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Why Co-op Culling Its Christmas Ad Proves Your Brand Needs an ‘Emotional’ Shift on Social

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It’s clear that brands must adapt if they are to remain relevant in a new era of high inflation, say Wunderman Thompson's Sarah Jardine and Patricio Kobelinsky

Why Co-op Culling Its Christmas Ad Proves Your Brand Needs an ‘Emotional’ Shift on Social

With the cost-of-living crisis in full swing and anxieties around spending high, the Co-op has taken the controversial decision to ditch their traditional Christmas ad in favour of a social media campaign that supports people during the cost-of-living crisis.

Co-op has opted to use social platforms to engage with their customers this Christmas, enlisting the help of chef and rapper Big Zuu on Instagram to showcase live cooking and sharing hints and tips on how to make your food go further, in the hope that this will connect with consumers at a more empathetic level. 

And it isn’t just Co-op that has decided to take this sort of approach, it’s been part of a wider trend with John Lewis and Marks & Spencer both linking their Christmas campaigns to charitable giving. 

The decision follows new social listening research across 1 million Twitter accounts from Wunderman Thompson UK, which shows an alarming 83 percent increase in anxious conversations around the cost of living in the context of Christmas. This comes as The Sun estimates that households are likely to be £1,200 worse off and, with almost a quarter of adults planning on gifting cash instead of presents this year, Christmas is already looking different for millions. 

Social listening found that Twitter users were feeling desperate, using words such as ‘bad, ridiculous, and poor’ to describe the cost-of-living in the context of Christmas. In a very British move, some were using sarcasm to help cope with the uncertainty ahead, with one Twitter quipping that he ‘hoped a candle will heat their Christmas dinner’ this year. In response to the cost-of-living crisis, another commented, ‘read the room…everyone is struggling.’

Now more than ever, it’s clear that brands must adapt if they are to remain relevant in a new era of high inflation. 

Christmas adverts often offer escapism and showcase luxury deals, but this year that may be harder for struggling consumers to stomach. People are more likely to respond to brands that offer a helping hand and understand how tough things really are. Utilising owned social channels gives your brand that invaluable opportunity to connect with your consumers more deeply. 

So what’s a brand to do? If making a bold move like Co-op has and utilising the power of social media, make sure that your brand is communicating authentically.  Social is a place with community in its very DNA, making it a good fit for Co-op, whose brand heritage revolves around community. Started by the Rochdale Pioneers, they provided an affordable alternative to poor-quality food, using any surplus to benefit the community. With such strong foundations, Co-op is perfectly poised to tap into their brand purpose during this economic hardship and bring it back to the fore. 

There’s no doubt that social media has previously, and still does, suffer a negative outlook – with previous research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders showing that “social media may increase stress if individuals receive undesirable feedback” which can include negative comments and how receiving ‘enough’ likes. For years social media was seen as a place people were trying to escape from, rather than turn to for well-being.

However, research from Sky mobile showed the importance of tuning into uplifting posts online – with Brits spending on average two hours daily seeking positive content. The study of over 2,000 British adults found that over half of us (56%) love to use our smartphones to seek out uplifting content, and nearly half (45%) agree that when they view positive stories and inspiring posts online, it increases their mood for the day.

35% of Brits have unfollowed a social media account which doesn’t lift their mood. Consumers are actively looking for positive content, and with a huge shift into entertainment on several social media platforms, consumers are looking for that light-hearted relief more than you may think. So marry the two – tap into your brand purpose, show empathy, but remember it doesn’t always need to be really serious to land. Take a holistic approach and consider how the messages you push across social media can compliment other brand communications to create consistency and avoid fragmentation. 

Co-op has proved that brands can successfully leverage emotional social output to show solidarity and sincerity at a time, and in a place where communities come together. They’ve showed that it doesn’t always have to be about big, expensive ads, but there are other ways to bring your brand messaging back to the community. So, when it comes to the cost-of-living crisis and Christmas, don’t be afraid of showing emotion, look to your brand heritage for inspiration and act with an empathetic mindset to reap the rewards social can offer your brand. 

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Wunderman Thompson London, Tue, 06 Dec 2022 15:36:00 GMT