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An ‘unexpected test’ – the Christmas credentials of John Lewis’ latest festive treat

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

It’s that time of year again, when retailers battle it out to be the primary recipient of our Christmas largesse.

John Lewis, the 800 pound gorilla of all things merry, has delivered up its usual festive fare with another tear jerking, Christmas themed story, this time named Unexpected Guest. All intended to ready us for the big day in the hope that en route we will contribute to a crescendo of ringing tills.

But is it any good? Does it hit the mark and how does it stack up to previous years? And importantly, how ‘John Lewis’ is it? Does it reinforce the core brand personality and is the soundtrack amplifying or muting the core messaging and emotions?

In between wrapping presents, we tested the entire tinsel-wrapped production. First, we tested the music in isolation and the John Lewis brand itself, unadorned by baubles and spaceships. Also, having tested the last nine years of JL’s Christmas ads, we’ve also got some comparative stats on how well this year’s stacks up.

And the conclusion? It’s good. Better than Moz the Monster (2017) and The Boy and the Piano (2018), but does not reach the standard of 2013’s The Bear and The Hare. It’s just as appealing as Excitable Edgar (2019) but definitely better than the 2020 animated tearjerker Give a Little Love.

John Lewis festive advert - appeal_SoundOut
John Lewis festive advert - appeal_SoundOut

As a Christmas package, at 81% overall appeal, the advert is better liked than the soundtrack (77%) and the JL brand itself (also 77%) – so the whole is genuinely better than the sum of its parts. Bravo!

But what about personality? Do we have a strong match between the audio and the visuals and between the advert and the JL brand itself? Is there consistency – the key foundation to communicate authenticity and trust? Or will the production be subconsciously revealed as a cynical attempt to highjack our emotions for commercial gain?

To reveal this, we ran the advert, the brand and the soundtrack through BrandMatch – our consumer-powered analysis of the closeness of personality match between any music or voice and the brand itself. This reveals some interesting findings.

John Lewis festive advert - BrandMatch Profiles_SoundOut
John Lewis festive advert - BrandMatch Profiles_SoundOut

The personality match between the commercial and the JL brand is really strong, at 85%. Not only that, the commercial also has a bigger personality than the John Lewis brand itself, suggesting that the emotional punch it is delivering will contribute to increased brand equity.

The commercial is also considerably more impactful than the music alone, demonstrating that the storytelling and production are effectively ladling on additional emotional depth over and above the power of the music in isolation.

But the personality match between the music and the John Lewis brand is not as strong (51%) falling short on a number of emotional attributes that would have delivered an even stronger result.

When we look at the top 20 brand attributes being most strongly communicated (out of a possible 212) they all point to a positive, warm and family orientated production. Positive, friendly, comfortable, happy and warm are the top five attributes.

John Lewis festive advert - Attributes_SoundOut
John Lewis festive advert - Attributes_SoundOut

So, overall we conclude that JL has delivered again. And while they have not totally knocked it out of the snow globe, this year’s production is certainly up to their usual high standards and is a worthy companion to all that has come before.

It’s also damn Christmassy. Respondents were asked: “To what extent does this advertisement capture the spirit of Christmas to you?”. And they nailed it – with a score of 8.2, it’s the most Christmassy JL advert of the last nine years!

John Lewis festive adverts - SoundOut
John Lewis festive adverts - SoundOut

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