Emotional Marketing, It’s Not Just For Christmas (or B2C)

When I was growing up in the early 90s, the Coca-Cola trucks traditionally signalled the run up to Christmas, perfectly capturing the spirit and excitement of the festive season; the ads catchy, “Holidays are coming” choral chant is indelibly burnt into the minds of ageing Millennials.   

But in 2007, John Lewis changed the game with the launch of what would become the first of their now annual Christmas ad campaigns, deftly combining seasonal sentimentality with large helpings of creativity and imagination. 

Since then, B2C Christmas ads in the UK have continued to leverage the power of emotional connection to move audiences during the festive season, but it is a crying shame that most B2B organisations are still afraid to go there (whether it’s Christmas or not).  Emotional marketing is NOT exclusive to B2C brands and we’re on a mission to convert, with proof of the results to boot.   


In 2016 Aldi introduced the world to Kevin the Carrot, their anthropomorphic Christmas mascot. A move that seemed to purposely distance themselves from some of the more traditional and sentimental Christmas ads, but a move that parallels the continued rise in popularity and success of brand mascots.  

Creative agency Moving Picture Company released research that mentions the role of mascots in growing by up to 41%, profits and emotional connection to customers.” LINK 

Although not to everyone’s taste, Kevin has proved hugely successful, with demand for the associated toy mascot regularly exceeding supply. This year, Kevin returns to our screens in a homage to family favourite, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where he demonstrates his altruistic understanding of what Christmas really means (pretty deep….even for a carrot!). 

So, should you introduce a cute new brand mascot into your next B2B film? Probably not. But, like Aldi, do things your own way and always commit to your project with the same gusto, spirit and passion.  Whether whacky or straight-laced, pick a theme, choose your style and deliver it with courage and authenticity. 


After decades of leaving viewers reaching for the tissues, this year John Lewis have curiously explored other directions in which to reach their audience who have become accustomed to – and potentially a bit bored by – their more traditional approach. One imagines that, following thorough audience research, they have discovered that we were all looking for something a bit more light hearted this year. 

A deep curiosity is vital in all projects and can make or break a campaign’s success. JL may or may not have got it right this year (only January sales figures will reveal that) but as a B2B there’s a lesson here.  Dig to really understand what your audience are feeling so your ideas are laser focused. What are they writing on LinkedIn, what have they published online?  Doing some background deep dive work (which is easier in a B2B environment than B2C) will pay off hugely in terms of insights that will really drive your campaign. 


Don’t let the John Lewis ad fool you, Christmas is an emotionally charged season for lots of people, and playing to these audience expectations can really pay off at this time of year. But that’s not to say you can’t introduce emotion into your work in more subtle and nuanced ways throughout the year to deliver great results. 

“Campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) with only rational content, and those that were purely emotional did a little better (31% vs 26%) than those that mixed emotional and rational content.” – LINK 

Introducing emotion to your B2B project is a sure-fire way to hit your audience’s sweet spot. Often seen as something reserved solely for large B2C campaigns, emotion is tragically underutilised in B2B projects (unless we have anything to do with it!). 

There’s a whole glorious, technicolour spectrum of emotions that you can introduce into your project, the art comes in choosing the right one to connect with your audience at the right time.  

HAVE FUN (it’s all part of the emotional spectrum)! 

If we can learn anything from this season’s slew of Christmas ads, it’s that FUN packs just as much of an emotional punch as sentimentality. 

With animated musical madness, flying fairies and…. Rick Astley (!), after a rather bleak few years under the threat of Corona Virus, it seems that this year’s Christmas campaigns have all taken on a much lighter and brighter tone in a bid to lift spirits this festive season. 

When considering how to introduce a splash of colour into your next project, bear in mind that “fun” comes in all shapes and sizes, which makes picking the right “kind” of fun crucial if you don’t want to alienate your audience. Try too hard and it becomes obnoxious, don’t commit far enough and the fun won’t fly! 

But showing that you and your organisation are relatable, human and able to have a bit of fun is a crucial route to engagement with your audience. 


Over two-thirds (69%) of B2B marketers see B2B purchasing decisions as emotionally-driven as B2C decisions, and 39% of these marketers say they are increasingly focused on tapping into the emotion and humour that make traditional B2C campaigns land.

Nearly 90% of marketers acknowledge that brand-building is as important for B2B brands as B2C brands when it comes to ensuring long-term growth.


Emotionally connected Milsen Smith B2B pitch films have helped win $3.9 billion in new business

Gareth Peebles