Nadia Nazarova

Christmas Fights 2.0: How Brands Battle On Social Media to Win the Holiday Rush

As our blog readers may know, last year I analyzed several brands’ pre-holiday social media activity to reveal the Xmas Fight Winning Brand. This post attracted close attention, and so I decided to host Christmas Fights 2.0 and find the winners of 2017 with the help of our SEMrush Social Media Tracker tool.

Now, meet our contestants for this year:

  • Mass-market clothing battlefield: M&S vs. H&M

  • Retail battlefield: Macy’s vs. John Lewis

How did we choose the winners?

Each of the four companies I have selected is well-known for putting Christmas sparkle into their pre-holiday social media campaigns. With the help of our Social Media Tracker, I have analyzed advertising campaigns of the chosen brands since the day they launched their Christmas video ads on YouTube. I used the tool to monitor and compare the companies’ activity across the most popular social platforms. And so, the analysis started.

I measured the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns based on several key metrics:

  • YouTube total views.

  • YouTube engagement rate (the number of views in relation to the channel’s audience).

  • Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audience growth.

  • Facebook, Twitter and Instagram engagement growth.

I analyzed Youtube engagement. I then compared important Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram metrics of their content that drove the most engagement, as the brands ran a campaign across all social media networks.

Now let’s see which brands succeeded in playing on people’s festive hearts and minds.

Mass-market Clothing Battlefield: M&S vs. H&M

To celebrate Christmas spirit and generosity, Marks & Spencer made the famous children’s character a new hero of their “Paddington & The Christmas Visitor” ad, which resulted in 6,615,280 views on YouTube a little over a month after its launch.

In the ad, iconic bear Paddington helps a burglar, whom he mistakes for Father Christmas, return all the stolen presents to where they belong. By the end of the story, the man regrets his criminal past, thanks to a touch of Christmas magic, and receives a marmalade sandwich from Paddington.


Like its rival, the brand decided to make its ad child-focused, reminding us that Christmas is the time when magic can happen. H&M’s “A Magical Holiday” is a fairy tale, rather than a mere commercial, that earned 13,427,244 views in less than a week.

The fantastical ad shows a bedtime story of a heroic little girl who created a black hole and traveled to an alternate reality. In this universe, she met with contemporary interpretations of fairy tale creatures played by superstars, including rap artist Nicki Minaj, and actors John Turturro and Jesse Williams. By using the Internet and her own generosity, the girl managed to save Christmas and warm the hearts of millions of viewers.

Results of the Battle

No doubt, the number of views is an important metric. But if you are only looking at your views to judge your success on YouTube, you are definitely missing out. It is extremely important to understand how effectively you interact with your subscribers and followers and whether or not your efforts help you grow your social media audience.

Now let’s look at the score table to see who came out on top:

As you can see, when it comes to YouTube views, H&M smashed its competitor. Nevertheless, when I analyzed the brands’ performance in terms of other important metrics, I discovered that M&S held the lead.

Besides views, the SEMrush Social Media Tracker allows you to track an engagement rate metric that shows the proportion of views to the size of the channel’s audience. Although H&M got many more YouTube views than its competitor, M&S’s video appeared to be more engaging for the subscribers. Its YouTube audience demonstrated 2.5 times more involvement than H&M’s.

To capture consumers’ attention during the pre-holiday season, brands concentrate their efforts on multiple social media platforms where people spend an incredible amount of their time. I compared the two brands’ audience growth and engagement growth on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. M&S outperformed its rival in all networks, except Facebook, where H&M dominated by a narrow margin in terms of audience growth. However, when it comes to engagement rate, M&S bears the palm: its engagement grew by 277.83% on Facebook, by 2,023% on Twitter, and by 310% on Instagram. Looks impressive!

Marks & Spencer wins with a 6 to 2 score!

Key Takeaways From M&S and H&M’s Campaigns

  • Storytelling helps to market your brand and build a picture of who you really are.

  • By featuring a charismatic character in your ad, you can make your story even more compelling.

  • To make your campaign stand out, try to combine traditional holiday cheer with a bit of humor and levity.

Storytelling helps to market your brand and build a picture of who you really are.

