The Yo Ho Ho 2015 experiment

It’s finally here.

Corporate sponsored Christmas parties have topped up the coffers for events companies, hotels and theme restaurants.

Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays have come and gone.

Scores of 'told you so' doom-watch surveys have been published. (Such as SurveyMonkey's analysis of Christmas advertising campaigns which claimed just 12 per cent of campaigns influenced consumer habits).

Secret Santa gifts have been exchanged between feuding colleagues.

Job searches have beeen renewed for 2016.

Bottles of wine have been despatched to woo clients.

Endless infographics about Star Wars have been circulated...

...and at last, a new season of Luther has appeared on the box.

Each year I put out something suitably light-hearted to help celebrate the season of ‘ 24 hours of Peace and Joy’ (Xmas) before the start of the Boxing Day sales.

For 2015 I undertook a totally unscientific experiment measuring Xmas high-street brand incentives and freebies.

Each encounter was scored against a ‘Yo Ho Index’.

Yo Ho Ho = Excellent experience.

Yo Ho = Originality.

Yo = Fun.

Oh = Xmasness.

No = Just sad.

Sky Movies - Avengers

One of the first Xmas brand experiences came courtesy of Sky Movies. It was celebrating broadcasting the Avengers movie over Christmas.

A sophisticated stand offered the opportunity to become a virtual Iron Man.

“Do you allow middle-aged balding men to be Iron Man?” I asked the friendly twenty-something team.

“Sure”, they replied.

“Just stand in-front of the camera and you’ll be transformed into Iron Man, ready to take one the bad guys."

Within minutes I was fully geared up in a virtual suit, zapping away at the ‘bad guys’.

Branded superheroes for Christmas were very 2015. Vue cinemas invited my wife to sit on a throne next to a cut out of a MockingJay type character.

Michelle's Yo Ho score

Brand Xmas photo booths also cropped up all over the place.

I especially liked the effort by British crisps brand - Tyrells. Not only did they encourage me to get all dressed up for a picture - Roaring 20s style - but provided a retro shopping bag - simply spiffing.

Not enough bubbly - too much squeak

Moet & Chandon offered a personalised a bottle of champagne. I had to get my picture taken in a Moet branded Photo Booth. The picture was then turned into a label stuck onto a promotional size mini-champagne bottle. (Which, in my opinion should have been offered free).

Unfortunately, the photo booth malfunctioned. It went through six photographic attempts before finally producing a print.

Despite being given a ‘funny’ glittery bowler hat to wear, by then I just wanted a stiff drink.

I decided my choice of tipple would not be champagne.

Personalised brands bottles of booze. (In case you

get so drunk you can’t remember your own name).

In Selfridges, people (both drunk and sober) formed sprawling queues to have names printed on jars of Nutella. (Echoing brand initiatives by Coca-Cola and Marmite).

The Nutella brand-extension craze reached the book department, where you could even buy a Nutella recipe book.

Far more intriguing were special Ladybird editions. One title seemed to perfectly sum up my Xmas 2015 experiment.

Another was the perfect gift for the husband wbose wife was addicted to late night QVC shopping for loud coats and head-wearable Frisbees.

And not to be undone…

(Judging by the cover, this was clearly a complete work of fiction. There was no way on earth my other half would ever let me get my mitts on a welding torch).

Brits in space? How about Brit with a Stormtrooper face?

As expected Star Wars merchandise went ballistic.

Whilst browsing Selfridges' galactic range, I was approached by the Man in Red himself.

This was a good turn of luck. I had been wondering how, and even if, I should get a picture with Santa - without being mistaken as cousin of Stuart Hall - followed by being asked some questions from the store security team.

A spot-pitted ‘Elf’, grateful for not having to take the Xmas job with Sports Direct, took a picture of me and the big guy - complete with a Paparazzi “No pictures please - there’s nothing in the rumours.” hand from Santa.

Ah you spotted the bag.

Fortnum and Mason, no less.

No gimmicks.

Heaps of tradition and panache.

And less than a fiver for a minature bottle of port. (Still fuming about the Moet labelling incident).

Bah- Hum -Bug

Down the road in Carnaby Street was a further tribute to a typical British Christmas.

One sign in particular captured the essence of Middle-England’s ‘Bah-Hum-Bug’ attitude to the season of enforced giving.

Everyone's gone to the moon

Seeing Selfridge’s man from the North Pole gave me the idea to visit the birthplace of the man in the moon - as introduced in John Lewis' Xmas TV commercial extravaganza estimated to cost £1m to produce.

John Lewis Oxford Street flagship store Xmas ‘helpers’ gladly took my picture - on the 'moon'.

So which brand was best?

For me it had to be diamond company, De Beers. The brand really went to town in offering freebies.

Included were specially baked christmas cookies, served by suitably attired waiters, who also poured free-flowing champagne.

Whilst that alone would have won De Beers the prize, the real deciding reason the brand won was the PR lady - seen in photograph.

Her face of pure horror in having a scruffy unshaven, old man off the street, wearing a cheap rain jacket, toast the brand was absolutely priceless.


Jonathan Gabay

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