Words by Les Amurao and Krista Rebolledo
Art by Krista Rebolledo
Christmas is just around the corner once again! Day by day, we see more of the usual festivities and themes we look forward to at the end of each year.
Likewise, we also see brands left and right adapting their marketing strategies to the season. Come to think of it, these brands do not merely promote themselves through these catchy and inventive jingles and ads. By instilling the spirit of the holidays, and showcasing the jubilance and uniqueness of Filipino Christmas, they show, beyond doubt, that this is really the season to be jolly!
As we let ourselves feel this merriment over the break, let’s also take the opportunity to look at how marketing reflects and shapes how we celebrate Christmas.
Introducing the Season
Who said Christmas is on Dec. 25? In our culture, festivities begin as early as when “-ber” season comes to town!
As soon as the clock strikes midnight on the first day of September we instantly hear a familiar tune: "Whenever I see girls and boys selling lanterns on the street..." as sung by Jose Mari Chan, the ‘Father of Philippine Christmas Music’. Likewise, his reign also covers our social media feeds in the form of silly posts and memes in welcoming the holiday season.
With an identity that welcomes the merry season, marketers also adapted Jose Mari Chan as the face of their holiday activations. He has been the holiday ambassador for Uniqlo, Mcdonald’s, and IKEA where he kicked off the store’s shopping ad with a live rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear.
And who said all the fun ends then? Here, our Christmas celebration that extends to as long as five merry months! As Taylor Swift would sing “We could leave the Christmas lights up 'til January…”.
Dining in the Festivities
What’s Christmas without bountiful and delicious holiday food? Notice how each day leading up to Christmas TV advertisements and various discount mechanisms for ham and other Noche Buena goods get more frequent and rigorous. Throughout the years, these promotions have instilled how much of a must-have Noche Buena and other sumptuous banquets are for Filipinos.
Ben & Ben’s song “Bibingka” adapted this theme by featuring the 9-day Simbang Gabi and highlighting the holiday delectable people would often after mass. Its gentle melody, soothing vocals, and vividly sweet lyrics integrated a feeling of longing, glee, and love into the centuries-old religious Christmas tradition. Even the act of giving bibingka has now been associated with romance.
Because of how it gave traditional Christmas elements a refreshing and romantic vibe, Ben & Ben performed and rereleased this iconic song with Sam Concepcion through the platform provided by Coke Homecoming Studios in December 2018.
As Filipinos, we also cannot let Christmas pass by without spending time with the people we hold dearest in this world — our family. The love, respect, and regard we give to our families are arguably one of the trademarks of our culture. It’s no surprise then that in this country, the holiday season is almost synonymous with spending time and showing affection to our families.
As brands adapt their marketing message to the holiday season, they inevitably adapt themes that consolidate our filial culture, even its traditional and stereotypical setup. Ever noticed how a lot of Christmas celebrations portrayed would normally feature the complete family having a good time together?
However, as ads were extended a few more minutes in the form of short films uploaded on social media, they were also capacitated to tackle more radical topics about the family that were usually untold.
Were you also one of those brought to tears by the flicks in Jollibee’s “Kwentong Jollibee” campaign? This heart-wrenching collection includes a 2019 Christmas Special entitled “Best Friend”, which tells us of a powerful bond that grew among children in an orphanage.
Other brands also adopted a similar strategy like Levi’s’ “Braille” where a father had a denim jacket customized for his blind son as a Christmas gift and Ayala Malls’ “Wishing Tree” which features the enduring love between a boy and his grandmother who was seemingly suffering from dementia. These ads successfully captured the holiday's essence while adding new and deeper dimensions to the usual narrative of Filipino Christmas.
Christmas is truly one of the most colorful seasons of the year, more so as a Filipino. Times may have changed but its essence and values endure through generations.
As brands market themselves to Filipino consumers, the themes of kindness, family, tradition, and glee remain essential aspects of their insights and big ideas. On that account, as we near Christmas day, let us keep in mind that beyond material gifts and celebrations, the holiday remains to be about celebrating and giving love to the people around us.