Every year we patiently wait for the Christmas ads to drop, often readying ourselves for a rollercoaster of emotions! And as always exceptions run high thanks to what many have coined “The John Lewis Effect”: ads that are emotionally charged through their storytelling and choice of popular music track.

In behavioural science terms, there’s a strong argument that The John Lewis Effect should be added to the 170+ behavioural bias that are identified to influence peoples’ behaviours. As with any bias, The John Lewis Effect is made up of triggers that influence people to act in a certain way, whether that’s laugh, cry, sing, dance or (most importantly) purchase the brand!

In saying this, The John Lewis Effect is in full flow again this year. With several brands following tried and tested structure. From just reading the list below, you know what to expect from the ads by both by their campaign lines and soundtracks.

Amazon – Let’s smile together
Track: Everybody needs somebody – Solomon Burke

Argos – The Book of Dreams
Track: Don’t you (forget about me) – Simple Minds

Visa – #WhereYouShopMatters
Track: Somebody to love – Queen

M&S – GO jumpers for Christmas
Track: Jump Around – House of Pain

Walkers – All Mariah Carey wants this Christmas | Too Good To Share
Track: All I want for Christmas – Mariah Carey

But there’s an exception…

Ikea’s Christmas ad has started to redefine The John Lewis Effect. “Silence the critics” works because it doesn’t apply The John Lewis Effect to the letter. OK there’s a fun story and music track, but it’s wrapped up in an unpretentious, charming and surprising way. There’s no reliance on a known music artist or song, but rather a relatively unknown Grime artist, D Double E, and a track penned specially for this advert (which also in turn acts as a brilliantly written script). If you haven’t seen it, take a look, it’s great.

Quick update…

The John Lewis ad was released the day after this blog went live.

We’ll let you be the judge of whether it uses The John Lewis Effect.

Behavioural science and Christmas

There are many biases that can play an important role in making your comms more effective. Just some of these biases are linked below:


Hot cognition



Loss aversion

How to apply behavioural science to marketing…

You can apply these biases and many more to make your marketing more effective starting today. Our report digs deep into how to do this. Download it here.

Alternatively we can give you a crash course in applying them…

Our Behavioural Training Academy is lead by experts in applying behavioural science. It will enlighten you and your team with unique behavioural marketing skills and how to apply them.

By Phil Monks

Deputy Creative Director