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Student-made John Lewis advert, what does this mean for brands?

Only a few days ago an 18-year-old A-Levels student accidentally convinced the nation that the new Christmas John Lewis advert had landed….and it was good! Despite being uploaded in June, video views surged on YouTube a few days ago fooling many in believing it was the real thing. It also prompted fans to ask John Lewis to hire the student (whilst London-based PR agency, W have already offered the student a job) and some comments have been made that it may in fact be better than the real deal.

So what does this mean for John Lewis and in fact for any brand? For John Lewis specifically, the most obvious thing is that expectations were even higher for the delivery of the perfect Christmas advert; but what this really means for all brands is that one individual can have a huge impact on the brand’s reputation and sentiment with minimum effort.

In this case, the advert boosted positivity for the brand for two reasons; mainly the advert was good but also the retailer’s response in inviting the student behind-the-scenes of the making of the real advert has been well-received. But what if the opposite had happened and the advert was bad, therefore boosting negative reactions? John Lewis would have had to exercise “damage control” whilst still complimenting the student for his efforts and wait for their online sentiment to return to normal.

However if we take this as a warning, what this video should do is remind marketers of the power of the consumer. This should remind us that customers can very easily create videos or social content of any kind to share their real brand experience and thoughts and now even pass it as brands’ own content. This means that if a brand is saying one thing, a customer can easily destroy or reinforce any cleverly planned marketing campaign if they don’t or do believe the campaign to be true. For example, fans could post images or photos of badly organised stores, take screenshots of good or bad customer service received online, create spoof ads that “tell the truth” to de-bunk myths or as a way of supporting the brand, and so on.

As we approach the start of a new year, this video cleverly reminds us that real, good marketing doesn’t just stop at communications, advertising and PR; it should encompass the company’s culture, services, goods, and be a living and breathing entity of each organisation. It also reinforces that never before has listening, consumer and staff engagement been more crucial for brand success.

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