2020 creeps up on the RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge

Discussion
Source: Kohl’s “Give With All Your Heart”
Nov 03, 2020
George Anderson

The novel coronavirus pandemic has meant that very little in the retail industry has been business as usual in 2020. That extends to the holiday season. Retailers have a lot to be concerned with as Thanksgiving approaches. For one, chains are looking to reduce crowds of customers in stores and avoid bottlenecks in fulfilling online orders. Shipping surcharges, specifically avoiding them, is also high on retailers’ list of concerns as they seek to maintain margins in a highly competitive environment.

Even with  the challenges outlined, forecasts are pointing to a positive 2020 holiday selling season. Retailers that have been inching up Christmas sales promotions and advertising campaigns in advance of Black Friday in recent years, starting to make their push even before Halloween this year.

With all of the above and more as a backdrop, we are pleased to bring you the annual RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge. As in the past, we will post retailer commercial spots intended to tug at the heartstrings and wallets (contactless, of course) of Americans celebrating the season. The RetailWire community will choose which spots have done the most effective job of communicating their company’s holiday value proposition to consumers.

Kicking off season eight of our competition are spots from Hobby Lobby and Kohl’s. Each features its own unique new relationship story with the goal of moving viewers favorably to the brand behind the commercial.

Hobby Lobby’s “Christmas Is What You Make It” spot highlights crafts as a way to connect with family and friends (even new ones) this holiday season. 

Kohl’s “Give With All Your Heart” is about a different kind of Christmas. The chain’s YouTube page explains, “Where we once just wished for things like toys and tech, we’re now wishing for happiness, understanding and kindness more than ever. And time spent together is the greatest gift of all.” 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is your critique of the Christmas spots from Hobby Lobby and Kohl’s? Which retailer does a better job of connecting with its core customers while reaching out to new shoppers with its Christmas spots?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Both great – but my eyes teared up for Kohl’s. If you can’t make me misty with a Christmas ad, it doesn’t win."
"Hobby Lobby? How quickly we forget"
"While both commercials connect with their customers, the Kohl’s ad really illustrates how to make a connection within our current environment and tugs at the heartstrings."

Join the Discussion!

22 Comments on "2020 creeps up on the RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
CEO and President, Cogent Creative Consulting
5 months 9 days ago

The Kohl’s ad is extremely heartfelt and sparks an emotional chord that make the spirit of Christmas about much more than physical gifts. Very well done! I expect to see a lot of creative holiday ads that are relevant to the current pandemic environment and that provide ideas on how to make the holidays safe and happy.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I like the Hobby Lobby spot – it uses their products and sends a message of using them to connect with people. While I understand Kohl’s message (compassion in the time of COVID-19) – there is no connection to what they sell that ties it all together. The Hobby Lobby spot wins it for me.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Both great – but my eyes teared up for Kohl’s. If you can’t make me misty with a Christmas ad, it doesn’t win.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Kohl’s advertisement is touching but it is a bit obscure. I assume that the lady went into the hospital as she had a band around her wrist, but it isn’t really clear. To be honest, that’s probably me over-analyzing things! However the links with Kohl’s are also missing; it’s a generic advertisement that could have been made by any retailer.

Hobby Lobby’s advertisement is great. It is very festive, touching and it focuses in on exactly what Hobby Lobby does: crafting and making things. The strap-line at the end “Christmas is what you make it” is clever. At the end a small part of me was thinking, don’t enter someone else’s home without a mask! But I don’t blame them for not including that: we really don’t need to be reminded of the pandemic in every ad!

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Neil, I thought the very same thing about having a mask and entering someone else’s home as well!!

George Anderson
Staff

I really liked the Hobby Lobby spot until I saw the guy walk into her house without a mask – talk about being out of touch. I also wondered when the two young people were going to realize that they had been set up by the old folks across the way. Is that sweet or creepy?

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

George: you’re overthinking this!

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

I was thinking the same thing you were, George! And for a moment I, too, thought it was a bit creepy as you said, but then I decided they were just being friendly matchmaking neighbors!

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Hobby Lobby could have run empty air and it would have won this one.

