As marketers start planning their festive campaigns, something emerges from the shadows like Michael Bublé – the annual #ChristmasCopyBingo.
Such is the ubiquity of this phenomenon; it has its own hashtag. Even the biggest brands have succumbed to the classic #ChristmasCliche – just look at this example from Spotify.
Here’s the thing about Christmas clichés. They didn’t start that way. At the turn of the Millennium, the most memorable garish Christmas jumper was probably sported by Colin Firth in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Now, they’re everywhere. They’re no longer unique.
By the same token, 'new' Christmas fads will soon be consigned to the bargain bins of Christmas past. Christmas Eve boxes and Snapchat filters on advent calendars will soon take their leave.
So how can we continue to make our content impactful and relevant? Next time you’re putting pen to paper, swap out the old for the new.
January sale: "’Tis the season"
Not only does this put arguably one of the most annoying Christmas carols in our heads, it’s also painfully obvious. Your readers know what season it is. Avoid at all costs, unless you’re running some sort of ironic July campaign.
Christmas number one: Give your seasonal copy a product focus. If you’re in fashion, LBD season is here. If you’re selling food, put that first pigs-in-blanket taste into words. Poke fun at our over-indulgences. Make light of our tendency to overspend. It’s Christmas, after all, so make it cheery.
Marks and Spencer’s 2018 “must-haves” campaign with Holly Willoughby is a great example of product focus – food, clothing and gifts.
January sale: “We’ve got X wrapped up”
Christmas…Christmas presents. It’s the most obvious, lazy festive phrase out there, but it’s a guilty pleasure amongst many copywriters. Besides the flagrant pun, it also commits the copywriting cardinal sin of making the copy all about the brand.
Christmas number one: Make the copy about the reader. This goes beyond pronouns – describe their Christmas experience to them. “Your New Year’s Resolution just got easier.” This is a great angle for gyms, and draws intrigue from the reader. Just what does this brand have to offer?
Again, don’t obsess over the pronouns – write from the heart. Waitrose kept it simple with “too good to wait” (#toogoodtowait). Imagine the memories this conjures up – kids awaiting Santa, or parents digging into turkey.
January sale: “Fill your stocking”
This is old-fashioned and simply impractical. How big does a stocking need to be to accommodate a PlayStation? Again, stay away from the gifting clichés and go for something more modern (that probably won’t fit in a stocking).
Christmas number one: keep it topical. This kind of copywriting will likely cease to be relevant next Christmas, but nobody wants to keep churning out the same tired campaigns. Instead, consider piggy-backing other viral campaigns or newsjacking to keep your brand relevant. When Kit Kat notoriously mocked Apple’s bendy iPhones, it attracted 27,000 retweets.
Christmas trends like Elf on the Shelf or the latest John Lewis campaign are crying out for your own take on them – not a cheap copy, but your own spin. “Baby clothes that will melt your heart, not the snowman.” As in the case of Kit Kat, sometimes, the sillier, the better.
January sale: “Christmas crackers”
Step away from the puns. This one is perhaps the biggest offender of them all, and hardly adheres to AIDA – attention, interest, desire and action. It tells the reader very little other than the fact you think your product is smashing. That was always a given.
Christmas number one: Highlight the benefit of the product. Remember how Old Spice went viral with their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign? Strictly speaking, this wasn’t a Christmas campaign, but it still nailed its copywriting aims. It attracted attention with the tongue-in-cheek phrasing, piqued interest by clearly stating its target market, encouraged desire by highlighting the product benefits, and drove action. It soon went viral, attracting 19 million views.
Don’t scrimp on the visuals
Imagery is invariably the key focus for most Christmas campaigns, so always consider this when writing copy. Whether it’s a luxury brochure or a light-hearted Twitter campaign, your original copy will really come to life when it’s accompanied by relevant imagery.
If in doubt, play bingo
This is by no means an exhaustive list of tired clichés. Next time you’re reviewing your copy, consult the #ChristmasCopyBingo. If Spotify can do it, anybody can.