Wegmans Shows the Power of Emotional Storytelling at Christmas
Holiday Commercial 2022
Our ad of the week this week comes from Wegmans, the high-end East Coast supermarket chain which regularly tops consumer and employee surveys. Now it’s topped an advertising survey too – the heartwarming 5.8-Star Wegmans holiday ad is the best US Christmas ad of 2022.
Retailers in Europe have been making highly emotional, story-driven Christmas ads for over a decade now. It’s a trend that was initially slow to cross the Atlantic. In the last few years, though, we’ve seen more US retail brands realize the importance of brand storytelling to catch consumer attention and build brands in the holiday season.
Wegmans’ ad uses a classic “emotional journey” – it presents a situation, creates a sense of mystery around it, then resolves the story in a way that’s dramatically satisfying and delivers a big emotional impact. In this case it’s a story of a boy who at first seems to be celebrating Christmas alone. He’s clearing a driveway of snow on his own, trying to decorate a house with Christmas lights by himself and generally struggling with the burden.
In the final scenes of the ad, we find out the truth. His family are enjoying a festive feast – a great showcase for Wegmans’ produce, of course. The boy takes a plate, but not for himself – he brings it to the house he’s been helping at and gives it to the elderly woman living there.
It’s a simple story of community, sharing and care for the elderly, which got the highest score from our US audience because of the intriguing way it’s told. Introduce the elderly neighbor at the beginning and there’s no tension in the story – instead Wegmans gets viewer attention early and keeps it until the reveal. Meanwhile, branding is strong throughout.
With retail firms like Macys and Hobby Lobby also releasing highly effective storytelling ads this holiday season, it’s worth reminding ourselves why the technique works so well. The holiday season sees a concentration of consumer spending and so it’s rightly always been a peak time for sales activation and performance marketing.
What brands are realizing though is that it’s also a time when emotional advertising is highly effective, as people are in a more relaxed, reflective, family and leisure-oriented mindset. A brand that can entertain or move them with a piece of great storytelling will be noticed, and in the longer term that delivers commercial gain by building up positive associations and mental availability.
Wegmans could have turned its holiday ad into a more traditional piece of festive marketing, by emphasizing its range, its deals or its product quality. Those elements are present, but they take a back seat to storytelling and emotion. And in the long run, that will benefit Wegmans more.