Holiday videos are a chance for marketers to set aside their (well-intentioned) product-pushing agendas and focus on making a really good video, for the sake of making a really good video. And, as some of the most creative culture videos out there, holiday videos should show off the real heart of your company—whether that’s family-focused, laugh out loud funny, or maybe even edgy.
If the thought of coming up with the perfect video idea is cramping your holiday cheer—relax. We’ve rounded up a list of holiday video ideas so good, you’re going to want to pull a Grinch and steal them all. And you can! In fact, you should bookmark this post and come back to it year after year.
From big corporate commercials to personal email video greetings, the holidays are your chance to say thank you to customers and contacts, and a great way to flex those storytelling muscles to create pure enjoyment alongside brand awareness.
So toss on those holiday tunes and grab a box of tissues, because things are about to get merry and bright up in here (not because it’s also cold season).
Blockbuster Commercials: Holiday Video Ideas That Go Big
Let’s start with the blue sky holiday video ideas: Big companies, big budgets, and big production value. The most successful corporate holiday videos can be as quotable and memorable as your favorite holiday movie. The key is to focus on brand awareness and full-fledged entertainment value. Whether you’re a big brand or aspiring to their level of warmth and fuzziness, there’s something here for you.
1. Sainsbury’s: “1914”
When it comes to large-scale holiday marketing videos, British grocery and department stores are a category unto themselves. Even then, there are always the standout hits. This 2014 spot from Sainsbury’s literally had me crying on my keyboard. This ad spot takes viewers back in time to 1914 and a very real Christmas truce that happened during the First World War. It doesn’t overtly promote Sainsbury’s, but it does promote conversations around the holiday dinner table. Come on Grinches, “Christmas is for sharing!”
Stealable Tip: Focus on creating a talk trigger that doesn’t necessarily promote your product, but instead starts conversations about your brand. The good sentiment from creating something of emotional value will reflect back on your brand in a positive way that goes beyond traditional promotions.
2. Microsoft: “Reindeer Games, Featuring Owen and The Xbox Adaptive Controller”
Big tech companies also rank high when it comes to emotional grand gesture holiday marketing videos. It was tough to narrow it down, but I had to choose one. I went with Microsoft’s 2018 “Reindeer Games, Featuring Owen and The Xbox Adaptive Controller” because, besides pulling on the heartstrings, it tells a story I’ve never heard before. Owen is a 9-year-old boy who was born with a rare syndrome that makes it hard for him to use standard video game controllers. But, like most 9-year-old-boys, he loves video games! Sure, the Microsoft product is the hero of the story, but the spot focuses largely on the concept of inclusivity and strength in diversity. “When everybody plays, we all win.”
Stealable Tip: Tell a new story for once! A good narrative (with interesting characters) keeps viewers watching until the very end. And don’t be afraid to make real people the stars. It can add authenticity and heart to your video.
3. New Zealand Airlines: “The Nicest Christmas Ever”
Okay, this one is just plain fun. Thanks to a classic email misfire, the naughty kids of the world get their hands on Santa’s list. New Zealand Airlines brings them all together for an international summit of naughty kids where they discuss the best way to make it onto the nice list. Don’t you wish the U.N. was this efficient? With a jab at Trump to boot, this ad really does feel like “The Nicest Christmas Ever” (and I thought Canadians were nice).
Stealable Tip: When searching for holiday video ideas, focus on content that is both current and relatable. There’s no doubt this video had viewers from all over the world chuckling. And although it doesn’t hurt, telling a fully-formed story like this doesn’t actually require a huge budget.
Personalized Picks: Holiday Video Ideas with a Personal Touch
Now we’ve seen how the pros make creative marketing holiday videos. But if you’re not in the market for a million-dollar TV commercial, there is another way to wow viewers while also stirring up engagement, and it’s all through the power of personalization.
Remember Elf Yourself? Originated in 2006 by the advertising firm Toy New York for OfficeMax, this internet classic generates a video with your face on a dancing elf body. It was racking up 200 hits a second in its first year—which just goes to show how much people love something that’s personalized to them. Now there are ways for businesses to create a (somewhat more professional) personalized video to delight audience.
4. Quorum Software: “Welcome to Santa’s Modern Workshop”
As a company that provides digital solutions to the oil industry, Quorum Software may not immediately remind you of the North Pole. But they took a cue from “Elf Yourself” to create a personalized video in place of a generic holiday card or eCard. The result was a fun video with an upbeat vibe and a story that nodded to their product and featured their own employees.
