I usually start thinking (and talking) about the holiday marketing pretty early. I love everything about the holidays and planning for the holidays (except maybe the obsession with pumpkin spice everything that starts in the fall… 😬). I’ve already started receiving gift guides via email! The holidays, regardless of what you celebrate, are all about cozying up to stay warm in chilly temperatures, spending time with friends and family, having those moments of stillness and peace… And all of those consumerism moments that happen in between. As marketers, you can’t ignore the fact that gift giving has become a huge part of the holiday season, but you also can’t ignore the fact that all of the other things are equally as important. As a brand you need to find the right balance of emotion and sentiment vs. trying to make the sale.
So, as we head into a busy (and still pandemic weird) holiday season, it’s important that you plan out your strategy so you are prepared for things that might come up. Here are a few questions you should start asking:
What has worked well in the past?
You should always start with what you have tried before. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from what worked and what didn’t work. You can actually learn more from what didn’t work than what did work! Sit down and note what your strategy looked like last year. Have a look at some of the data associated with your strategy. If something worked well, then consider doing the same thing this year. If something didn’t work well, then you want to make sure you steer clear. Try to figure out where you went wrong so you don’t duplicate it this year with your holiday marketing efforts.
What does your customer want?
Customer behaviour should drive your holiday marketing strategy. Period.
It has been a tough year for everyone mentally, emotionally, and financially. Last year, I found that there was DEFINITELY some really early holiday cheer on social media, and I think it was because people were grasping at something good to distract them. I have a feeling that this year will be no different. Brands need to take cues from their customers to figure out the best time to go all in on holiday marketing. You should also be listening to conversations on social media and sensitive to your audience’s purchase behaviour. If you find that a lot of your customers were hit hard financially during the pandemic, they may be spending a little less this year. There may also be a segment who is shopping earlier than normal – either to get it done or they want to spread out the costs rather than do it all at once. A key factor for the holidays this year will be online spending since a lot of people still haven’t gone back to in-person shopping. Have a peek at this blog to see some consumer trends for this year’s holiday season.
Do you have pandemic contingencies in place?
Let’s be real. Regardless of how “over” the pandemic you are, we’re not out of the woods yet. And even if we were, there are a lot of your customers who won’t feel comfortable going completely back to normal any time soon. You need to make sure you maintain (or establish if you are newly opened) a safe and comfortable shopping experience for everyone. That means going above and beyond government safety guidelines in some cases and clearly communicating your guidelines to your customers so they know what to expect. You should also be ready for anything unexpected that comes up in terms of diminished capacity or temporary shutdowns.
Am I too focused on sales rather than emotional connection?
It can be really easy for brands to just jump from one seasonal sale to the next without a care in the world for what it is doing to their brand. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Last Minute Christmas Sale, Boxing Day… I mean Boxing Week… New Year’s Sale… You made the sale, right? Well, what happens after that sale is over? Are those customers continuing to buy from you because they believe in your brand or are they always just hunting for the next sale, whether it’s you or your competitor?
You need to invest the time and effort into building solid, loyal relationships with your existing customers and with any new customers you attract. This could mean a few different things such as:
- Assessing or re-assessing your value add
- Establishing a stronger brand story
- Establishing clear brand messaging
- Creating a content-first marketing strategy
- Developing a loyalty program
Regardless, your brand has to be worth more than the next sale that discounts your products and services.
Do I have everything covered?
Well, you don’t know what you don’t know. But here is a checklist that could be helpful in preparing you for your holiday marketing strategy: Free Holiday Marketing Checklist
If your holiday marketing planning is tripping you up and you’re not sure where to start, book a free 20-minute consultation with me and let’s get you on the right track!
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.