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How Brands Clash on Social Media: Christmas Battle

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How Brands Clash on Social Media: Christmas Battle

Maria Raybould
How Brands Clash on Social Media: Christmas Battle

We know that most people don’t necessarily associate the words “Christmas” with “absolute throwdown,” but those people likely don’t work in the marketing sector.

When it comes to holiday marketing, you might as well be climbing into the ring with your competitors. It is why this time of year you see marketers taking big swings to try to outperform their competition, desperately trying to snag those holiday, end-of-year sales as their ultimate prize.

We are all about the Christmas battles, so this year we have compared six pairs of the most bitter rivals in the market today, comparing their Christmas YouTube videos and their performance and declaring a winner for each.

  • McDonald's vs. KFC
  • John Lewis vs. M&S
  • Amazon vs. Ikea
  • Cadbury vs. Walkers
  • Aldi vs. Sainsbury's
  • WWF vs. Greenpeace

Fierce competition, right? 

Ready to see who won round over round and took home the grand prize? Let’s dive in. 

How We Chose Our Winners 

Before a boxing match starts, you have to know the rules to play to know how to win, right? 

We focused on YouTube marketing, and pulling data from SEMrush’s Social Media Tracker, we used the following criteria to find our winning campaigns:

  • Total views on YouTube.

  • YouTube likes and comments.

  • Engagement growth on YouTube.

  • Audience growth across all channels within 30 days after the release compared to the previous 30 days (most brands launched their Christmas commercials early to mid-November, so this makes it fair).

  • Engagement growth across all channels within 30 days after the release compared to the previous 30 days. 

Finally, we chose one ultimate winner who beat out even indirect competition in YouTube views.

Everybody on the same page? Outstanding! 

Fight 1: KFC vs. McDonald's

This year, KFC focused on sharing a video series of turkey-related nightmares for their Christmas campaigns, nearly taunting users with the slogan “Good Luck on the 25th!” 

There are three animated TV ads detailing hyperbolic-at-best turkey situations gone wrong during those festive preparations. We have got a man trying to defrost his ice-cold bird, shattering it into pieces before breaking apart himself while a woman with a slippery turkey accidentally sends it flying into space. (Raw, flying turkey? No thanks.) 

McDonald's, on the other hand, opted for a completely different approach. They are going off of the momentum of last year’s #ReindeerReady campaign with a charming new spot that combines live-action and animation to reenergize a familiar narrative. It is designed to be heartwarming, which is a completely different approach from KFC, showing a family being brought together and a little girl being given joy. It is a little sanguine, but it is a sentimental time of year. 

YouTube Performance  

You have seen the commercials, so now it is time to look at the performance. We compared their UK YouTube accounts since this is where they posted their Christmas videos. 

McDonald's received 568K views and 5.1K likes for the single video.

mcdonalds vs KFC

KFC received significantly fewer views and likes, seeing 14.2K views and 112 likes and comments for all the 3 videos.

mcdonalds vs KFC

McDonald's easily beat KFC in terms of the number of views and likes/comments scoring 2:0. 

However, comparing their overall YouTube engagement, KFC performed better in terms of engagement growth on their account, which brings the score 2:1. Engagement growth is significant, indicating relevant content that the audience wants to see. 

mcdonalds vs KFC

Performance Across All Social Channels

Alright, time to look at the overall social impact that these commercials may have had for each brand. 

In audience growth across all channels, McDonald's scores a major point. They saw a 0.95% increase, while KFC actually lost .16%. Talk about a knock-out round. 

mcdonalds vs KFC

And, unsurprisingly, in engagement growth across all channels, McDonald's snagged another point, with a 402.94% growth rate while KFC had a 48.21% gain. 

mcdonalds vs KFC

So the overall score is 4:1. Talk about going in bare-knuckled. McDonald's wins this one in a major way. 

semrush christmas fights

Fight 2: John Lewis vs. M&S

Two of the biggest UK retailers came ready to fight with their 2019 Christmas ads. John Lewis and Waitrose have teamed up to transport us back to a fairy tale land for 2019 with Excitable Edgar. 

In their video, a young girl named Ava is walking around with a young dragon named Edgar. Edgar is as excited about Christmas as you possibly can be, and he keeps accidentally breathing fire over things like an ice rink, causing a little destruction along the way. Ava helps him find acceptance, using his fire-breathing talents to light the figgy pudding to everyone’s delight. It is one of those sentimental, heart-warming approaches. 

Marks & Spencer took a different approach, and they really came to the mat with their gloves on and ready to swing. Their Christmas advert includes upbeat music and a lot of dancing and features a new shoulder-roll move all their own. Who knows — that new move may even make it on the dance floor, and could help keep the brand relevant even beyond the Christmas season.