Stealable Tip: Although Quorum’s video was created for viewers with prior knowledge of the product, the story still makes sense to an outsider. That’s because they wove their product into the story in a natural way and made sure to keep the video short and sweet.
5. Axonify: “Operation Red”
Because personalized video is best sent through email, you can get as specific as you want when addressing your audience. When creating their personalized video, the microlearning platform Axonify wrote a script just for their network and client base. They featured employees and their product played a key role throughout the video. With personalization points embedded throughout the video, recipients were sure to feel seen and valued as Axonify clients.
Stealable Tip: The willingness to feature employees on camera shows a sense of authenticity while adding a face-to-face personal touch that you just won’t get from a card or gift basket.
6. Vidyard: Personalized Holiday Video
Vidyard has a long-standing tradition of creating an annual holiday video. Over the years some have been company-specific and some have been made for a wider reach. For 2019, we decided to make a personalized video that others could adopt as their own and send out to their own audience.
As a gift meant to be regifted, it had to be generic while at the same time fun and engaging. To achieve this, we focused on ways to make the personalization the star of the show while tying in call-backs to our favorite holiday movies. After all, who wouldn’t want to have Buddy the Elf sing them a special song?
Stealable Tip: When making your own personalized video, the thumbnail is what makes the difference between someone pressing play, and moving on. A great thumbnail always includes a personalization point so the viewer sees something specific to them (usually their name). You should also offset your framing to accommodate the space taken up by the play button—otherwise it could end up overlapping the thing you’re trying to highlight.
Viral Videos: Holiday Video Ideas Fit for the Masses
Personalization is great, but if you don’t have a defined list of recipients or your primary distribution channel is social media, you may need something more general. With a scrappy budget and time to plan, a shareable holiday video could be just what you need for a wider reach. The following are examples of holiday videos that everyone can enjoy.
7. Hootsuite: The Hootsuite Holiday Owl
Two words: SO. CUTE! Social media software company Hootsuite added their own twist to the fireplace channel with this adorable 40-minute yule log video of a sleepy little owl basking in the glow of a crackling fire. One shot, one set, one owl. Cozy up with a blanket and watch it for yourself. (Lagavulin Whiskey executed the same concept with Nick Offerman and a bottle of whiskey, if that’s more your style.)
Fun fact: The owl was from a wildlife rehab center and his name is Snoopy.
Stealable Tip: With all the time and effort you put into video creation, it’s great when you make something that your company can repromote year after year. Hootsuite made this video in 2014 and it still rises to the top of their holiday content every year, because it’s still great!
8. ADsmith: “Jingle Bell Rock: A Holiday Lip Dub”
Between the teens on TikTok and James Corden singing karaoke in cars, it’s hard to go wrong with a musical greeting. Feature your staff’s own smiling faces on camera for a personal touch like the employees of the marketing agency ADsmith did with “Jingle Bell Rock.” It’s a simple, but well-executed, lip dub video that takes viewers on a tour around the office while letting Adsmith’s company culture shine.
Stealable Tip: “Silent Night” is the most covered holiday song on Spotify with over 26,000 different versions available on the streaming platform. Classics are classics for a reason. Play on people’s nostalgia by nodding to existing pop culture references from music and film.
9. Confirmit: “Happy Holidays from Confirmit”
It’s an old rule of thumb that actors should refuse work involving children or animals. In the case of this video, no actor was necessary! Instead of hiring actors, the insight and customer research software company, Confirmit, created a heartwarming holiday video featuring an adorable puppy accompanied by text on screen. Even though it doesn’t use personalization technology, the video feels incredibly personal as the story takes place within a text message thread between the viewer and the precious pooch. This video is short, sweet, and shareable on social media, email, even text message.
Stealable Tip: The key to a polished video on a scrappy budget is using your existing assets—especially if that asset is an adorable puppy.
BONUS: A One-to-One Holiday Greeting
If the “dog ate your video” or if (like with your shopping list) you’ve unexpectedly run out of time, you have one more option to create an awesome holiday video that your audience will remember. I’m talking about a one-to-one webcam video (a.k.a. a selfie video). It’s easy, free, and just about the most personal you can get.
December isn’t the only time to create awesome culture videos. Delight your audience year round with videos for every holiday!