Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat….or maybe not.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat….or maybe not.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat….or maybe not.

The traditions of Christmas are changing, led largely by consumer habits which have changed immeasurably over the last few decades, and which are impacting upon some of the best-known Christmas traditions.  Christmas has had to change and adapt to the effects of our consumer led society, which got me thinking….if Christmas were a brand, how would it have to adapt?

The Christmas Card tradition is apparently dying out, and this is being blamed, in part, on the social media effect.  More and more of us are taking to social media to send our festive messages without the need to purchase and send potentially costly and time consuming cards – why bother buying numerous packs of Christmas cards, spending precious time writing them, purchasing costly stamps and getting them in the post before that all important last post deadline, when you can type one message, adorn it with festive images and perhaps a falling snowflake background, and cover off all of your contacts in one simple, free, click?

So how does the social media effect have an impact on the brand Christmas™?  With social media showing no signs of slowing down, brands need to be aware of their social media presence….as a brand owner, you need to take steps to secure protection for your valued twitter handles, and ensure that you are not infringing existing rights in your choice of handle.  You will need to actively monitor third parties on social media, and will need to ensure that your registered protection covers you for your social media activities, which no doubt are significantly altered and extended from only a few years ago at the birth of social media, and which may well post-date your registered protection for quite some years; it is highly likely that older registrations will require updating or extension.

The turkey tradition is seeing a large downturn in popularity thanks in part to the environmental factor.  We’ve all heard of “meat free Monday”, but how about “meat free Christmas”?  The general appetite for turkey at Christmas has been on the decline over recent years, with the last 20 years demonstrating a decline of around 50% from 33.6m birds in 1998 to around 14.3m in 2017.  But more than this, the vegetarian and vegan markets have never been so strong, and this Christmas time, the supermarkets are responding in force by increasing their supply of plant-based ranges.  All the major supermarkets have significantly increased their offering on last year; Morrisons reports offering around 45 festive vegan items this year, a huge increase from 2018 when it offered only 8, and Tesco’s own report states that a third of UK families will have a vegetarian or vegan option on the table this year.  So Christmas is being affected by the environmental factor, the turkeys are having their own kind of celebration, and there’s a good chance that the big man himself may soon ditch the reindeers for an environmentally friendly electric sleigh.

But how does the environmental factor affect the brand Christmas™?  Brands are conscious that they need to adapt to accommodate the environmental factor, reducing plastics and waste, and offering more environmentally friendly alternatives.  As a brand owner, you need to ensure that any changes you make do not infringe existing third party rights, and that you secure adequate protection for any extension activities or products that you may develop in your pursuit of satisfying the environmental conscience.

The Christmas shopping tradition is changing significantly.  Shopping is a well-worn tradition of this time of year with the average household spending over £800 more in the month of December than their usual monthly spend, and the new traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are increasing our spending in November too.  But the shopping tradition has undergone a rapid change over the last few years, with one national survey reporting that around 40% of respondents would be turning to the internet for their Christmas shopping this year, and with the value of online shopping having nearly doubled over the past 5 years, now accounting for £1 in every £6 we spend.  Whilst online shopping has its convenience, it has huge pitfalls too.  Not least that the provenance of products is not so easy to determine online, and it becomes much more difficult for consumers to buy with confidence.

But how does the online shopping factor impact on the brand Christmas™?  Never has the phrase “buyer beware” been more prevalent than in the online age, and consumers are finding that products purchased online, which they believed to be genuine are actually fake and faulty.  A recent report into online purchases of board games indicates that around 60% of online sales of some of the most popular board games are fakes, resulting in negative online reviews, and having a huge impact on consumer satisfaction and consumer confidence.   As a brand owner, the reputation and goodwill that you enjoy in your brand is your life-blood.  It dictates consumer satisfaction and ensures repeat business and consumer recommendations.

Fake and infringing products will cause serious damage to that reputation, and can rock consumer confidence in your brand.  It only takes a few negative mentions on social media for a brand to suffer huge losses.  As a brand owner it is crucial that you have effective online monitoring in place to ensure that your trade marks are not being infringed and that fake products are not flooding the marketplace.  You need to ensure that your registered protection covers you for your online usage, and that your protection is sufficiently broad in geographical scope for the online age.  Ensuring that your customs applications are up to date is an essential part of monitoring goods coming into the country via online shopping sites, and ensuring that you respond quickly and efficiently to any requests for assistance from customs officers will ensure that your brand is rigorously protected.  As a brand owner, you also need to ensure that you monitor your own activities to avoid infringing third party rights; ensure that your use of keywords and adwords is within the permitted uses, and ensure that any new online activity, given its lack of geographical boundaries, does not encroach on third party rights which would not previously have been infringed offline.

But there are some traditions which show no sign of dying out…the Christmas advertising tradition.

We all sit and wait with baited breath to see the John Lewis Christmas advert, and this year’s tear-jerker didn’t disappoint (although a special mention has to be made for @JohnLewis, the US lecturer who every year endures, with admirable mirth, around 50,000 tweets intended for the UK based retailer, and sees a spike in those tweets around the time of the advert release – see the earlier point on Twitter handles!), and outrageously exotic, yet entirely arbitrary perfume adverts are never in short supply.  And everyone knows that Christmas hasn’t started until that red lorry drives over the horizon to the background chant of “holidays are coming, holidays are coming”.

But what does advertising mean for the brand Christmas™?  As a brand owner, you need to ensure that your advertising is within permitted uses, will not fall foul of advertising standards, and in particular that any comparative advertising you may undertake does not amount to trade mark infringement.  Proper attention must be paid to the content of any advertisements, and the brand owner should ensure that all necessary permissions are obtained for the content of their advertisements, including images, copy and sounds.

It is clear that Christmas traditions are changing, evolving and in some cases, dying out completely, largely at the hands of consumer behaviour and influence.  As a brand owner, you’re always aware of consumer behaviour and the need to adapt your brand offering accordingly.  But you also need to be aware of the IP implications and how you may need to adapt your protection strategies accordingly.  Come and speak to us anytime about how your IP strategy can help you adapt to consumer behaviour, at Christmas, or any time of the year.