Iceland shakes up the Christmas competition

Iceland shakes up the Christmas competition

Eszter Farkas Blog, Retail

It’s that time of the year when the people of UK are waiting for the big reveal of retailers’ Christmas ads. But this year is different. So far, most of the publicity surrounded Iceland’s advert, a supermarket that is the UK’s smallest when it comes to large supermarket chains. Whether it was intentional and orchestrated by Iceland’s strategists we don’t know, the fact is that their ad was not cleared for TV broadcasting due to its connection to political agenda, but the video was published online and created an overwhelming buzz.

Taking a stand on the environment

We see this phenomenon more and more. Brands are standing up for issues that resonate with their values, such as diversity, inclusion or environment. Some of these issues may be political, yet we are seeing bold brands including such topics in their advertising campaigns. Iceland took a stand on palm oil and the palm oil production’s devastating effect on deforestation. They made a strong statement and acted upon it by removing palm oil from all their own branded products. However, suggesting that palm oil is the main culprit of deforestation is said to be an overly simplified narrative, it’s a much more complex matter than that. Iceland decided to take a strong stand on an environmental issue, made it central to its product portfolio and product development, and used this as a centrepiece for their advertising campaign leading up to Christmas.

A well-planned marketing campaign

In the run up to the Christmas period and middle of the ongoing competition for the best Christmas advert in the UK, Iceland managed to create an exceptional social media presence. The head of planning at a brand agency Amplify said that the advert speaks to the public’s current attitude towards sustainability and climate change. Iceland isn’t only getting the message right for its target audience, but is also utilising digital channels, moving away from traditional TV.  Their PR agency ‘Taylor Herring’ went even further and brought the animated orangutan from the advert to life to further amplify the already existing buzz. Using rhetoric such as ‘banned’ must have added to the clearly positive sentiment of the campaign.

Iceland has found an alternative way to challenge the John Lewis Christmas ad and while they grabbed our attention with their marketing campaign, there will be many intriguing questions about the company’s underlying strategy, cross-functional work streams, supply chain transparency and overall marketing strategy to reach a consumer who previously would have not considered the brand.

The story of Iceland’s banned Christmas ad raises many exciting questions that will probably be discussed at length in the coming weeks. It’s an intriguing one, and will hopefully be educational for the public about the real environmental impact of certain ingredients in our everyday products. It is also a discussion point for businesses for several reasons: re-engineering products to meet demand of more sustainability minded consumers, leveraging these product improvements for advertising, creating full transparency in the supply chain, potentially via blockchain and the list goes on.