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Holiday Marketing: Tips and examples for a successful strategy

Communicating and selling during the holidays can be very challenging, but a well-planned holiday marketing strategy can bring huge benefits. In this article we will see how to structure an effective holiday marketing strategy and some examples from which you can draw inspiration.

Christmas shopping and shopping related to holidays in general have now become a ritual that involves millions of people. Consequently, brands are very active with their promotional activities during these times. This is demonstrated by the fact that the term “holiday marketing” was created precisely to indicate this and differentiate it from other types of marketing strategies.

Holiday marketing strategies are a winning concept that rewards both the customers (who can take advantage of the exceptional discounts to buy gifts for themselves and their loved ones) and the companies that implement them, rewarded by significant financial income and an increase in brand awareness.

Users, however, are now used to the unbridled competition between the various brands on all channels: SERP, emails, social media and traditional media such as television and press, as well as in physical stores. Grabbing the attention of potential customers during the holidays is therefore extremely challenging and requires a high level of creativity and accurate planning.

What to expect from the 2021 holiday season

A recent survey led by Google and Boston Consulting Group revealed that online shopping will still play a major role, but now that restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have been eased, traditional shopping experiences in physical stores shouldn’t be underestimated. For this reason, the marketing campaigns for Christmas shopping in 2021 will have to consider a multi-channel approach, which includes both digital and physical touch-points.

When it comes to social media, Sprout Social estimates that brands will see an 18% increase in received messages. To cope with this, it will probably be necessary to implement customer service strategies, such as chatbots for Messenger or FAQs among the Instagram Story Highlights or the pinned videos on TikTok.

Focusing on content with a great emotional impact is certainly a strategy that can bring enormous benefits, but it might not be enough. So, here are the main steps you should follow if you want to create a successful holiday marketing campaign, plus some practical examples to get inspiration from.

How to create a holiday marketing campaign

Let’s start by defining what holiday marketing actually is: the term identifies processes and strategies to intensify promotional activities on any communication channel during the holiday season. These activities are not exclusively focused on selling products and/or services, but rather they depend on the goals we set for ourselves (i.e., brand awareness, retention and so on).

TV commercial with celebrities, campaigns with influencers, printed ads on newspapers, banners on websites or flyers with Christmas discounts are all examples of holiday marketing activities. These activities should be planned carefully and in advance, as they are the result of a few fundamental steps. Let’s see which ones:

Set your goals

Although the ultimate goal of each brand is to increase sales, this is not always possible straight away. Marketing campaigns should be structured following the customer journey, that is, by taking into account the different needs of customers. Some campaigns may aim at improving the visibility of the brand without offering specific products or at obtaining contact information for future marketing activities. Some are precisely focused on selling, while others on retaining the customers already acquired. As users usually find themselves at different stages of the customer journey, they should be subject to targeted, personalized campaigns.

Identify the best communication channels

There are many communication channels available and they allow to create very different promotional formats. However, it is not necessary to use all channels.

TV ads, for example, allow you to reach a very large number of potential customers but, in addition to requiring a high budget and not allowing precise traceability, they might be quite ineffective if the product is not a mass-consumer good. A social media campaign, on the other hand, requires a smaller budget and allows to select the audience more accurately, even if there will probably be more competition.

Email marketing and SMS are also two effective channels for holiday marketing campaigns, especially if you have previously built a contact database that will allow to send targeted communications.

So, let’s focus on the channels that are best suited to the products and services we offer and through which, above all, we can reach our target audience.

Create the right content

Once the communication objectives have been established, the channels selected and the audience identified, it is time to create the appropriate content.

Although leveraging people’s emotions and conveying positive feelings are the main strategies when creating content, much depends on the type of brand, the products/services offered and the characteristics of the target audience. It is therefore impossible to establish objective criteria for selecting the most appropriate content – the important thing is that it should not disrupt the core-essence of the company and its communication style, and that it suits the real needs of the customers.

Finally, you will need to carefully choose the exact moment for launching the holiday marketing campaign: too early and it may not generate the right appeal and sense of urgency; too late and customers might have turned elsewhere.

