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Celebrating Togetherness This Holiday Season

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INFLUENCER: CMDC president Shannon Lewis on standout festive Canadian work

Winter is my absolute favourite time of the year - the sights, sounds, and the sense of optimism in the air. Yes, the chilly air is here. Without a doubt, agencies have accrued their fair share of planning and partnerships to ramp up to a successful holiday marketing season. In the spirit of the holidays, the heart-warming marketing campaigns, as well as the forecasted uptick in holiday spending (2.7%), encourages us all to feel a bit more merry this season. 

Many big retailers are releasing their holiday promotions and marketing investments: multi-channel customers with a focus on experiential retail is dominating now more than ever before. Retailers are designing spaces with human connection at the forefront, cultivating opportunities for shoppers to gather, connect, and partake in unique experiences. Notably, the highly anticipated opening of foodie marketplace in Toronto, Eataly, this month delivers a more personalised, intuitive shopping experience. The palpable excitement throughout its anticipation underscores how shoppers today are vastly evolved in expectations, value and environment. At the heart of every holiday campaign for any media expert is how best to link compelling brand stories, customer engagement, and transaction. This is where the real holiday magic happens. 

Let's enjoy a few Canadian holiday campaigns that are merry and bright. 

The Joy of Human Connection

‘Tis the season to focus on what connects us vs. what divides us. You can practically hear all of us calling for a cause or celebration that everyone can rally around. 

Human connection isn’t a new theme for holiday campaigns, but we can see that brand storytellers are leaning in just a bit more this year. The lesson remains that retailers who foster more meaningful connections strengthen brand trust and ultimately encourage more positive buying decisions.  

Retailers continue to tug at our holiday heartstrings, reminding people of the value of human connection. It's worth noting that the perceived divisiveness in the air has contributed to a quarter of Canadians deciding to take a ‘digital detox’ this holiday season. Savvy brands are using media to remind us how human connection remains paramount. 

In particular, two much-adored Canadian retail brands – Hudson’s Bay and Roots – are celebrating the joy of human connection this year. 

At 350 years old, HBC is the quintessential Canadian brand. This year, they’re illuminating the often unspoken, unseen and unforgettable holiday moments with their ‘Moments’ campaign. It's on air now nationally, in cinema, specialty, and digital. As the go-to, one-stop-shop for everything Canadians need, the brand has extended the notion of creating ‘moments of unity’. They assembled our community in Toronto for their famous annual holiday window unveiling – creating a joyous, newsworthy experience taking people on a journey through Santa’s workshop. Fans were captivated with this winter wonderland 3D digital display and entertainment that featured local singer-songwriter Johnny Orlando, Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia, and Food Network star Anna Olson. 

Founded in 1973, Roots Canada was created from a love of the Canadian wilderness, specifically Algonquin Park. The brand has always had a strong sense of purpose and connection with their customer base. This season, Roots celebrates Canada’s strength in diversity and unity with a multi-media campaign. The premise reminds us to be ‘Nice Together’. The campaign (a one minute TV spot, print, and digital) features everyday people and illustrates the bonds between us. It triumphs our strength in diversity – with togetherness as the common thread that makes our society brighter. We are encouraged to do more, be more, and be free to be different. The campaign, shot by a personal favourite Canadian photographer Barbara Stoneham, demonstrates the pitch-perfect Canadian blend of ‘realness’ and ‘niceness’ as it captures customers' intentions towards heritage plaid and winter chic designs. The work extends to the in-store customer experience and celebrates Canadian craftsmanship, extending to a 'gallery' of real customer portraits in all retail locations. 

Brands that Give Back #SmallHeartsBelieveBig 

Doing a little good goes a long way. As we know, brands that demonstrate gratitude and community responsibility in a meaningful way increase their customer engagements. 

A lovely example this season belongs to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and agency partner No Fixed Address. Along with top retail partners – including OREO cookies, Sobeys, Walmart Canada, Agropur, Longo’s and Lactalis Canada –  they share the magic of holiday traditions with all children, no matter where they are – from the comfort of home to the reality of a hospital room. 

A sweet integrated campaign, coined  ‘Big Believers’, is centred on the ritual of leaving out milk and cookies for Santa. This campaign shows the beauty of kids' curiosity, wonder, and excitement around these holiday traditions. For me as a mother, the simple truth of children’s united excitement captured around Christmas makes the campaign even more meaningful and memorable. 

The campaign encourages action by inviting the audience to participate on Instagram by asking: What would Santa’s perfect milk glass look like? For every idea shared, a dollar is donated to SickKids, as well as other children's hospitals across Canada. Keeping the community engaged with the scale and power of partnerships is vital to the success of this campaign. From the first impression, to return to the point-of-sale, a portion of proceeds from all Ontario milk and Oreo sales (at select retailers) will go to a universally admired cause. 

This power in partnership of brands manifests a growing commitment to joining together, far beyond words. Real action is happening here for the greater good. What a beautiful way to come together this season. 

Here's wishing our media and marketing community all the joy that's possible this season – together with those you care about and who care about you. Happy Holidays!

Shannon Lewis is president of the Canadian Media Directors’ Council

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