STB and ORBA respond to NCCS' concern over Disney Christmas lights

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has received feedback from the National Council of Churches (NCCS) that the streets of Orchard Road decorated for Christmas using Disney characters have "no meaningful connection" to the Christmas season. The decorations come as part of a three-year collaboration between STB and The Walt Disney Company Southeast Asia (Disney), while the campaign was led by Singapore’s Orchard Road Business Association (Orba).

Stating that the decorations were "disappointing", NCCS explained in a written letter to STB about the "increasing secularisation and commercialisation" of Christmas in Singapore. While it is not against specifically the use of Disney characters, Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian said that the organisation "wonders if [Disney characters] should be the focus of what is essentially a Christian festival".

Addressing the letter, STB director for dining and retail Ranita Sundra and Orba executive director Steven Goh said in a joint statement to Marketing that the light-up was "one of the several components" of the Christmas on a Great Street event in Orchard Road. Both added that the Christmas offerings are aimed to provide a range of experiences for different groups of visitors, both Christians and non-Christians.

In addition, Sundra and Goh explained that STB and Orba work with various organisations and partners every year to make the Orchard Road Christmas event "a distinctive and memorable affair with broad festive appeal" for all visitors to the street.

"This year's family-friendly, Disney-themed light-up follows the same approach, and is intended to complement the spirit of friendship and conviviality that we hope visitors will experience as they travel down Orchard Road," the statement said.

How your Christmas campaigns can stand out

As December comes knocking on the door, brands have also kick started their festive seasonal marketing activities. With retailers rushing to put up their Christmas decorations and marketers launching their heartfelt campaigns,  Christmas, Marketing spoke to several creative leads on their thoughts on how brands can cut through the clutter.

Guan Hin Tay, APAC Global Advisory said that there has to be a heartwarming purpose about Christmas, as the festival is about giving. Many a times during Christmas, there is hard selling about what is cheap and/or what to buy on the retail fronts and even on ads circulating online. Giving the example of Apple, Tay said the brand's Christmas ad called "Share Your Gifts" aimed to appeal emotionally.

According to Tay, picking people who look similar to an everyday individuals, will have a higher chance of resonating with viewers.

"The brands marketing during Christmas needs to be authentic way in the way they communicate their ads. 'Share Your Gifts' ad was a call for action and a brand needs to get consumers to take action in the way it is authentic and personal," Tay said, as people will share the brand with more intent and purposeful. He added:

Facts tell, stories sell.

Shouvik Prasanna Mukherjee, executive creative director at Golin, also added that it is important for brands to create relevance with its consumers rather than just stand out. He added that with the availability of data and insights, brands should look into consumer behaviour during the holiday season to analyse what emotionally touches or influences behaviour amongst the consumers during these festivities.

"The spirit of Christmas is about kindness, compassion, sharing with others and being with our families, and if a brand can tell authentic stories in an engaging way that appeals to these emotions, they’ll create the desired bond with their consumers. Creating emotional relevance will not just help them stand out, rather outstand any seasonal whim," he added.

And while brands can certainly stand out visually by creating something unusual, at the end of the day, they still need to realise that true impact is only created if it aligns to what the brand stands for.

Jessica Davey, chief marketing officer Asia Pacific, McCann Worldgroup chimed in and said that to cut through the Christmas marketing blitz, brands need to move past commercialism and understand what the meaningful role is for people.

"Consumers want brands with purpose more now than ever before. The holidays are not just about gifts, the holidays are about time with friends and family, to celebrate the good things in our lives. The brands that amplify and enable that are the brands that win, every time," she added.