YouScrooge: Judgement Day

Christmas came. The geese got fat. We all put our pennies in the marketing hat. Now Christendom is relaxing in the afterglow of the festive season and awaiting the rattle of the letterbox as the sniggering credit card bills and bolshy bank statements arrive.

As Christmas was approaching, PushON launched our festive questionnaire, YouScrooge, to ascertain just how much the great British public viewed the way the marketing industry latches onto the festivities to boost sales (I think it’s called irony). If you haven’t sat the quiz, we presented ten marketing aspects and users slid the pointer from “love” to “loathe”. The ten subjects were:

1. Christmas marketing campaigns in general
2. How they get earlier every year
3. How copywriters deck the halls with clichés
4. Christmas jumpers: funny or not?
5. Christmas flavours in coffee houses
6. Black Friday and everything to do with it
7. Everyone getting overanalytical about Christmas TV ads
8. European markets using up our squares
9. Dreadful in-store music assaulting our cultivated taste for 1D
10. Caring about the Christmas number one single

Scanning the list, you’ll no doubt have come across one of your pet peeves. Well now you can find out if you’re normal, because here’s a breakdown of the results.

A Negativity Scene

Results were added up and averaged into a humbug scale, and came in from 0 (love it) to 100 (hate it), with 50 being meh.

We can report that not a single element of marketing agencies’ finely tuned, extensively researched, hastily cobbled together festive efforts made it into the love zone. Although with the lowest being 53 and the highest 69, it’s fair to say that we don’t harbour enormous loathing either. Customers seem to be largely ambivalent to a Christmas marketing machine that pretty much repeats itself annually. A bit like Christmas itself, really.


People Prefer their Marketing in its Traditional Guise

The top popularity spot was occupied by Christmas markets, which got an approval rating of not 73, not 63 and not 53; but for you, the British public, it got 53.47. That means that the average person neither loves nor hates them, although with some individuals cranking the slider to max, we suspect rather a lot end up there involuntarily.

This is exactly what Christmas markets are like.

Every city now has a Christmas market, which always makes me wonder where they come from and what they do outside the festive period. The last person I thought that about turned out to be a massive fraud, so I’m just saying check your change and always get your deposit back for your glühwein mug.

Jumpers For Joy

Christmas jumpers were the second least-detested thing at 54.33. From dodgy origins in the 1960s or whenever (academic research is lacking) they have become ubiquitous over the past few years. They’re often cheap and tacky, but how much quality do you need in a garment you’ll wear precisely once?

Charity plays a part, which could explain the tempered negativity. Pay a quid to charity and wear a Snowman jumper to work/school/court. Who could argue with that? Well a few people pointed out that the supermarkets make quite a bit of money selling sweatshop jumpers so you should only buy jumpers from retailers who donate their Xmas jumper profits too. That happens.

The Gas Giants

Seasonally inspired drinks (56), Christmas music (58), giving TV ads write-ups in the Arts sections (58), Christmas marketing campaigns (59) and lazy copywriting (60) showed that the marketing and advertising sector might have some way to go before it convinces the public that they really should be buying into this Christmas thing a bit more.

Besides, people had more spleen to vent.

The Darkest Day

“I saw it first.”

It’s here, and there’s no getting away from it. Black Friday was trialled in 2013 and passed for human consumption in 2014, with practically every retailer and customer feeling like they’d miss out if they weren’t somehow involved. The news channels loved it, of course, as they could laugh at the stupid things common people do in supermarkets like scrapping over TVs at 10% off the market price.

The real story wasn’t happening in the aisles, though; it was happening over a glass of red and a warm lap as armchair shoppers crashed websites and sat in virtual queues for an hour only to be told that the product they were looking for (a heat-resistant ironing board) was sold out. 2014 was the year Black Friday resembled Black Mirror, and it was humbugged to 63.

Premature Jubilation

There was quite a jump to humbug 67 for what is essentially a fact: that Christmas marketing campaigns seem to start earlier every year. Every retailer engages in a game of blink first, but one of them always seems to get the first autumn leaf in their eye and the whole stampede begins.

We’re reminded in August that we need to buy a Christmas sofa on interest free credit subject to personal circumstances; in September that we need to refresh our wardrobes and get this year’s LBD in time for the “party season” (one words do and a family viewing of the 1988 Christmas Only Fools); in October that it’s not too early to start boiling the sprouts; in November that you should really be hand-crafting your decorations; and in December that you’re probably too late for everything.

People want their festive seasons to start during the festive season, and now we’ve got the proof.

That Elusive Number One Spot

So here we are at number one, the thing that winds us up the most about the marketing industry’s foie-gras approach to getting us to buy their wares. It’s Simon.

Our humbuggered sliders averaged out at 69 when it came to judging the new-found obsession with the Christmas number one. Spurred on by legends of Noddy Holder’s royalty payment that he still manages to get up once a year, some enterprising minds decided to have a competition whereby the winner of an emotional roller-coaster journey (or an aeon-long televised Butlin’s talent show) would be almost guaranteed a Christmas number one. The winner would be carved into the pantheon of pub quiz trivia. The Svengali would get the fat cheques. The public would get another cover version to sing along to. Win-win-win.

Faintly diverting at first, the talent shows now dominate the tabloids, and the broadsheets can’t resist a faux ironic gander. Even the BBC news will announce the results of ITV shows. It’s that crazy. Marketing has, it seems, successfully made the Christmas number one important again, which it had stopped being about ten years earlier when Top of the Pops went off the air. But who can name any of the songs or artists that the talent shows have boosted to the snowy heights?

Anything that makes you long for Wham!, Cliff Richard and Shakin’ Stevens needs to be given some sceptical attention. If you think this is true, the YouScroogers agree. Go and bask in your tastefulness and wisdom.

And as for you, Christmas marketers and music-pushers, don’t come back till December. (Unless you’re the type of marketer that sells roasted chestnuts at two for a pound. You’re now officially reluctantly tolerated.)