Forget the anxiety of 2021, it’s time to end the year with real festive cheer. Here are five brands using creative tech and smarter tactics to deliver Christmas magic like never before.


Let’s be fair: after the year we’ve had, we all deserve some festive respite. We’re talking cheesy-but-amazing soundtracks, twinkling street lights, questionable jumpers, and bottomless eggnog. In the past, we’ve relied on our seasonal hero, our jolly red-and-white action figure to deliver happiness. This year, it’s a little different. Santa is working harder than ever (he’s got a few new tricks and tools too), but he needs help to lift the mood.

The good news: the influencer from The North Pole is collaborating with plenty of brilliant brands. Remote marketing elves have been working overtime to make this Covid-conscious Christmas better and merrier than the one before. We’re not just talking about big-budget Christmas TV ads (although we are suckers for them); we’re talking about brand experiences using creative technology, new Yuletide traditions, and innovative OOH tactics.

While there will be smaller crowds and less mistletoe action, it doesn’t mean we need to lose any of the marketing magic while we engage, entertain and convince our Christmas customers. These new contactless experiences can be even more effective than traditional ones.

Here are the five brands that have nailed it. No pressure Santa, it’s over to you and Rudolph.

1. Take an elfie to share the festive love

SANTA SOLUTION: Use Augmented Reality (AR) to drive engagement.
Christmas cards are evolving and can be customised to include everything from personalised pooch messages to animated dancing e-cards with your face on them (well played Santa’s Twerk Shop). However, this is the first time we’ve seen AR used like this. We love it; we’re huge fans of AR and have used it in several recent campaigns. By snapping a selfie with an elfie, customers unlock a bespoke Christmas world and create animated AR Christmas cards to send to friends and family. There are three different elfies, Merry, Jingles and Jolly, in three different retail locations.


2. Let customers build festive magic with DIY gingerbread dive-bar packs

SANTA SOLUTION: Let customers craft and share brand love for you.
While the original Gingerbread House almost spelt the end for Hansel and Gretel, Miller High Life has re-interpreted the classic fable for its loyal blue-collar customer base. Miller created a limited-edition DIY gingerbread kit so that customers could recreate their favourite local dive bar using spicy cookie dough and other sweet treats. The level of authentic detail is impressive. It comes with beer-infused walls and sticky floors (thanks to maple syrup), a pool table, a dartboard, vintage Miller wall art, miniature neon signs, a tiny jukebox, and an outdoor patio for cornhole tournaments. Here are some of the building ingredients: peppermint discs, pretzel sticks, crackers, candy corn and gumdrops. By reinterpreting this time-honoured festive tradition, Miller is spreading Christmas cheer (and plenty of beer-based cheers) in their own unique way. It has already earned plenty of user-generated content and organic link love.


3. Transform old traditions into new brand tricks: The Ugly Holiday Coffee Cup

SANTA SOLUTION: Toast new traditions and smarter subscriptions.
Christmas jumpers are more than a tradition, they’re a festive standard. Panera has re-interpreted this tradition in their own way by creating a festive-themed line-up of coffee cups with deliberately unaesthetic By partnering with viral sensation and satirical TikTok ‘designer’, Emily Zugay, they launched their 2021 Holiday Cup Collection that’s designed to make people laugh and to remind them that what matters most is what’s on the inside. In this case, it’s the gift of unlimited premium Panera coffee. Now you can gift your special someone with a two or three-month coffee subscription. These reusable holiday cups were created to celebrate the launch of the first-in-the-industry unlimited coffee club and help subscribers be more eco-conscious.


4. Upgrade window shopping into an interactive visual concert with AR

SANTA SOLUTION: Turn windows into slick 3D stages with social media benefits. As one of the world’s most famous shops, Harrods is constantly innovating. Its festive window theme, “Witness a Spectacle”, is centred on a feasting table that stretches across several windows in its Brompton Road store. The table includes a range of home and accessory brands, and each window has a QR code. When customers scan each code, that part of the table display comes to life with AR experiences and offers unique festive filters and animations. This stellar AR work was created by Visualise agency.

5. Turn customers into Santa’s on reboxing day

SANTA SOLUTION: Connect more people and drive customer numbers through charity. Vodafone’s latest campaign, Give the gift of connection, is focused on getting the public to donate their old devices to tackle digital poverty and exclusion in the UK. It aims to return Boxing Day to its original purpose: a day of giving back. A big part of this multi-channel plan is a humongous LED box with transparent screens and oversized touchscreens on London’s South Bank. The box reacts to people passing by and helps to spread the campaign messaging. The customers type in their pledge of old devices along with their details on the touchscreens, and then Vodafone sends them a pre-paid donation pack. Everyone who pledges is able to ‘Santa-fy’ themselves with a festive gif that customers can share on social media, and they get a decoration for their Christmas tree. Those who can’t visit the big box can request the donation bags online.


The five inspirational examples provide plenty of ideas to safely craft a new Christmas experience that turns heads for all the right reasons. Whether it’s plugging in all the latest tech (VR, AR, IoT, or our pick, VAs – Virtual Atoms) or reworking an old tradition, there are several creative ways to make this Christmas more wonderful and memorable.

All of these Covid limitations are igniting out-of-the-box thinking and both customers and marketers are benefitting. People are desperate to feel the Christmas spirit; so, if you get it right, you’ll earn brand love and engagement that lasts long after the decorations are packed away.

Our hardworking elves are ready to craft a better Christmas for you and your brand. Drop us a line here, and we’ll create a potent, safe, live campaign together that sets your brand up for success. Want a live sample of our merry mojo? Let us host a FREE masterclass for you.

Author bio


#momofboys, aspiring entrepreneur, lover of change, disliker of wastefulness. My dad once described me as “having the ability to find beauty in the strangest places”, which is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me.