Every year, the nation’s top retailers and product manufacturers roll out their best Christmas-themed marketing spots. What you see for only a couple of minutes here and there took the better part of a year to develop, produce, and administer. While many try to connect, only few succeed. Here’s our look at the Top 15 Holiday Marketing Campaigns of 2011:

1. The Christmas Champ (Target)

Minnesota comedian Maria Bamford is known as the “Christmas Champ,” better known as “That Crazy Target Lady.” In the commercial presented here, she is busy training, Rocky IV-style, for the upcoming Target 2-day sale, which began on Black Friday at midnight. While the piece presented here is one of our favorites, there are several others you can find on Youtube or your local NBC/ABC/CBS/FOX station. We warn you. Pretty funny stuff. It’s the deranged and exaggerated representation of Everyshopper USA that makes this campaign so appealing. And it never hurts to laugh.

YouTube Video Link

2. The You Make Me Melt Store (Zales)

Dinner out, Christmas lights, snow angels and two people in love. Zales detours from the typical comedy fare of most marketers and prefers to remind us all in intimate fashion of family ties, romance, and all the things that make the holidays come alive for us. The video presented here is very cinematic and contains a soulful tune by the Alabama Shakes. It plays in to the mood that Zales’ jewelry creates, and distinguishes the company as a true “You Make Me Melt” kind of store.

YouTube Video Link

3. Buy it New, Buy it Now (eBay)

The famous online auction site eBay plays in to the humorous angle of gift recipient tired of getting the same old crap from her relatives and taking a moment out of a family rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” to tell the relatives everything they do wrong for the holidays. What makes it work is that it’s true. How many times has someone in your family asked you what you wanted for Christmas, you tell them, and they go off and buy something else? Just us? Yeah, whatever.

YouTube Video Link

4. Smartphone Holiday Tunage (Walmart)

Walmart takes an old Christmas favorite-“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”-and drops us in the middle of a literal occurrence. Seems dear ol’ Dad is so excited to play music on his smartphone that he cranks up “Grandma” while Nana sits in a cast and declares “I had the right of way.” Walmart does a fine job of building funny stories around the products they sell and then sealing the deal with their “Always low price” mantra. No matter what you think about the morality of this company and its effect on Mom-and-Pop retailers, they do make the idea of life without them pretty tough.

YouTube Video Link

5. Shake Up Christmas (Coca-Cola)

Coca-Cola always brings their A-game to the holiday season. Santa Claus is pretty much their poster child. And now they’ve got Natasha Bedingfield’s catchy little tune “Shake Up Christmas” to back them up, not to mention the traditional appearance of the Jolly Fat Man and all the cool stuff they do with lights. In the campaign commercial presented here, we’ve got an excerpt of the song with Santa looking in a snow globe and shaking it around. Cut to scenes of people skidding out of their work places and slipping and sliding with each tilt of the globe until they’re all home with loved ones. Good production values have always been Coke’s forte. But the message is what leaves you associating Christmas with America’s favorite soft drink.

YouTube Video Link

6. We all Scream for…Bieber!? (Macy’s)

We all know teenage girls act like buffoons when the Biebs is around. Nothing funny about that. In fact, it’s the epitome of annoying. But you take those girls and sub them out for some big burly guys, and you’ve got a holiday classic on your hands. You can thank Macy’s for this one. Best public relations move the brat ever made with his career. Well that and getting a paternity test.

YouTube Video Link

7. Buster Approved this Holiday Commercial (Petco)

Buster is not just a good holiday marketing icon, but a great image for the pet store chain to build its brand around. In this commercial, Buster rides around the Petco headquarters while an army of cats, dogs and other assorted fur balls try out the various goodies that the store sells. We all like to think our pets are more than just animals, and Petco has found an effective way of dramatizing this, while convincing you to include Rover or Kitty in the family gift exchange.

YouTube Video Link

8. Still the World’s Greatest Toy Store (Toys “R” Us)

Toys “R” Us hasn’t really done anything special from an originality standpoint with their “Still the World’s Greatest Toy Store” campaign, but they have crafted an effective effort nevertheless. By compiling a series of nostalgic commercials into one commemoration, they appeal to parents, who grew up when the store was in its infancy, while also attracting today’s kids via the catchy jingle and toy displays. By playing to the child’s base desire for toys and the parent’s sense of sharing something with their children, they’ve re-envisioned their classic “I don’t wanna grow up,” tagline for a new century.

