Aldi takeover: What we learned from the UK's favorite carrot

Kelsey Sullivan, Janine Klimko, Rhys Hillan & Mollie Ayris

If you live in the UK, you’re likely familiar with Aldi’s “Kevin the Carrot,” an animated veggie who’s been included in their blockbuster Christmas ads for the last seven years. 

And now Kevin the Carrot is back for another holiday season. Aldi recently launched its 2022 holiday ad featuring Kevin in a full Home Alone scenario, left at home while his family was set to jet off to Paris (with a few troublemakers to deal with). But is this year’s ad as effective as Kevin’s previous holiday appearances? 

We decided to research all seven of Aldi’s holiday ads dating back to 2016 that featured Kevin to find out what consumers thought of this year’s ad as well as how they felt about Kevin overall in comparison to John Lewis’ iconic holiday ads.

That's a wrap! The UK’s top Christmas ads 2023

For more holiday ad content, check out our article on the UK’s top Christmas ads of 2023.

Carrot lovers are everywhere

After testing Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot holiday ads spanning 2016 to 2022, our data shows that they appear to be some of the most effective ads in the UK. 

Each ad consistently scored in the top 10% of all tested ads in terms of driving both brand consideration (behavior change) and brand appeal (as shown in the chart below). 

And this year’s ad continues the winning streak! It is exceptionally well loved (in the top 2% of all ads we’ve looked at), clearly connected to Aldi (top 6%) and in the top 2% of ads in driving brand consideration.

So what are the key ingredients of Aldi’s ads that make up this winning formula? Here’s what we found…

Aldi’s winning formula

Our data tells us that there are four key ingredients that make up Aldi’s winning formula:

  1. Consistency (while still keeping it fresh)

  2. Playfulness, cuteness and humor 

  3. Fairytale and Christmassy feel with a happy ending

  4. Universal feeling of togetherness in food context

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these elements, as well as how Aldi compares to John Lewis, another big-time UK holiday advertiser.

1. Consistency (while still keeping it fresh)

Kevin appears in Aldi’s holiday ads year after year, with his story continuing on from previous years, building a strong brand association with Aldi.

Returning to Kevin year after year now easily triggers the Aldi brand in people’s minds and makes them think positively about the brand. And his versatility gives a lot of room to keep things fresh by playing with new stories over time.

People find it easy to immediately associate the ads with Aldi, helping to push brand salience. From the first year, there was a strong connection to the brand, with their 2016 ad being in the top 20% of all ads tested in the UK. And this has continued to grow thanks to Kevin and the Aldi formula — making this year’s ad unmistakingly Aldi, as it landed in the top 6% of all ads ever tested in the UK.

In fact, Aldi has become famous for Kevin the Carrot which is explicitly captured in consumer feedback. Here’s a few examples of what our respondents said: 

"Kevin is a cult figure and an integral part of Christmas" "Humorous, people always look forward to the Aldi Christmas adverts with Kevin the Carrot"

"It was Xmassy and atmospheric, the food all looked great and fitted well with the ongoing Kevin the Carrot story that Aldi is now well known for at Xmas"

But in addition to being consistent in telling Kevin’s story, Aldi still makes an effort to keep things fresh by expanding and further developing Kevin’s tale in new and unexpected ways, continuing to hold consumers' interest. This year, that story focuses on Kevin being trapped alone at home, playing on moments from the well-loved holiday movie Home Alone.

2. Playfulness, cuteness and humor

Each of the Kevin the Carrot ads feature a variety of human-like carrots and other veggies or snacks that are undeniably cute and keep the ad lighthearted, funny and sweet (with this year’s ad dialing up the humorous side even further). This fits with Aldi’s positioning as a more affordable, “friendly” and less serious brand.

As seen in the chart above, combined, Aldi’s holiday ads perform significantly above the norm on cuteness and laughter, one of the most difficult emotions to evoke.

In the cuteness category, Aldi scores four times higher than the norm (42.8% vs 10.8%) and its 2020 Kevin the Carrot & Hedgehog ad scored the highest for cuteness (49%).