YouTube Performance

John Lewis is an absolute winner of this battle, with 9.5 million YouTube views and 89K likes and comments. As we can see, the video was so successful they even made ‘The Making of Excitable Edgar” videos that users happily watched, too. 

JohnLewis vs M&S

M&S gained 736K views and 2.5K of likes and comments for Go Jumpers, and 140K views and 298 likes and comments for Go Pyjamas, which makes it 876K views and 2.8K likes and comments in total.

JohnLewis vs M&S

JohnLewis vs M&S

John Lewis also wins in terms of YouTube engagement growth, and the performance growth across all social channels, over the last 30 days. They saw growth in the millions, not just the thousands. 

JohnLewis vs M&S

Performance Across All Social Channels

JohnLewis vs M&S

JohnLewis vs M&S

John Lewis beat M&S in all of the 5 fights - BANG! They win, 5:0. 

semrush christmas brand fights

Fight 3: Amazon vs. IKEA

You wouldn’t think of these two as rivals really, but with Amazon’s own furniture brand – Rivet and Stone & Beam – they most definitely are. 

This year, IKEA took a somewhat unconventional approach to Christmas advertising with its Silence The Critics video, appealing to insecurities that many of us have naturally. 

We all worry sometimes that our home just isn’t “good enough.” Whether it is the material possessions, the home decor, or things being just a little messy, insecurity can wreak havoc and make mountains out of molehills. IKEA’s video stresses that they understand this, but every home is worthy of a get-together, and a few IKEA products and ideas can get your home holiday-hosting ready. Then you can silence the critics — including your inner critic — for good. 

Amazon focuses on the joy that buying gifts (and yes, ok, shopping for oneself) can bring during the holiday season, with people singing and dancing while delivering Amazon boxes that are using animated mouths to sing along, too. These parcels bring joy, and three different versions of this ad (which are all airing between now and December 22nd at varying lengths) seeks to remind people of that. 

YouTube Performance

Performance time! Let’s start the match.

Amazon easily beat IKEA in terms of total views, capturing 2.79 million views compared to IKEA’s 927K:

Amazon vs IKEA

Amazon vs IKEA

That being said, IKEA received far more engagement - 16.6K likes and comments, as opposed to Amazon’s 372. This is significant; engagement, again, signals relevance, and their ad clearly resonated with their audience. This brings us even at a 1:1 match.

Amazon did pull ahead, however, in the engagement growth total and percentage, bringing us to 2:1 with Amazon in the lead. 

Amazon vs IKEA

Performance Across All Channels

Ready to look at the big picture? 

IKEA, unfortunately, saw a decline in total audience growth across all channels, causing Amazon scores 3:1. 

Amazon vs IKEA

Amazon's engagement growth across all channels is also better than IKEA's. 

Amazon vs IKEA

The final result: Amazon wins 4:1.

semrush christmas brand fights

Fight 4: Walkers vs. Cadbury

Walkers Crisps vs. Cadbury’s famous chocolate. Get ready, because this battle might make you want to grab a snack while seeing how it plays out.

Walker Crisps’ Christmas commercial features Mariah Carey of all people, fighting with an elf over a bag of crisps while on the set of a shoot, despite noting that it is “a time for caring and a time for sharing.” It plays on Carey’s well-known diva persona, and it is sure to get a laugh or two. 

Cadbury also leveraged famous musicians in the form of the well-known Beatles song “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” showing people from all walks of life sharing Cadbury chocolate to those they care about while hiding as Secret Santa. They have multiple campaigns, including one where a child brings chocolate to a teacher, and one where a son leaves a gift for his father. 

YouTube Performance

Time for the results! Are you ready? 

Walkers gained a total of 793K views and more than 20K likes and comments, but Cadbury gained 3.7 million views and only received 166 likes and comments total, bringing the score 1:1 right off the bat. 

walkers vs cadbury

walkers vs cadbury

The score was brought back to 2:1 in Walkers’ favor thanks to their higher engagement growth rate than Cadbury. 

walkers vs cadbury

Performance Across All Social Networks

With Walkers already pulling ahead of Cadbury after getting a few good strikes in, they pull even further ahead thanks to their increased performance and growth rates across all social channels.

Walkers beat Cadbury in both audience and engagement growth, earning them a win 4:1. 

walkers vs cadbury

walkers vs cadbury

Total score: 4:1 Walkers wins

semrush christmas brand fights

Fight 5: WWF vs. Greenpeace

Does anything say “festive” quite like protecting the environment? Ok, maybe that is not the most conventional association, but let’s see exactly where this battle takes us. 