The Kohl’s commercial starts good with a fun-meets-cute scene, plus the emotion added by the song. It had me and then WHAM, the women doesn’t show up at the window anymore. Time passes. She’s dead? What kind of message is that?! The kid feels abandoned and then the woman shows up with a hospital bracelet and everything is fine – Shop at Kohl’s. Look, I love an emotional Christmas commercial but this one went off the rails.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Two terrific ads, without any overriding narration. Both ads have captured the spirit of the holidays during these trying times, particularly the Kohl’s ad. However my tie breaker would go to the Holly Lobby spot since it connects with core customers, the creative types, as well as reaches out to new customers to make unique, inexpensive gifts.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

The Hobby Lobby ad is nicely done and ties into the craft products that it sells, but it could have run during any holiday season. (And yes, I also noticed the lack of masks coming from a store that apparently doesn’t require them of its shoppers.) I think we should expect to see a lot of ads like Kohl’s spot, reflecting the unique time that we are living through. It’s not always necessary to pound home a commercial message (“shop at Kohl’s!”) so the Kohl’s spot gets my vote.

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

While both commercials connect with their customers, the Kohl’s ad really illustrates how to make a connection within our current environment and tugs at the heartstrings.

Al McClain
Staff

I’m not sure people have the patience for 90 second ads anymore. That aside, the Hobby Lobby ad would be good if these were normal times but they aren’t. Ignoring the pandemic may work with a large portion of their customers but will alienate others, especially if the scientists are right and things worsen in the cold weather.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
CEO and President, Cogent Creative Consulting
5 months 9 days ago

I agree with you Al. They will need to shorten these for most TV ad spots.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Connection and tradition are core themes for both of these terrific ads.

In Hobby Lobby’s spot, grandparents replace Tinder as cute yet meddling matchmakers to bring old traditions to a new generation. The ad may resonate among the target market of young adults who relish 2020’s invitation to slow down, savor offline connection and create handmade gifts from the heart.

Kohl’s timely spot will appeal to its core audience of middle-aged women by showing the multiple generations these ladies care for (and shop for). It celebrates connection, communication and diversity during a time of social distancing and Black Lives Matter. The emotional message of prioritizing people over presents, coupled with the brilliant song choice of Rainbow Connection, makes this spot the winner.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Hobby Lobby had a nice twist at the end but my vote goes to Kohl’s. An emotional message and a child is a winning combination.

Natalie Walkley
BrainTrust

The Kohl’s one resonates with the loneliness many people are feeling right now — and customer empathy is generally well-received.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Both are clever and cute, but I like Kohl’s because it shows humanity, something that’s been in short supply this year.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Two great ads! (Little did I know when I woke up this morning that voting today could be a joy.) I gave HL the nod because I think it ties in a little better to their products; also — and perhaps this is projection on my part — it might be seen as suggesting that we won’t all be apart forever. (Potential downside: what happens when those kids find out the truth? Hmmm….) Hopefully Nov 3 can be the start of more good things to come.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Hobby Lobby? how quickly we forget

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

There is always a choice and a balance to be made with holiday ads — do you focus on the brand and what it represents, or do you lean promotional to drive foot traffic. While both ads do a good job of incorporating the traditional holiday spirit, Hobby Lobby ends the message on the promotional side with their “50% off Christmas” close rather than leaving it at “Christmas is what you make it” which would have been a great closing thought.

Kohl’s goes in the other direction and clearly anchors the brand on not just the traditional holiday spirit, but also acknowledges and embraces the unique situation we’re all experiencing in 2020 and leaves us with a good tug at the heartstrings.

Although many comments here note that any retailer could have run this ad because it doesn’t tie anything to Kohl’s products, I disagree. This was a branding piece, not a promotional piece and they accomplished their goal.

I give the nod to Kohl’s.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust
Wow! Nicely done by both Hobby Lobby and Kohl’s! I had emotional sighs, got misty-eyed and felt a tug on the heart-strings with Kohl’s. I think Kohl’s did the better job, here’s why: Hobby Lobby leaned very well into their positioning around crafts and making something. Smart. Their spot also warmed the hearts with neighbors. However, it seemed to lack current social relevance around social distancing (sad necessity this time of year). It didn’t push hard enough into the reality that so many are facing these days and instead showed an ending that made me cringe, even though it was well-intended. They lose points on relevance. Kohl’s, kept it real. Families are stuck inside and many are actually getting to know neighbors through the windows (a wonderful insight brought to life). They were able to drum up all the feels in a way that is most realistic to how many will experience the holidays and Willie Nelson just made it heartfelt. Still, while Kohl’s scores big on emotional appeal and relevance, they lose a bit… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Both great – but my eyes teared up for Kohl’s. If you can’t make me misty with a Christmas ad, it doesn’t win."
"Hobby Lobby? How quickly we forget"
"While both commercials connect with their customers, the Kohl’s ad really illustrates how to make a connection within our current environment and tugs at the heartstrings."

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