How to build a winning Christmas campaign on a budget

Courtney Patrick is the Head of Creative and Web at Digital Glue. With a background in strategic branding, she brings a keen eye to the team in helping businesses of all sizes and sectors differentiate themselves from the crowd and align their team to create consistently amazing brand experiences online and in person. You can find out more about Courtney and connect with her on LinkedIn here.

A fresh start isn’t just reserved for January, and it could not be more fitting that my time at Digital Glue starts during my favourite time of year: Christmas. As a US expat, you learn that in the UK there are a few things that are synonymous with Christmas: turkey, Brussels sprouts, the infamous pudding, German markets, and, of course, the Christmas adverts.

When the festive period rolls around, TV just wouldn’t be the same without Moz The Monster, Buster The Boxer and The Man On The Moon, however, it isn’t just John Lewis that steals the show when it comes to a winning Christmas campaign. Brands from every background strive to bring customers on an emotional journey in the hope it will ultimately bring them through their doors, both physically and online.

With a background in brand strategy, I think the idea behind the Christmas advert is great. Christmas is the ideal time of year for your brand to reinforce the greater purpose behind what you do outside of selling. However, what should be an accessible opportunity for businesses of every size has now become overshadowed by big advertising budgets and celebrity spotlights.

The reality is that Christmas, and the entire holiday season, is one of the most important times for your brand to build better connections with your customers. Whether it’s bringing in new faces, re-engaging old connections, or strengthening your existing relationships, Christmas provides a platform for your brand to reinforce the great purpose underpinning everything you offer. In short, if you can’t build a personal connection with your customers at Christmas, then when can you?

How do you build a winning Christmas campaign on a budget?

1. Start with clarifying your brand’s story

By now, you’ve probably seen the concept of having a clear ‘why’ come across your LinkedIn feed a few times thanks to the brilliant Simon Sinek. It isn’t just for show, there’s a reason why this is so important. Your ‘why’ should be the driving force that differentiates your business from the masses and sets out clear customer promises. This purpose is the foundation for everything you do and say as a brand, and should be the foundation of your overall brand story and your Christmas campaign. You can read more about brand purpose in our previous blog “What’s a brand without a purpose?”.

Simon Sinek Image

What does that look like in action? Let’s say you’re an ice cream shop that’s overall brand purpose is providing customers better access to tasty low calorie options. You could take inspiration from Kevin the Carrot and craft a very compelling story of a brussels sprout skiing down the slopes of Lapland, but if doesn’t link back to the greater story you’re trying to build as a brand, you’ll leave your customers questioning the point. No Christmas advert should come from pure novelty alone. Define your brand story then define how you’ll translate that into a message fitting for the season.


2. Stretch your creativity 

Now that you have a clear starting point for your message, you’ve set the guidelines for your overall storyboard. However, the ultimate trap small businesses can fall into with Christmas campaigns is sticking to what the big guys are doing. The reason why Kevin The Carrot and Buster The Boxer were and are so popular is because they were such novel ideas at their time. They didn’t stick to the mould. It’s perfectly fine for your brand to respond to the bigger campaign, as we saw in Lidl’s response to 2018’s John Lewis advert, however, you shouldn’t copy their ideas for lack of better ones amongst your team.


A Christmas campaign doesn’t have to prescribe itself to a red and green colour palette or images of family by the fireside. If you’re an adventurous brand, make that a part of the design. If you’re more conservative, then consider how to present the classics with a twist. Make this your opportunity to catch your customers’ attention. If it’s just a brochure with Merry Christmas on the front, it’s not a Christmas campaign. Whatever you choose, just make sure it feels authentic to your brand. As well as feeling that you’ve pushed the boat out as a team.

3. Choose the right platform for your budget

Christmas campaigns aren’t just for TV. From social media to email to Christmas cards. There are many different ways for you to get your message to the people that matter.  The key is planning out what feels right for your brand and your budget.

Do some research. Map out your target audiences and define how your campaign can fit into their daily schedules. If you’re in a more traditional market, a handwritten card may be a better option than planning out a YouTube video. If your customers are glued to their mobiles, then social media may be a better way to connect than TV. Nail down your audience and let that be your guide for where to go.

Remember, this is your last chance to engage with customers before the new year. As enticing as it is to buckle down and focus on the internal dynamics of your business. You need to set yourself up for success. Christmas campaigns shouldn’t be a “if we have the budget” option. This is how you demonstrate the value of your business relationships and reinforce your value proposition. Don’t overthink it. Figure out what channels work for your customers and map out activity that will be the best investment overall.

It’s not too late. We advise starting your Christmas planning at least 5-6 months in advance. This will give your team time to think through the most effective (and least stressful) strategy. However, there’s still time to get your brand message out there this holiday season. Bring your team together, delegate the tasks, and get to action. Don’t miss your opportunity to show your connections how much you value their relationships and share your story with new audiences. Of course, if you need help steering the ship our team is always here to provide advice and guide the way.

Still haven’t got your Christmas campaign sorted? There’s still time! Get in touch with our team today on 0121 399 0065 or email on us at [email protected]. 

Read more news and exclusive tips on the DG blog.

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