Parody as a marketing tool – why Aldi just nailed it

Parody as a marketing tool – why Aldi just nailed it

In UK, the John Lewis Christmas ad is often viewed as the start of the Christmas season. Yesterday (November 25, 2015), Aldi released its latest Christmas ad – using parody as a marketing tool. But why are parodies winning the battle for our attention?

Parody and viral content

From endless memes to mashups and music video satires (like SNL’s recent parody of Adele’s “Hello”), our social media feeds are bursting at the seams with humorous parody content. Things that make us chuckle and smile get shared and the best go viral.

With Aldi’s new ad, they’ve taken one of the biggest Christmas trends (the John Lewis Christmas ad), and essentially highjacked its momentum (or “buzz”). Even though it’s an advert, people will share it because it makes them laugh.

By combining the climactic scene of John Lewis’s ad with their own “I like this one” campaigns, they’ve created a parody that is distinctly on brand.

But why haven’t companies been taking advantage of this before?

The legal angle of parody in marketing

Thanks in part to research carried out by my alma mater, The Centre for Excellence in Media Practice at Bournemouth University, the laws regarding parody (in general as well as in advertising) were changed at the end of 2014. This research shows that, far from harming the original, parodies actually create a boost for the content being parodied.

Now, you no longer need to seek permission to parody someone else’s work so long as the following criteria are met:

  • Your parody is fair and is not derogatory.
  • Your parody does not compete with the original version.

There is nothing derogatory about Aldi’s ad, so no problem there.

How about competition? The ad explicitly compares a product that both stores sell so you could argue that there is competition. However, in reality, the core target audiences of Aldi and John Lewis are very different and that sufficiently sidesteps the competitive requirement.

Does your business want to explore parody in its advertising?

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