Warburton's: 'the giant crumpet show' by WCRS
Warburton's: 'the giant crumpet show' by WCRS
A view from Matthew Bell

Brands should be tapping into emotions this Christmas


The countdown to Christmas is well underway. The big budget festive TV ads have launched in their different forms and guises, and the coverage of which is top of the Christmas ad charts is in full swing.

This year, there has been a focus on fun and entertainment in some of the highest profile campaigns, such as the Sainsbury's "Mog's Christmas calamity" by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and the Warburtons "the giant crumpet show" by WCRS. But for many people Christmas is an emotional time of year as we start to think about the big day and all the preparation that goes into it, whatever you do.

So when thinking about the customer's journey to Christmas and how everything intensifies for them, how can brands capitalise and stay relevant?

Twitter provides a rich source of emotional data that is freely available to all of us to analyse. People constantly use the platform as a sounding board across the full spectrum of emotions – from excitement and delight, through anxiety to anger and frustration.

By using a combination of the latest psychological theories surrounding emotions and advances in the science of natural language processing, we have started to look beyond volume and top-line sentiment expressed on the platform. It is now possible to categorise and understand the context behind people's emotional reactions by analysing their tweets.

Using this approach (the data is analysed using MEC's Emotion Wheel proprietary research tool) we've looked at over 500,000 tweets over last year's Christmas period and provided a roadmap of the consumer's emotional journey to Christmas. We found key spikes in emotion around different activities and with them key opportunities where brands can meet their customers.

'Tis the season to be spending

Money and gifting are intrinsically linked, so emotions around the process of buying presents are particularly volatile. Stress levels begin to rise as early as 17 November, when the early Christmas ads start to increase in their volume and frequency.

Within days this emotion turns to 'anger' (52 per cent) as people have to battle the annual Christmas crowds. Immediately after that we see 'anxiety' (49 per cent) on 8 December as people struggle to get the gifts they are after.

Anxiety over money peaks on 22 December, when people receive their last pay packet before the occasion, and the reality that this has to last them until the end of January and it's not as much as they hoped for, suddenly dawns on them.

There is already evidence of brands simplifying the purchase experience for their customers. Marks and Spencer allow you to 'shop the ad' online, cutting the thinking time required around presents Other retailers such as Debenhams have created gifting tools to cut through the choice.

Finance brands have also been working to ease the stress and the Lloyds Bank "to the stars" Christmas ad promotes its new partnership with Apple Pay, enabling its customers to simplify the payment process.

Driving home for Christmas

The beginning of Christmas songs on the radio on 13 November is met with an initial reaction of anger (65 per cent), which quickly turns to joy (79 per cent) by 25 November when people realise they will soon be travelling home to visit family and friends.

Whilst we've seen brands using ads to make the most of the positive, warm emotions associated with travel, they have also been pulling their Christmas activations forward to ensure they have brand presence around the booking period at the end of November.

Christmas with the family

As Christmas is often a time spent with families this brings a range of emotions. One in ten people feel embarrassed, with awkward family moments and present-giving at the root of it.

This year brands have been quick to play on this awkwardness, producing campaigns that show people mustering up enthusiasm for unwanted gifts. Harvey Nichols' "avoid #GiftFace" campaign shows a woman managing not to offend her loved ones over disappointing gifts and Currys PCWorld has used Jeff Goldblum in its first foray into Christmas brand campaigns with "spare the act', both playing on the emotion that comes from less-than-perfect presents.

Festive food

Christmas dinner is the most emotional moment of Christmas, with the country divided between those that love to cook and those that fear and dread it.

Interestingly, a popular emotion around dinner is anger (58 per cent) and, in response to this, brands are getting savvy to the need to deliver support in ways that will reduce these negative emotions. Morrisons have rooted their creative approach in the message of 'here to help', delivering social content to help people make the most of their Christmas food.

Similarly, Lidl's use of #Schoolofchristmas is not just delivered through its TV creative but enhanced through digital lessons and tips from its Michelin starred chef Kevin Love.

Whilst Twitter is by no means representative of the entire population's emotional state, by looking more deeply at the emotional responses in the run-up to the Christmas period and around key activities, brands can use this insight to be more relevant to consumers.

Matthew Bell is the head of digital strategy at MEC