TO LEARN MORE: How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Analyse and track the performances

Analysing data related to your audience and the performance of previous marketing campaigns is essential in order to effectively implement a holiday marketing strategy and create the right message for the right people.

Moreover, tracking the holiday marketing campaign will allow you to exploit the data collected for future activities and understand what users liked the most, what less and if there are aspects that should be improved.

However, what should never be disregarded is experimentation, both with the audience and with the content. As a matter of fact, although we can base our campaign on data, there isn’t a univocal way to achieve an effective communication, as what worked before may no longer work. So, remember to read the data that you get from the reports and other tools with a grain of salt.

Don’t just focus on Christmas

Holiday marketing can even go so far as to include the days immediately before Christmas: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which actually kick off Christmas shopping.

So, it is fundamental that brands are able to adapt to the increase in sales volume, otherwise there is the risk of running out of stocks. In addition to losing sales opportunities, this could have even more serious consequences on the brand reputation, as we weren’t able to keep the promises made to the customers.

Examples of holiday marketing campaigns

Observing your competitors and big multinational companies is certainly useful for inspiration, so, here are some famous examples of successful holiday marketing campaigns:

Coming home for Christmas

For a lot of people, Christmas means coming home, often from foreign countries. During this period, Heathrow airport is therefore much busier than usual. The company that manages it has decided to create a special video to celebrate this time of the year and its travellers.

The ad features two teddy bears to exploit positive feelings and create an emotional bond with the viewers. As you can see, it doesn’t try to sell anything but is still one of the Christmas ads that generated the most interest in 2016.

The Black Friday Fund

The case of the Everlane clothing brand has shown that holiday marketing can also go against the tide. After having initially decided to close its website during Black Friday to promote more conscious purchases, Everlane tried a different approach by establishing a new tradition: the Black Friday Fund, through which the proceeds generated by sales in this period are used by the brand to improve the working conditions of its staff.

This campaign is definitely different from the others, but it allowed the company to improve its reputation and make employees happier.

Holiday marketing email

The “Holidization” of Sturbucks

As already mentioned, exploiting the positive emotions connected to the holidays is one of the most used strategies. For this reason, companies often decorate their stores, especially at Christmas. But Starbucks did not stop there: in addition to decorations, lights and Christmas trees, the brand has also customised its logo, its website and its social channels with distinctive Christmas elements. In addition, it created the “Christmas Cups”, an alternative version of its famous take-away coffee containers, which were used throughout the month of December.

Starbucks holiday marketing strategy

By doing so, the company was also able to take advantage of User-Generated-Content: users, pleasantly surprised by these new cups, shared photos and videos with their Christmas coffees on their social media profiles, generating more buzz around Starbucks.

Cookies of the world

On December 4th, to celebrate the National Cookie Day, Food52 created an interactive map with typical biscuits from all over the world, linking it to the products available in its e-commerce. An example of holiday marketing that did not require enormous investments, but that still allowed the brand to attract new customers and present to them the offerings available.

Example of holiday marketing for boosting sales

To sum up

Every year, as we get past Halloween, we are overwhelmed by holiday marketing campaigns, from emails, flyers and social media posts to radio and TV ads. These promotional messages usually try to generate strong emotions and promote positive values, but there is no single strategy to reach the hearts and souls of consumers.

First of all, you need to set goals for the different campaigns you want to undertake, understand the needs and habits of potential customers and, according to these, choose the most suitable channels and messages if you want to grab the attention of your target audience.

Let us know in the comment section if you know other examples of successful holiday marketing campaigns and contact us for targeted advice.

Merry Christmas (and a happy marketing)!

Published by


Marketing enthusiast, bachelor’s in linguistic sciences for media and communication at Catholic University in Milan and then MSc Media Management at University of Stirling. Thanks to my academic background, I am now working my dream job: I manage communication and marketing strategies for EOS and the ipcm® magazines. In my free time I play basketball and watch lots of films. Favourite team: Milwaukee Bucks. Favourite director: David Lynch.

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