How to tell the story of your business through video? Many companies come to us reporting that they have heard about the power of video but they struggle to get the replicate the same performance themselves. During the recession of 2009, John Lewis was at a crossroads. Its sales were lacklustre and although trusted by its customers it wasn’t loved. This translated into poor performance at the tills. Customers were buying from the store infrequently and when they did, the amount they were spending there compared to its competitors was low.
The business identified two objectives: encourage existing customers to visit the stores more often and spend more, and attract new shoppers.
The strategy devised to achieve this was to centred on creating a deeper emotional engagement between the John Lewis brand and its customers. The aim was for the brand to be loved, as well as trusted and respected.
To do this, they turned to video. More specifically, they launched a series of Christmas adverts. The Christmas period accounts for 40% of John Lewis’ sales and 20% of its profits, so its plays a huge part in the business’s success.
In 2009, they aired their first commercial using this strategy. Remember the feeling showed children unwrapping adult gifts with childish glee. Accompanied by a cover of Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine, the advert positioned John Lewis as the place thoughtful, caring people bought their Christmas gifts.
Subsequent commercials have all played on similar themes, including 2012’s Snowman, whose journey to find a hat and scarf for his mate is spurred on by a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Power of Love. Despite the advert being only one and half minutes long, it almost defies you not to get teary eyed. As well as showing their commercials on TV, millions have watched them on social media, with 2015’s Man on the Moon racking up over 24 million views.
What has this got to do about anything you may ask? John Lewis’s Christmas advert strategy is a perfect case study of how a business can use video as part of its marketing strategy. Its key components are:
It has a clear idea of the story it wants to tell
The story isn’t the products John Lewis sells. The story is that John Lewis has a heart; it creates positive, human emotions, ones that everyone can relate to. Its annual TV spend is lower then that of its rival Marks & Spencer but its message is clearer, and as a result, has more impact.2.
It uses the power of storytelling to bring that message to life
Not one of the adverts tells you what John Lewis stands for. In fact, none of the adverts even has any dialogue. Instead, they use classic storytelling techniques to draw the viewer into the world presented to them. Snowman is a classic quest. We join the snowman on his journey, through the obstacles he faces until he reaches his goal.
The videos have a catchy first 10 seconds
Snowman opens with a traditional family scene. Small children are putting the finishing touches to a snowman and snowwoman in their garden, before being called in by their mother as darkness falls. The opening scene closes with the snowman and snowwoman looking at each other lovingly, the snowman’s po-face turning into a smile as he gazes adoringly at his partner. Yes, it’s cheesy and yes the overlaying of Gabrielle Alpin’s version of the Power of Love is pure schmaltz but even knowing this fails to stop you being draw in.
An informational and/or entertaining middle
In classic storytelling, this is the hero’s journey. Snowman is no different as our hero overcomes obstacles – in this case trudging through an unfamiliar world, including mountains and a busy city – in order to reach his goal.
A clear idea of its audience
John Lewis is unashamedly middle class, targeting middle to high-income families. The scene in Snowman is idyllic: a beautiful cottage in a snowy countryside, the home of a ‘two point two family’ comprising a mother, father and two children. There are subtle nods to other demographics, though. The snowman and snowwoman are a couple of indeterminate age who could represent a romantic young, or even older, couple. And the shopping scene shows youngish people engaging in a snowball fight.
A call to action at the end of video
The call to action, “Give a little more this Christmas,” fits in perfectly with John Lewis’s strategy. It is aligned with their goal of getting customers to spend more. The not too subtle message is that happy people spend a lot and take care over their presents. And, like the snowman, will make the effort to get to John Lewis in order to do so.
John Lewis’s change in strategy, and use of video to support it, has been incredibly successful. Between 2009 and 2012, it delivered £261m in incremental profit, with £5.02 returned to the business for every £1 spent. The snowman’s journey proved the highest return of any single campaign, with more than £160m of incremental revenue.
Additional benefits have included greater desirability of the John Lewis brand to suppliers and increased employee satisfaction.
All in all, it is the perfect illustration of the power of video.
To discuss how your business can use video to tell its story, please get in touch.