactic keeps the warm fuzzy feeling alive while parrying attacks from bah-humbugs and cynics.

If these Goliaths of Christmas marcomms can teach us anything, it’s that a social-first strategy is an incredibly effective secret weapon. And I’d argue it’s "not just for Christmas". 

If the festive season doubles as a marcomms masterclass, the takeout is that social should form the core of campaigns throughout the year. 

After all, why shout to be heard through expensive TV media, when people are willing to whisper your name peer to peer? 

Olly Honess, partner at Cubaka

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