YouTube Video Link

9. Getting into the Christmas Card (Cardstore.com)

We all get a little deranged during the holidays. This is never more evident than the Mom or Dad that wants everything to be perfect for their fun old-fashioned family Christmas. (Thank you, Clark Griswold.) Cardstore.com’s campaign benefits from being one of the only TV commercial campaigns in the entire greeting card industry. It’s also a memorable presentation involving a crazed mother in Santa hat throwing down a piece of cardboard over the lawn and rushing her family inside, so she can close the flap and make a living Christmas card out of herself and everyone else. Classic!

YouTube Video Link

10. Game on Santa! (Best Buy)

Best Buy’s “Game on, Santa,” campaign depicts a shopper at the big box electronics store finding all kinds of great gifts for under $100. Cut to Santa on Christmas Eve night trying to find a place to leave his comparably crummy gifts. The customer then catches him with a snarky comment and leaves him to focus on the dog. The message is clear: we don’t need you, Fat Man. While Best Buy has taken more of a mean-spirited approach, the slogan sticks in your head, and you associate it with their great deals on electronics. Callous disregard has never been this fun to watch!

YouTube Video Link

11. Who’s Your Santa? (J.C. Penney)

J.C. Penney’s “Who’s Your Santa” campaign is much more friendly than the tone of the Best Buy ad in No. 10. The department store asks their campaign question among a montage of images that put husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, mothers and children, together. Add in some catchy upbeat modern music and an overall feeling of joy, and you’ve got a holiday marketing effort that lodges firmly in your head and prepares you for the warmer months ahead once Christmas is over.

YouTube Video Link

12. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning (Victoria’s Secret)

Johnny Hartman sings Frank Sinatra’s famous hit, all classy- and swanky-like, while the lingerie store shows off more than a dozen of their best looks on some of their finest models. The Victoria’s Secret campaign gives women the desire to look sexy and the confidence to feel that way while priming their boyfriends/husbands up for a three-hour shopping session at the mall on NFL Sunday with nary a complaint in sight.

YouTube Video Link

13. Give-a-Garmin (Garmin)

Garmin goes the old-fashioned jingle route to memorable effect as they work all their products as well as the most useful situations for their products into one take on “Carol of the Bells.” With phones that feature GPS technology, the manufacturer faced a struggle staying relevant, but with an expanded product line that includes a mobile handheld device and a wristwatch, they appear to be back on the right track for the 2011 holiday season.

YouTube Video Link

14. Expect Great Things (Kohl’s)

The workmanlike “Expect Great Things” from Kohl’s
is general enough to be catchy yet specific enough to be tied in to a multi-department department store. Jessica Lewis’s soothing voice also sends a subtle background message that is in tune with the holidays-happy, not boisterous; mellow, not depressing. It leaves you with a warm feeling the way that Christmas Eve fire does, and it emphasizes the benefits of buying from Kohl’s, not the features of their for-sale products.

YouTube Video Link

15. Holiday Flurry Deals Week (Amazon)

You’ll notice that we haven’t included an Amazon commercial to represent the Holiday Flurry Deals Week campaign. That’s because there isn’t one. Nevertheless, Amazon’s marketing tactics are probably the best in all of brick-and-mortar retail and online shopping. Why? Because: 1) They give you a reason to buy, which includes jaw-dropping loss leader deals designed to coerce you into buying more things from them. 2) They take your past purchases and window shopping interests, and they use it to personalize your shopping experience, so the noise of their site as a whole-they carry everything-doesn’t distract you from spending even more money. 3) They use cheaper methods of reaching out to their customers via email, precise algorithms and ongoing discounts to push virtually whatever product they want. They’ve even damn near killed the traditional publishing industry, which hasn’t experienced anything beyond minor changes since the 1930s. And they did it in about five years. With the Holiday Flurry Deals Week, they pick a category for the day-Toys and Games, for instance-and give you impossible-to-compete-with deals that cattle-prod your buying bone.

Top 15 Holiday Marketing Campaigns of 2011