10 Brands That Are Warming Our Hearts This Holiday Season

POSTED BY Christina Arbini on Dec 19, 2014

‘Tis the season! Between Halloween and New Years, we are inundated on a daily basis with brands vying for our attention with the hopes of selling us their products and offerings. Now, more than ever, brands are competing to not only create a spirit of the holidays, but also resonate on an emotional level with consumers and demonstrate that they “get” their customers and share in their beliefs. But the challenge is doing this while staying true to your own brand. While familiar brands like Hallmark and Kleenex have been tugging at our heartstrings and bringing smiles to our faces for years, even more brands are demonstrating their prowess for connecting with consumers in memorable and increasingly innovative ways.

Recently, Michael Connors (VP of Design), Paul Huggett (Creative Director) and Michael Ausich (Design Director) shared some examples of brands they feel are getting it right this holiday season:

1. La Brea Bakery Thanksgiving Brand Campaign

Kicking off the 2014 holiday season, we helped our client La Brea Bakery create a Thanksgiving campaign centered on giving back to those in need. For every loaf of bread purchased at the La Brea Bakery café during the month of November, a loaf was donated to a local food bank. Through the generosity of their customers, they were able to donate 4,600 loaves of fresh-baked bread. Additionally, La Brea Bakery also delivered a special Thanksgiving experience to some of the people who had to work over the holiday. The team chose a local fire station and invited the fire fighters’ families for dinner to demonstrate a sense of love and community with people who may not have a chance to be with their family on Thanksgiving.

2. Coca-Cola “Make Someone Happy”

Watch the commercial here.

For years, Coca-Cola has been known for their holiday branding. Whether it’s featuring the jolly old man himself (the iconic Sundblom Santa Claus has been a Coca-Cola holiday advertising staple for more than 80 years), or the introduction of the frolicking polar bears, Coca-Cola was one of the first to do holiday branding right. This year, they’ve focused their global branding campaign around the notion of “Make Someone Happy,” designed to encourage people to “embrace the spirit of the season and show how the act of being generous can have a powerful, positive impact on others that lasts long after the decorations come down.”

3. Starbucks “Holiday Red Cup”

Starbucks does a good job of introducing new themed gift sets and gift cards for the holidays, but the one thing that officially kicks off the season for coffee aficionados around the world is the iconic Starbucks red cup. We see the buzz gearing up in early fall when images of the red cups are splashed across social media sites as customers share their excitement over the ushering in of their favorite holiday beverages like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mochas. This year’s theme is “Let there be bright,” reflecting the idea that “when everyone comes together, we are stronger and brighter.”

4. Kohl’s “Yes to Holiday Magic”

Watch the commercial here

We’re seeing less focus on the blatantly traditional representations of the holidays, such as Santa, Christmas trees, and brightly wrapped gifts, and more emphasis on the spirit…or magic…of the holidays. Family relationships, the wonder and magic of the season, and shared memories and experiences encompass this year’s Kohl’s commercial and really resonate with consumers. It’s all about the feeling consumers are left with that lingers long after viewing this spot — the reminder that the holidays are a magical time for us all.

5. Anthropologie Holiday Window Displays 

With 185 stores throughout the US, Canada and the United Kingdom, Anthropologie’s goal is to grow the communities where we live, work and play. Known for their signature products, they glean inspiration from the stories behind these products that they often weave into the details of their designs and the artwork on display in their stores. During the holidays (and really throughout the year), they do a phenomenal job of designing window displays that draw customers in with their carefully thought-out, hand-created designs that make use of ordinary materials in extraordinary ways. This year, the window displays feature fine-feathered friends—big and small—soaring through the displays and settling into their nests as a reminder that this time of year, “coming home is as splendid as it gets.”

6. Sainsburys “Christmas is for Sharing”

Watch the commercial here

This year’s Sainsburys Christmas advertisement from the UK (made in partnership with The Royal British Legion) is inspired by real events from 100 years ago. Enlisting a familiar theme of “sharing,” Sainsburys gives the message a new spin in the form of a long ago brief moment of peace during an otherwise violent period in history. Not your typical background to promote the holidays, but maybe that’s why it stands out even more.

7. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

For 88 years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has officially kicked off the holiday season. Seen by more than 3.5 million people in NYC and 50 million at home in front of their TVs, the parade has become a time-honored tradition that families pass down from generation to generation. Not many brands have demonstrated this kind of a lasting and sustaining impression on consumers. Giant balloons representing some of our favorite characters – old and new, colorful floats with featured entertainers, marching bands and the infamous Rockettes – all culminating with the arrival of Santa Claus. It’s become a much-anticipated experience for all to share.

8. John Lewis “Monty The Penguin”

Watch the commercial here.

UK-based John Lewis department store’s 2014 holiday campaign depicts a tale of friendship, love, and giving someone a gift they’ve been dreaming of this Christmas. Monty the Penguin, which had a robust social media presence even before it premiered on British TV, steals your heart in this ad that not only celebrates the spirit of giving, but also draws attention to a bigger cause. (Giving back to the WWF to help protect the habitat of the Adélie penguins.)

9. WestJet 2014 Christmas Miracle: The Spirit of Giving

Watch the commercial here

Last year, Canada-based WestJet enlisted the power of technology to show their customers that miracles really do happen. But this year, they set their sights on granting one special town in the Dominican Republic an unexpected, but much needed Christmas to remember.  After working with a non-profit in a small community since 2012, they identified the community’s core values to be similar to theirs. It was important to them that they were a part of the long-term development of the area and the residents. They’ve since sent over 200 WestJetters to build 23 homes. Through this year’s Christmas program, not only did WestJet grant individual Christmas wishes for the residents, they also built a playground for the children, bringing hope and a safe environment to an entire community.

10. Apple 2013 Holiday Ad

Watch the commercial here.

While this final example is actually from 2013, it still deserves to be mentioned on this year’s list. Last year, Apple brought us a twist on the non-social aspect of this generation – something we’re all very familiar with. The ever-present lowered gaze reflecting the dim glow of a smartphone. Apple’s commercial wasn’t outright about selling their products, but rather selling the emotion. An unexpected gift from what appears to be yet another bored teenage boy allows Apple to connect emotionally with consumers without over-selling "holiday elements."

So, what do you think? Do you have any favorites that should also be mentioned? Please feel free to share in the comments!

WRITTEN BY Christina Arbini

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