Retail Battlefield: Macy’s vs. John Lewis

For retails, Christmas can indeed be the most successful trading season. That is why powerful brands roll out their biggest advertising campaigns in pursuit of consumers’ attention and wallets.


This year Macy’s opted for family traditions with the touching “The Perfect Gift Brings People Together” commercial, which got 4,077,856 views.

The ad tells the story of a boy named Max and a girl named Lily who are separated by the sea. Their communication is sparse, yet still meaningful. With the help of Morse code and a night light Max received for Christmas, he invites the girl and her dad to dinner. The idea behind the scene is simple and comes with the tagline, “The perfect gift brings people together,” when a Macy’s shopping bag appears on the screen.

John Lewis

In the meantime, another retail giant across the ocean attracted some of the world’s top creative minds. John Lewis’ Christmas video ad of Moz the monster, filmed by an Oscar-winning screenwriter, looks like a real Hollywood blockbuster. The result is 9,274,873 views on YouTube.

For its 2017 Christmas campaign, the brand focuses on the story of the friendly imaginary character of Moz and a little boy named Joe. The creature is a nice-looking monster who hides under Joe’s bed and keeps the boy awake. Joe plays with Moz every night, but when the boy starts falling asleep during the daytime, the monster lets him get some rest and gives him a holiday gift.

Results of the Battle

How the combat has ended on the retail battlefield:

It is no wonder that John Lewis remains the king of Christmas advertising. Their eagerly anticipated adverts can make people both smile and burst into tears. The results of our social media battle show that one of the leading retail businesses in the United Kingdom wins the field in all respects, bar just one metric — Instagram engagement growth.

During the month after the launch, John Lewis’ video ad got 9,274,873 views on YouTube; meanwhile, Macy’s commercial earned 4,077,856 for the same period. When it comes to audience involvement, the British retailer’s YouTube subscribers proved to be a little bit more engaged: 696,340 vs. 528,989.

Almost all other figures demonstrate that John Lewis’ audience interacts with the brand’s social media content remarkably well. What really grabbed our attention is that the company increased its Facebook engagement by as much as 1,967.86%.

Macy’s managed to pull off a win in only one category: the brand performed slightly better than its competitor in terms of Instagram engagement growth: 213% vs. 187%.

John Lewis wins with a 7 to 1 score!

Key Takeaways From Macy’s and John Lewis’ Campaigns

  • Emotional appeal in advertising builds a connection between your customers and your brand.
  • Aligning your ads with your brand identity provides clarity and builds trust with your customers.

  • By giving a slight hint that your product helps people connect with their loved ones — or make their wish come true — you can strengthen your message.

Emotional appeal in advertising builds a connection between your customers and your brand.

One Final Word About Christmas Marketing Campaigns

Christmas is one of the busiest periods of the year for both shoppers and businesses. Consumers are invading malls to buy gifts, while companies are trying to make the most of the holiday shopping rush for their brand.

The campaigns of famous brands I looked at illustrate just how important online presence is. Social media can be a powerful tool for capturing the attention of your audience and boosting sales. However, it seems that some companies let their promotional activities get out of control. Instead of simply jumping on the holiday marketing bandwagon, it is important to create campaigns that truly delight your customers, evoking emotions and holiday joy.

Planning your Christmas social media campaign ahead of time will help you ensure that your business will take advantage of the benefits this festive period provides. You can adopt the best practices of your competitors by monitoring and analyzing their social media activity and engagement across multiple channels. This knowledge will help you generate fresh ideas for your own campaign. You can try out our SEMrush Social Media Tracker to discover which content better resonates with your audience and prepare your brand to rock the social media stage at Christmas.

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wow cool mens..
This is nice post for better understanding of handle blogging and thanks a lot for sharing
kapil patel
Thanks a lot!
Nadia Nazarova
happy-merry-christmas day
Thanks for this greatful and useful article
Meesha Rohilla
Thank you so much!
Thankyou for this blog
maahi singh
Yes this is realy rush. In television for example you can watch a lof of announcement with perfums. We can say little black friday for sellers.
Francisco Petro
Sure, it is. Thank you for the comment!
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