Well versed in the B2B, SaaS, and marketing realms, Elise helps merchants navigate the ever-changing world of online channel management.
We all love the holiday season.
But putting Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas presents and general festive cheer aside, it’s a great time of year for marketers to sink their teeth into a meaty marketing campaign that captures people when they’re likely to be purchasing gifts for their loved ones.
The holiday season is when brands all over the world bring their best promos and offers to customers in an attempt to snap-up a slice of the $3.19 trillion revenue that’s made within a few short weeks.
The average U.S. person spends $906 on Christmas gifts every year, making it a fantastic opportunity for both online and offline brands to give a final revenue boost before the year comes to a close.
To help you take advantage of the holiday season splurge, you’ll need to create an incredible marketing campaign that puts your brand at the forefront of your ideal customer’s mind.
But is there something more powerful to convince your customers to purchase their holiday gifts, other than the standard offers, discount codes and free shipping coupons?
The simple answer is yes.
To help your brand drive more sales into one of the most profitable annual events, you’ll need to develop a clever campaign that will put their businesses to the top… Which is often easier said than done since thousands of competitors are likely to bring their A-game.
We all want a slice of the trillion dollars that’s up for grabs, right?
In this guide, we’re sharing five incredible ideas to help you create an awesome holiday marketing campaign—along with why you’ll need to start preparation now.
When Should I Start Planning My Holiday Marketing Campaign?
I know what you’re thinking: “Elise—we’re in September. Do we really need to be thinking about Christmas marketing right now?”.
Yes, you do.
Successful marketing campaigns can take months to plan. You’ll need to think about the launch of your campaign, as well as the logistics.
(By logistics, I mean making sure you can fulfill the orders you’re predicting to sell.)
This planning means it’s common to launch holiday marketing campaigns on the first few of October, leading up to Thanksgiving. That allows you enough time to run holiday promotions through key events, such as:
- Halloween: 31st October
- Thanksgiving: The fourth Thursday of November
- Black Friday: The Friday following Thanksgiving
- Cyber Monday: The Monday following Black Friday
- Christmas: 25th December
- Boxing Day: 26th December
- New Year’s Eve/Day: 31st December/1st January
If not, consider this: Experiential marketing campaigns take 12 weeks to launch, on average.
You’ll need to use that time wisely if you’re looking to grab those eager shoppers to purchase from your business, rather than a competitor.
6 Awesome Holiday Marketing Campaign Ideas
Are you ready to start planning your holiday campaign for this year?
Here’s a list of six great ideas that can help you to get started—with examples of brands who’ve used them to see great success.
1. Create a Branded Holiday Hashtag
We all love a good hashtag.
Whether you’re plastering them in your Instagram captions or using them to dominate the Trending section in your Twitter feeds, using hashtags on social media offers many benefits for businesses using social media—especially increased engagement.
In fact, Instagram posts with seven hashtags generate the most likes:
...and tweets with hashtags receive 2x more engagement than those without.
In a world where engagement influences conversions, you’d be crazy to miss out on using branded hashtags throughout the holiday season.
But you might’ve noticed how I mentioned you should focus on branded hashtags, rather than generic phrases like #HappyHolidays or #MerryChristmas.
Branded hashtag campaigns give you the chance to dominate the search feeds for each phrase. It’s much easier to be the first brand shown when you’re tweeting #BRANDtips, rather than #HappyHolidays—where you could be competing with competitors for a user’s attention.
Fancy getting started with this holiday marketing campaign idea?
Start by creating a simple hashtag that’s easy to understand, and relates to your brand.
Then, you’ll need to use it in every holiday marketing message you’re pushing—from social media to TV and radio ads.
(Consistency is key in marketing; you can’t expect your hashtag to have ultimate selling power if people don’t recognize, relate or understand it.)
#BNGiftTip from Barnes and Noble
In 2014, Barnes and Noble launched the #BNGiftTip hashtag as a way for their in-house experts to recommend a book gift to their audience.
Here’s an example of a Twitter thread that spawned throughout the campaign:
Notice how they’re offering free, personalized advice to their audience? We all know the power of personalization in marketing—but answering your customer’s question, and providing a tailored product recommendation, takes it to the next level.
