When it comes to the holiday season, many companies approach their marketing as an afterthought. From Christmas to New Years to Valentine’s Day and beyond, holidays can be a festive time full of incredible opportunities or bitter disappointments.
No matter the holiday, customers are in the mood to spend, but if companies fail to seize this opportunity, the lack of a strategy can lead to low revenue and a wasted marketing budget.
So how can companies lean into the holidays to hook consumer attention and boost their ROI at the same time?
First face facts. When executed successfully, the holidays are some of the highest revenue-driving times for businesses.
In the U.S., the holiday season accounts for 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales. Last-minute shoppers contribute to an increase in nearly 30% of online holiday sales. In addition to boosted sales, the holiday season is a lucrative opportunity for lead generation as well as capturing online retailers owing to the increased traffic.
In China, Singles' Day is the Chinese equivalent to the lovey-dovey feelings surrounding Valentine's Day. First appearing in college campuses, the day takes its name from how the date is written as 11/11, which resembles "bare branches," a local Chinese expression for being unattached.
In November during China’s “Singles Day”, e-commerce giant Alibaba raked in USD$1 billion in sales in 1 minute and 8 seconds! In this regard, Singles Day is akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For the next hour, sales hit 91.2 billion yuan (USD$13 billion), up 32% from last year.
By the end of the day, Alibaba Group made more than 268 billion yuan (USD$38 billion) with an estimated half-billion shoppers from China to Russia to even far away in Argentina.
Whether you own a large or small business, understanding each holiday AND the emotions of your customer can lead to a potential income opportunity that cannot be ignored.
It all starts with:
1. Forward planning
2. A deep understanding of your target audience/consumer
3. A deep understanding of consumer emotions at a specific time of year, e.g. Single’s Day, Christmas, Halloween
4. Knowing how to reach them effectively through varied and specialised content
5. And doing all three doesn’t have to bust the bank.
Great marketers strategise. It’s about using the tools you have to give your brand a boost. At the same time, keeping an eye on trending topics and nurturing the right audience with emotional, personalised content is critical.
With a constant shift in customer habits, brands need to keep customers engaged. With the right approach, businesses can stretch their holiday success throughout the year.
It’s not just about appealing to customers once a year – but a consistent effort to reward and attract them throughout the year.
Here are some reasons why it’s advantageous to develop a deeper bond with your customers during the festive season.
- A sense of urgency – Customers want to spend – and fast.
- A perfect time to reward loyalty – You already have customers that deserve to be rewarded. Do it.
- Positive emotions are already associated with holidays – Customers are more likely to spend than any other time of year, especially for a great deal.
- People already intend to shop/buy – Customers are psychologically primed to shop and buy when individual sales come around. They will even wait for it.
- Consumers turn to social media for holiday shopping “inspiration” – If your brand isn’t on social media during the holidays, you’re missing out on grabbing the attention on new consumers looking to be emotionally engaged.
- More potential customers – Overall, the more people to look at your product or service, the more potential customers you have.
By keeping your customer’s foremost in your mind, you can effectively “hijack” their desires during the holidays by offering a tangible solution – your business’s offerings. Let’s see how other brands did just this.
This single image captured Lush's customers' attention and earned 2.9k interactions within two weeks. Lush used it to launch their Halloween sales by posting it much earlier.
Branding-wise, Lush is known for their bright, poppy and predominantly exuberant voice. But they broke this concept with a dark and gothic image to hijack their audience’s attention and spark intrigue into their Halloween collection.
Lush's bold but straightforward way of garnering attention came at the cost of a picture, a photographer, and a makeup artist. Doable on a small budget?
Marketing Hack: Use intriguing visuals, colour, and go against your brand to hook your audience’s attention at a certain time of year.
Sometimes doing what everyone else is doing is the wrong strategy. Right on brand, Cards Against Humanity’s marketing team put together an Anti-Black Friday Sale.
The 99% Perfect Off Sale comes as a marketing stunt. In 2013, they raised all their prices by $5. The next year they literally sold bull faeces. In 2016, they crowdsourced $100k to dig a hole as long as people could pay.
In 2017, CAH decided to give up on the card game and sell “Prongles” – obviously a parody of Pringles.