Here’s what some of our respondents had to say: 

"The stories are always heartwarming, the graphics are great and the characters are too cute for words"

"The idea of family and being together at Christmas and the added cuteness and difference that it’s carrots doing the representation instead of people"

"The characters are cute and makes you feel Christmassy"

For laughter, Aldi ad scored three times higher than norm (22.6% vs 7.6%). Some of our most-loved lines that drew some laughs were the food related puns, such as: 

"I think I just pea-d myself"

"Right in the nuts"

"Come on, Tommy, ketchup!"

"You should try icing it” Respondents also directly referenced its humor in their verbatims, saying things like:  

"The resemblance to Home Alone which brings back my childhood memories. The sense of humour (the snowman part) made me laugh out loud."

"I liked the humor and how cute the carrots' voices were. And the line "straight in the nuts" made me giggle. It made me excited for Christmas."

"It was vibrant, funny and told a story that I think kids especially would love."

3. Fairytale and Christmassy feel with a happy ending

With its snowy imagery and rhyming narration that reminds us of “The Night Before Christmas,” all of Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot ads also evoke a strong feeling of Christmastime.

One of our respondents shared: "The setting and lighting of the advert depicted what is everyone ideal Christmas scene with snow on the ground, and Christmas lights illuminating everywhere"

Each of Aldi’s ads tend to use fairytale-like voice over, including rhymes and typically have a happy ending, which drives the emotions of happiness, love and excitement.

As shown in the chart above, the strongest, most positive emotional drivers of Overall Appeal are happy, love and excitement. With Aldi’s ads performing significantly above the norm on all three of these categories — love (27.2% vs 13.5%), happy (56.2% vs 35%), excitement (22.2% vs 13.9%) — a focus on positive, emotional content may be the key to the success of Aldi’s holiday ads.

This was certainly prevalent in this year’s ad as well, with Kevin successfully thwarting his home intruders and being reunited with his family (and Santa!) at the end.

4. Universal feeling of togetherness in food context

Year after year, we see Kevin reunite with family and loved ones at Christmas — emphasized even more this year with the Home Alone story.

This is particularly shown in relation to food, and how it brings people together, especially during the holiday season. Since Aldi is a supermarket, the focus on food as a core element in the story helps to ensure each ad remains relevant to the Aldi brand.

References to food and family togetherness are some of the most cited likes by our respondents, stating:

"Because this is about Christmas and tasty foods and enjoy with family" "Highlights Christmas food and is family orientated"

"The concept of family and the food"

So how does Aldi compare to John Lewis?

Both advertisers are highly successful with their holiday advertising, however, each does so in their own way to fit their brand. 

Here’s where they differ: 

  • Emotional and deep vs playful and lighthearted: John Lewis’ ads are typically highly emotional and convey a deep feeling, pulling on people’s heartstrings. Aldi, on the other hand, is more lighthearted, humourous, playful, upbeat and exciting. Both these approaches fit well with each brand’s personality and positioning.

  • Ever-changing vs consistent characters: John Lewis’ campaign of holiday ads is a series of disconnected stories that simply share characteristics of how they are told, while Aldi’s is a series of connected stories over time that follow one character.

While both brands' ads perform extremely well in Likeability, Aldi comes out as having the leading edge on brand consideration.

When looking at brand appeal and brand consideration, our data shows that the top three Aldi ads outperform the top three John Lewis ads on consideration, but are still performing similarly on brand appeal. 

Aldi’s success is also shown in their recent IPA Effectiveness Award, where the brand was noted as usurping John Lewis to become the UK public’s favorite Christmas ads.

It is worth noting that while Aldi is slightly outperforming John Lewis in these areas, both brands’ ads are performing well above the norm, making them both incredibly successful. And since they’ve both approached the format of their ads so differently, it’s clear that they’ve cracked the code of what works best for their own individual brands — making no approach better than the other.

The secret to a successful John Lewis Christmas ad

Check out the analysis we did on the history of the brand’s ads to see if we could crack the magic formula for a successful John Lewis Christmas ad.

Wrapping up

Aldi’s holiday ads formula seems to be working more than ever, as the brand continues to create ads that are loved, recognized and on brand. 

They also continue to resonate with the consumer, telling the consistently playful, humorous, happy stories that people expect from Aldi at Christmas. 

We look forward to seeing what other brands like Coca-Cola have in store for us this year. And stay tuned for our analysis of the big players in the US. 

If you’re interested in learning how to create ads people love, start a conversation with us.

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