holiday-marketing-2013Are you developing your upcoming holiday campaigns yet? Although I’m sure many of you already have plans in place, sometimes plans can take a backseat to existing marketing initiatives or emphasis on 2014 planning. So, if you’ve waited until the last minute to plan — or maybe want to just spice up your existing concepts — keep reading for some tips and inspiration to help you succeed this holiday season.

Holiday Campaigns are a Double-Edged Sword

In order to “win” during the holiday season, you need to do something to engage with your consumers. And, I don’t mean just anything; I mean something really unique.

Why? Because the holidays are a great time to really connect with people — something you and every other company out there already knows. Fighting through the clutter of other companies’ holiday campaigns can pose a serious challenge to marketers: inboxes are overflowing with discounts and promos, Facebook feeds are full of interactive experiences and commercials are stacked with trendy hashtags.

This year, the National Retail Foundation projects holiday retail sales will increase by 3 percent to reach $579.8 billion. While these numbers may sound huge, they aren’t as high as most would like. Economic uncertainty still prevails in many consumers’ minds, with many focused on budgeting now more than ever before.

Preparing to Launch Your Holiday Campaign: 10 Guiding Principles

Before you rush to plan something elaborate for the holidays, my advice to any marketer is to take a step back and think through these guiding principles first:

1. Think about where a holiday campaign “fits” within your broader marketing strategy. Oftentimes, holiday promos can feel a bit “one-off” and disjointed. Many are clearly pulled together because someone cried: “We need a holiday promotion!” What messages, assets and experiences have you been showcasing all year to your consumers, and how can you build on those during the holiday season?

2. Understand your customers and what they are paying attention to this year. Take a timeout to look and listen: What trends are people engaging with, or what hashtags are taking off right now? How are people already engaging with your brand or product? Use — and celebrate — these things during your promos.

3. Know that mobile and tablet-friendly campaigns will be very critical. It’s important that you consider all devices when creating your campaigns: According to Google, 90 percent of consumers use multiple screens sequentially, so take the time to understand where your audience is spending the most time and work to integrate the experiences across multiple platforms as much as possible.

4. Think shoppable and sharable — but most importantly, make it meaningful. With so much clutter and noise happening, brands will need to focus on making powerful connections. With a laser focus on storytelling and consumer experiences, think outside the box and beyond template-based platforms like Wildfire or Offerpop, and build something unique that will really resonate.

5. Think small — then expand as needed. Your holiday promo doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal; think of something lightweight and engaging that you can leverage across many different platforms quickly and easily. This reinforces most content strategists favorite concept…

6. C.O.P.E — Create once publish everywhere. Make sure that whatever content you create is detachable and social by design. Find ways to tailor and release this content to where your audience is spending the most time. A great narrative should be leveraged across multiple platforms to achieve maximum reach potential.

7. Combine the physical with the digital. Social events drive massive media attention and engagement by your audiences. Brands that have embraced this have definitely seen the benefits (see the recent and viral Red Bull's Stratos Jump, Kate Spade Saturday pop-up stores and microsite and Gaga’s workshop — a collaborative experience with Lady Gaga and Barneys New York).

8. Celebrate your best customers with surprise and delight moments. Holiday cards, thank-you gifts, shout-outs and virtual props are just some of the ways that you can reward your top customers and influencers, creating and evangelizing brand advocates. Take inspiration from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s video on building a formidable brand through “happiness” and moments of “WOW.” Human acts activate human emotions, and those are the things great Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are built on.

9. Switch to an always-on media strategy. During the build-up to the holiday season, keep your ears perked for the latest buzz, and be ready to jump on it as need be. Be as nimble and flexible as possible. I’m not just referring to newsjacking; being able to monitor great performing content and then boosting it through paid reach or real-time engagement triggers is necessary.

10. Go beyond the banner — look at native advertising. The days of standard IAB banner units are quickly escaping us. New formats and media placements combining behavioral and contextual demographics lead to more interest and cross-platform engagement and give way to a more meaningful converged media approach that captures and interweaves paid, owned and earned media.

Got Your Plans? Execute – But With Caution.

There are endless ways you can execute your holiday campaigns, but be careful. “Shiny object syndrome” can be blinding if you don’t consider all the elements listed above. Think carefully about what’s right for your specific audience, not just what’s cool right now.

Some of the Most Successful Tactics Can be Insanely Straightforward

These activation ideas are just some of the ways your company can engage this holiday season.

1. Social showrooming: Consider inserting your brand experience in unlikely places, like pop-up stores or even a virtual window shopping experience (check out Adidas’ NEO “window shopping” campaign for a refreshing look at how to integrate physical shopping with an after-hours mobile experience).

2. Augmented reality: Think beyond what the typical mobile experience can be, and transform an environment or experience through the lens of a user’s smartphone (platforms like Aurasma and Total Immersion make this a reality).

3. 3D printing: This hot new trend gives users a new way to feel a part of the creation process, which is a sure-fire way to make the campaign go viral by tapping into the human psychology and emotional payoff associated with making something.

4. Borderless e-commerce: The world is getting smaller, and there is tremendous opportunity to expand your brand globally. International e-commerce platforms like Borderfree make global expansion even easier, which is perfect for companies looking to elastically expand without existing infrastructure or expertise.

5. Create instant inspiration with hypercuration: Blogs like Gap’s styld.by site can provide a lightweight, engaging and refreshing way to browse fashion modeled by fashion-forward influencers and bloggers (without the overt sales pitch). Great shopping experiences are all about “less is more” and tapping into users’ interests and the social graph to deliver more targeted and curated experiences.

6. Contests: While tried and true, contests can be somewhat tired as well. Think of new ways to connect with your fans, and think beyond the traditional “submit your photo” or “send your tips for a chance to win” campaign. What can you do to get consumers to really interact in a way that rewards them, while also driving your engagement levels?

7. Promotions: Sales, discounts and other shopper-friendly campaigns will always win during the holiday season. But think beyond the budget box. Those transient customers looking for “percentage off" signs may be enticed with a more unique program that introduces aspects of scarcity (limited edition) or other more bespoke promotions. In many cases, while this tactic drives immediate sales, it doesn’t attract long-term loyal buyers.

8. Omnichannel approach: Tie your in-store campaigns with digital for the ultimate interactive experience. Capture consumers on the go with real-time offers while gathering incredible intel on who your buyers are and what they need and want.

Winning Is Possible…With a Smart Media Mix and a Great Story to Tell

As much as your campaign should align with your company’s overall goals and strategies, make sure it aligns with your culture and is about what your brand stands for. In terms of your media mix, focus on marrying the holy triad of paid, owned and earned media to maximize reach and engagement for your campaigns. Your content won’t just go viral without smart targeting and intelligent-media support, nor will paid media be the end driver for getting attention. Think balance. Think creativity. Think connections that last.

If you found this article helpful please share it, or if you’re pretty sure that I ruined your holidays already, give me a shout on Twitter @petesena.

Originally published Sep 9, 2013 1:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Holiday Marketing