As I write, the consumer frenzy triggered by Black Friday is delivering the biggest day of the year for retailers, leading to the mother of all punch-ups over widescreen TVs. So how can brands make the most of the season and yet emerge in January still smiling, reputation intact?
In the UK, as ever, John Lewis and Waitrose lead the way. It’s John Lewis’ penguin love story that has garnered the most press attention, but for me, Waitrose’s choice of a compelling ‘try and try again’ narrative is the more interesting creatively.
In it, an introverted schoolgirl is our reluctant hero, tasked by her teacher to create enough gingerbread goodies to stock an entire stall at the Christmas fair, as well as dressing and running the stall on the day. No wonder she looks depressed. It takes many repeated visits to her local Waitrose, and much guidance from a friendly assistant before she’s able to bake and decorate a batch of cookies that doesn’t burn, melt or get eaten by the dog. Flushed with success and confidence, she makes a return trip to the store to give her last cookie to the helpful assistant.
It tells a warm, emotional story that also feels authentic and very festive. And unlike their previous Christmas ads, the hero isn’t the product, the supplier, or the celebrity endorser. The ad finishes with this line. “When you own something, you care a little more. Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose. So they care.”
Yes, you heard that right. UK’s most admired retailer has chosen their biggest advertising opportunity of the year to talk about the people who work for the business – their 'partners.'
For both Waitrose and John Lewis, their people are their business and they recognize that their unique relationship with their workforce is known, understood and valued by their customers over and above everything else. In fact, their partners embody their brand purpose.
Not every brand is a Waitrose, but more and more businesses are realizing that, to be remembered and therefore successful, they need employees that intuitively understand, feel connected to and enact their brand purpose. At H+K, we feel so strongly about that, we’re changing the name of our employee engagement offer to People + Purpose.
Because brands that visibly live their purpose give people something to believe in. And what could be more Christmassy than that?
Laura House is Head of People + Purpose at H+K Strategies London.