The six storytelling steps of the John Lewis Christmas advert
The John Lewis Christmas advert is a staple of the UK’s festive season. The 2021 version: Unexpected Guest already has almost two million YouTube views and reaction videos appearing on social media. We’ll admit that when it was released, those in the office crowded around a screen to see what would be unveiled this year from the much-anticipated advert.
While the ad may only be a few minutes, it shows the true power of storytelling. John Lewis and Partners has made us come back for more each year by capturing our emotions – driving us to go to their stores and having them at the forefront of our minds for our Christmas gift shopping. And while there have been arguments that the ads aren’t as strong as they once were, this year’s video shows there is always a story at the heart of the ad that manages to tug on our heartstrings.
At Berkeley, we firmly believe that every story, even business stories, always feature six key building blocks that make us connect with the story, and the brand. The six pillars are: a central protagonist or hero, a mission, a problem, the guide, the journey and a resolution. We’ve broken the John Lewis ad down below to show how they’re used and to help you weave these blocks into your own business story.
The six story blocks of the John Lewis Christmas advert 2021: Unexpected Guest
Although the advert opens on a young boy (we’ll get to him later), the hero of the John Lewis story this year is Skye, the space traveller or alien. While exploring the galaxy, her ship breaks down and she crashes to earth. She cannot get home and is stranded on a planet that we can assume she knows nothing about.
With her ship broken, Skye’s on mission to get home to her own planet. To do so, she’s going to have to work out a way to get her ship back in the air – which might take a little bit of help.
We can see that Skye’s ship is broken, and as with all motor repairs, they often take longer than you’d like. Throughout the ad, we see Skye working out the problem on her ship and having to fix it herself (we’re not quite sure what a garage would have made of it). She is alone on her travels on a strange planet.
Our guide is Nathan, a young boy who explores the forest. When we first meet him, he is also alone and seems down.. When he finds Skye’s ship in the woods, he is amazed by her vehicle and even more so by the alien he meets. While he cannot fix the ship, he takes her under his wing and introduces her to Christmas, showing her a Christmas tree, how to eat mince pies (you take the foil off first) and how to throw snowballs as befriends her.
Nathan teaches Skye about Christmas traditions and keeps her company while she is trying to fix her spaceship. As Nathan shares his traditions with Skye, we also see the progression of their friendship and Skye’s experience of her ‘first Christmas’. She also shares some of her skills and talents – including using the light to give signals – or torment the neighbours Christmas lights.
As the ad ends, Skye alerts Nathan through the lights that she has fixed the ship and she can complete her mission to return home. He rushes to say goodbye to her, taking with him the musical, light-up jumper that he was wearing when they first met. Before she leaves, he gives her the gift, and in return, she gives him a kiss. She boards her ship, and Nathan watches her leave.
And the true resolution is revealed. It’s bigger than Skye’s journey home. It’s a bond between two people and the power of experiencing your first Christmas.
And, so far, we haven’t mentioned John Lewis once. All together now: “Ahhhh”.
Putting storytelling into practice
The John Lewis ad is another perfect example of the six pillars of storytelling being used in business storytelling. Whether it’s a long-awaited Christmas advert, a presentation or a brochure, the six core pillars of every story can help you to present your brand in a way that is relatable to your audience.
Want to find out how you can put the six steps into practice for your business?
Find out more about how Berkeley can help you tell a successful story through our Storytelling Academy workshops.