‘Tis the season to pull at heartstrings

December 7th, 2020 | Jeannette Ornelas

The holiday season is upon us and brands are embracing emotional storytelling to provide a sense of optimism and lightheartedness amid uncertain times. Despite the challenges of 2020, brands are mirroring the good with heartfelt campaigns. 


We’re entering into the season of reflection, and brands wasted no time helping get us there. But this year, that reflection looks different: People are still worried about COVID-19, their finances, and their lifestyles. Brands responded with messages that turned reflection into a message of support. 

In a national TV spot, Principal asks consumers to take a moment and reflect on the times. The 30-second spot echoes, “Let’s remember this time when so many struggled to feel secure, and build a future where everyone can.” 

One brand, however, won’t be reminiscing on their year that was. This year, YouTube won’t be creating its annual look-back, Rewind, despite the fact that streaming video has spiked in 2020 thanks to so many people staying home.

Spread good cheer

Brands took a break from the seriousness of the year with campaigns that offered much-needed comedic relief. This allowed them to reach people on a level they’ve grown used to not seeing in recent months—and, thanks to that novelty, helped get them noticed.

Pizza Hut tapped into people’s desire for both comfort and humor with a weighted blanket that looks like a pizza. 

Brands such as Burger King, Snickers, The Daily Show and many more seized on Twitter’s misinformation warnings with parodies that were less about politics than about lighthearted relief.

Create goodwill

At an emotional time of year during a particularly emotional year, brands have to tread carefully, making sure to tailor their goodwill to very specific current needs. That meant infusing digital solutions into regular holiday messaging of goodwill and togetherness.  

Mastercard is reminding consumers they can still touch lives in a touchless world – with contactless payments.  

Etsy says the perfect gift goes the distance, even when you can’t. With a “gift like you mean it” message the e-commerce site emphasizes the emotional appeal of a meaningful gift. 


What we’d like to see  

Don’t underestimate the power of emotional storytelling.

Take time to reflect

It’s been a relentless year and while consumer fatigue is a strong consideration when talking about COVID-19, there is a time and place for introspection and that often comes at the end of one year and the beginning of another. This is an opportune time for brands to reinforce their value propositions.

Don’t be afraid to lighten the mood

While a majority of consumers are not yet comfortable taking a flight, Hawaiian Airlines comedic approach serves to soften consumer anxieties about air travel while acknowledging the longing many consumers feel amid prolonged lockdowns and social distancing. Eliciting an emotional response now, can boost brand recall down the line.

Develop goodwill

Mastercard and Etsy understand that having connection and responsiveness as pillars of your brand will go a long way to developing goodwill. The holiday season puts consumers into a more selfless and giving mindset. Consider how you can help consumers make better decisions this holiday season and how that is reflected in messaging.

Jeannette Ornelas

Jeannette Ornelas

Jeannette Ornelas is a Senior Digital Marketing Analyst for Comperemedia. Jeannette is responsible for producing syndicated and custom reports and providing marketing insights across a range of industry sectors and channels.