In 2018, they brought their next marketing stunt to a new level. Their website read: “Holy f*$& have we got some deals. Every ten minutes, a new deal will go live on this page. Don’t be frightened by the deals. Just click and let the savings wash over you.”
The sale started off by offering 99% off of a twenty dollar bill. Later, a 17th-century halberd, a slightly used car, a 30ft inflatable bald eagle, and a sort of “Royal Throne”.
All of these offers became CAH’s satirical approach to a holiday that is unofficial, helping their audiences laugh through the mayhem.
They understood their audience and are speaking directly to them through their brand.
In response to this campaign, their deals spread on Twitter, Reddit and Facebook. Customers even posted about it, creating user-generated marketing material for CAH.
By the end, CAH surely took a financial loss. But they stood for their values and reached THOUSANDS of other potential customers.
Marketing Hack: Stay true to your brand, true fans and loyal customers and they will help you grow (and market).
This Valentine’s Day video marketing campaign from eHarmony – a dating service - is fantastic. A series of cute children talk about love, launched during Valentine’s day, melding beautifully into eHarmony’s dating services.
Marketing Hack: Lean into the emotions of any given holiday and explore them in an interesting way that ties into your brand.
As with any marketing plan, the key is to know your audience and plan as early as possible.
This means planning a content calendar at least a few months before the holiday, leading up to, and after the holiday, through continued engagement.
There will be no pay-off with one post, once a year. Regular and varied engagement, across different platforms, is crucial.
Most brands start advertising for Christmas around Black Friday (November), which causes a spike in Cost-per-click (for paid advertising). You can avoid that by starting your campaign a little earlier.
Planning a typical Christmas campaign can follow a simple structure:
- Preparation and planning (August) Plan out your yearly content calendar and how you want to approach your marketing efforts.
- Brand awareness (Sept). Start posing videos, images, memes, content etc. – to raise early awareness into your products, goods or services. Any exclusive deals you can plug? Any teasers?
- Sales campaigns (Nov-Dec). Be direct, real, different, bold to maximise sales.
- Post-holiday sales (Jan). Up-sell and keep customer retention by engaging them after certain holidays and throughout the year.
Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. Knowing who you are targeting makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to the specific needs, behaviours, and concerns of each different group.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 20.
You need to know everything from their gender, age, spending habits, feelings, location, and how they usually interact online.
Consider these as you step into your customer’s shoes:
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What is their education level?
- How much do they earn?
- What problems do they have (that your product or service can solve)?
- How do they feel about certain holidays?
- What do they spend their disposable income on?
- How do they consume content? Mobile? On the go? Tablets? At home?
- What do they value? Security? Freedom? Fun? Family time (if they have children and spouses)?
Once you’ve begun to understand what makes your ideal customer tick, you can start to craft your brand voice to appeal to these individuals. All of this adds up to what’s called your marketing persona.
Focus on them, because that’s who you’re selling to. You want to personalise your campaign content, so it hits home, translating into real impact, and even better business results.
Understand what kinds of content your audience enjoys (or has a problem with), and then creating that content with the added mix of your brand and a holiday-themed message.
Maybe your customers respond to content about family. Create some family-themed content across major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tik Tok (this one is relatively new, but worth exploring if within your brand).
Can your product or service conjure feelings that connect with a specific time of year? Maybe share their experiences and pain points in the comments? Perhaps a video or a simple picture with an inspiring quote might work.
Repurpose your content as much as possible, using different versions for different platforms. Then promote as much as possible.
If your target audience prefers a night out with drinks – how can you appeal to this sensitivity through visuals, copywriting, video or memes? Be direct. Be empathic. Be different.
Here are other strategies you can try:
When executed successfully, the holidays are some of the highest revenue-driving times for businesses. With some planning, businesses can develop a one-of-a-kind holiday marketing strategy that drives seasonal sales.
From offering personalised experiences to sharing gratitude, your company has a variety of options. Just remember that holiday planning is a year-round event focused on delivering personalised experiences that people care about.
Go deep. Take the time to understand who you are appealing to and why. Understand your consumer's emotions about the holiday in question. While we all want to make a profit from our business, you can avoid coming off as too “salesman”-ly by being true to the holiday, surprising, and connecting with your customers on a humanistic level.
Sign up to receive tips and tricks on how to make videos that make people take action.