Greenpeace takes issue with the turkey tradition, but their reasoning is a little different than KFC’s. They want to promote more roast veggie dinners, as a piece of land the size of Glasgow would be needed to grow enough soya to fatten 10 million turkeys (the amount eaten by Brits every Christmas). Soya is traditionally imported from South America, causing a detrimental effect on the continent and contributing to deforestation. 

Not everyone wants everything to be too doom-and-gloom for the holidays, however, so Greenpeace’s Christmas ad has a comedy “roast” between a human-sized turkey and a potato, of all things, and the potato unleashes a few killer hooks while they trade burns about how turkey is dry, and the potato is bland. It is entertaining but also effective. 

WWF’s holiday ad is probably one of the most emotional-yet-festive campaigns floating around this year, featuring a one-minute film that depicts a stomach-clenching tale about a beautiful jaguar whose forest is being destroyed by humans. It is hard to overlook this one, and it is definitely memorable.

YouTube Performance

Let’s get down to it. 

WWF had nearly 36K views and 281 likes and comments on their video, while Greenpeace only had 4.2K views and 72 likes and comments, starting this match with a score of 2:0 in WWF’s favor.

wwf vs greenpeace

wwf vs greenpeace

Greenpeace got a point in, however, when looking at YouTube engagement growth rate, which was significant compared to the past 30 days, bringing the score 2:1. 

wwf vs greenpeace

Performance Across All Channels

In terms of engagement growth across all social channels, Greenpeace scored again, bringing the score to 2:2. 

wwf vs greenpeace

wwf vs greenpeace

When looking at the audience growth rate, however, Greenpeace’s .42% growth rate just barely edged out WWF’s .08% growth rate. 

It was a close match, but the results are clear.

Total score: 3:2, with Greenpeace as the winner.

semrush christmas brand fights

Fight 6: ALDI vs. Sainsbury’s

It is time for our last battle, and what a Christmas battle it is: The Battle of the Supermarkets! 

In the right corner, we have got ALDI, and over on the left, Sainsbury’s! Let’s start with ALDI, shall we? 

Their Christmas advert is centered around Russell Sprout (cough: Brussel sprouts) and his “Leafy Blinders,” who are outraged that Kevin the Carrot and his family stole the show as the favorite vegetable on the Christmas table. They have got him tied up, but a tomato sets Kevin the Carrot free, so he can put on a great show and be the true star of the Christmas table with a hit song from Robbie Williams. 

Sainsbury’s used a Dickenesian-inspired story of an orphan named Nick wrongly accused of stealing a clementine that rolled off the table. The boy is then rescued by Mary Ann, who hands him an entire sack of clementines just for him, and when he tells her that he can’t pay for them, she says, “If you can’t do something special for someone at Christmas, then when can you?” It is sweet and has all those feel-good associations we love about Christmas. 

YouTube Performance

Last match — are you ready? 

ALDI received 3.29 million views on their campaign, and 10.4k likes and comments. This is impressive in their own right, but it may as well have been a sucker-punch from Sainsbury’s, who received 6.18 million views and almost 17.5K comments and likes in total, starting with a 2:0 score in Sainsbury’s favor. 

aldi vs sainsburys

aldi vs sainsburys

In terms of engagement growth rate, Sainsbury's was the clear winner, bringing the score to 3:0. 

aldi vs sainsburys

Performance Across All Channels:

In spite of the early lead for Sainsbury's, ALDI did manage to snag a point when it came to audience growth across all channels, having a 1.7% growth rate compared to Sainsbury’s 0.2%, which is significant. 

aldi vs sainsburys

That being said, as far as engagement goes, Sainsbury’s with its Christmas fairytale is an absolute winner (6.6K% as opposed to 366%). ALDI gave it their best, but Sainsbury’s pulls out a clear win. 

aldi vs sainsburys

Total score: 4:1

semrush christmas brand fights

Conclusion: So Who Is Our Ultimate Winner?

Ready to find out who took home the grand prize this holiday season?

Drum roll, please! 

The ultimate winner of the Xmas commercial battle is John Lewis, with more than 9.5 million YouTube views and 89K likes and comments. Congrats, John Lewis, you have gained bragging rights and clearly a ton of views, engagement, and hopefully brand awareness, too! 

So there you have it. It has been an exciting year for the holiday campaigns, which is both a dream come true and sometimes highly stressful for everyone in the marketing industry. This was a great battle, and we can’t wait to see what the teams come up with next year! 

Happy holidays, everyone! 

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Maria Raybould
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

Been there, done that, but nothing excites me more than writing. Slowly but surely grasping the ins and outs of inbound marketing.
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Corina Joseph
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What a wonderful post! The data insights shared in this post are quite informative. Never knew holiday seasons serves as a lucrative opportunity for brands if used appropriately.
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I visit your blog. It is really useful and easy to understand. Hope everyone get benefit. Thanks for sharing your Knowledge and experience with us.

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