The John Lewis approach to Christmas marketing - create an emotive video and share it across owned, earned and paid channels has become the norm for retail brands, who are content to stick to what they know works. However, this year, Lidl have tried something different with their ‘The LIDLSocial Price Drop’ – an ongoing campaign with new content every week.

Why have Lidl looked to break from the crowd? Well it’s clear from looking at the views and engagement figures around big bang content that the momentum they generate is relatively short lived. This is especially true on Facebook where interest in Christmas campaigns lasted just 2 days on average. YouTube offers a longer half-life, with John Lewis and Sainsbury’s seeing ongoing interest in their Christmas campaigns for weeks after the videos went live. But, even on YouTube, the majority of views come within the first 48 hours – John Lewis’ day on day views halved after the first day and there has been a steady downwards decline in daily interest since.

Enter Lidl – whose #LidlSurprises campaign has been one of the advertising highlights of 2016. With the Social Price Drop, Lidl have attempted to subvert the formula and build momentum over time through a lean-in campaign, rather than sitting back and relying on a video to generate interest in the brand. The theory is attractive in practice – generate interest throughout the Christmas period, rather than relying on 1-2 days of mad conversation. It’s especially attractive when you consider most of your competition are taking the big bang approach – often all at the same time.

The initial response was highly positive – during week 1 Lidl saw their average daily audience growth and mentions on Twitter double compared to their normal performance – showing that audience interest can be maintained over more than 2 days, providing you keep your content fresh.

However, between the first and fourth week of the campaign, Lidl saw a 60% drop off in users mentioning the campaign, suggesting the campaign idea lacked the legs to maintain interest over a more extended period. However, follower growth remained broadly consistent throughout the campaign – showing that the momentum activity was at least getting Lidl in front of a new audience and encouraging them the brand was worth following.

It’s important to remember that Lidl’s campaign was likely done on a much smaller budget than the big blockbuster videos and so these results can’t be compared on a purely numbers basis. But, we can see from the decline that regardless of spend, all campaigns face the same challenge – how do you maintain the initial buzz which comes with the launch of a new campaign.

So what is required to make these campaigns a lasting success? In a word – influencers. Think of the most memorable campaigns of the last 2-3 years which have had staying power – they’ve all had a strong influencer component to ensure audiences engaged with them over time and brands weren’t entirely reliant on a big bang paid and earned push which can only ever maintain momentum for so long. Take Like a Girl – we think of it as starting with Emma Watson, but in reality she was one of a number of planned peaks built around influencers. The campaign itself had been slowly building momentum in the weeks before her now famous UN speech, but it was this which caused the spark to turn into a fire.

We’re not all lucky enough to have Emma Watson, but for campaigns focusing on a specific audience, we don’t need her. What is needed is carefully thought through relationships with influencers from within your audience – figuring out how you can work with them to ignite interest on a weekly basis. That could be anything from doing a live Q+A with them on your own channel on a Monday to following up with content from partner bloggers across the next week.

Big bang campaigns aren’t going away – but what Lidl have showed us is that there is room for innovation. The challenge for brands looking to deviate from the norm is how to maintain interest from an audience who are primed to expect occasional big bangs and then relative quiet periods.

By Moses Velasco, Chief Strategist at Socialbakers.

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