Barnes and Noble's #BNGiftTip campaign also worked so well because it connected the brand and the customer.
The idea of building relationships through a Q&A-style hashtag feed puts the focus on the customer’s needs, rather than a standard marketing campaign.
Remember: The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.
If you're running a branded hashtag campaign that requires you to answer in real-time like Barnes and Noble, you’ll need a tool that makes it easier to track social mentions.
2. Run a Festive Contest to Encourage Engagement
Have you ever entered an online competition? Whether it was to win a luxury holiday, sports car or hamper of beauty products, this type of competition could form the basis of your holiday marketing campaign.
Why? Well, in the holiday season, people are on the hunt for extraordinary gifts, but could be hesitant about splashing the cash.
If they can enter a giveaway and get the gift for free, it’s a win-win.
On the brand side, the entry requirements for your holiday season giveaway can be reworked to meet any of your goals—whether that’s an increase in:
- Social shares: Ask entrants to share their entry on social media.
- Website traffic: Host the contest on a specific landing page on your website.
- Purchases: Give previous purchases a weighted chance to win.
The average company received 34% more Facebook fans after running a contest—proving there’s more to this holiday marketing idea than just a pass time.
Sounds easy, right? It is.
Think about it: If you’re asking people do something for you—whether that’s designing a new product, submitting an idea for future products or designing a new logo—you’ll collect User-Generated Content (UGC), and save time in-house.
Plus, getting this unbiased, third-party gives you a solid understanding of what your audience wants.
That’s gold dust in the marketing world.
Starbucks Holiday Cups Contest
Back in 2015, Starbucks launched a #redcupcontest that encouraged people to share a creative picture of the Starbucks holiday cup.
The terms and conditions were simple: Whoever designed the best cup and hashtagged their image with #RedCupArt won a year’s worth of Starbucks coffee.
Starbucks spent very little cash promoting this campaign, which makes the contest’s success even more impressive. Giving your customers free rein to go wild with your brand (within the terms and conditions of the contest) is promotion enough.
The result? The campaign’s success lead to Starbucks passing the 12 million followers mark on Instagram—and people still continue to use the #redcupcontest to share their doodles today.
3. Offer Your Product as a Free Gift
If there’s one time you can justify giving away free gifts, it’s the holiday season.
Whether you’re giving out discount codes for your software or free samples of your beauty products, why not jump onto this trend and use it to form the basis of your holiday marketing campaign?
...I know what you’re thinking: “Elise—how can we stay profitable if we’re dishing out free items and losing money?”.
I’d think the same.
However, if you’re able to use the same principles of running a contest and make people do something for your business before redeeming their prize, you could see even more sales—and a higher conversion rate, too.
Think about it. If you’re offering:
- A free gift card for anyone who refers a friend throughout the holiday season
- A free product if you buy a gift for someone else (to treat yourself at the same time!)
- A free, personalized gift if a customer spends over $100
...you’re convincing them to make a positive action that benefits your business.
Referring a friend leads to more brand awareness; a free product when you purchase a gift encourages people to head to you for their shopping (rather than a competitor); and offering personalized gifts once a customer reaches a spend threshold influences them to spend more.
Either of those is advantageous.
The 12 Days Campaign by HBO Now
HBO Now is one of the biggest and most consistent video streaming services online, but there are still people who aren’t paying for their service—or seen a popular HBO series.
Enter: Their 12 Days campaign.
Allowing current customers to send a link to their friends that allows them to watch 12 episodes for free, it’s a fantastic way to encourage brand evangelists to spread the word about their service:
To help promote the campaign, HBO enlisted the stars from various HBO series to record their own version of "12 Days of Christmas"—including Bill Maher, Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), Anna Chlumsky (Veep).
Not only was this a low-cost way to promote HBO’s video streaming service to the family and friends of existing customers in the form of a free gift, but they offered a free teaser in the hopes that they’d convert.
You can’t watch half of a series you’re into, right?
...That’s a subscription bought, and cash into HBO’s pocket.
4. Take Advantage of Interactive Content
Interactive content encourages your audience to get involved with your campaign, rather than watch or read passively. But, interactive content isn’t another marketing fad that brands use to hook-in potential customers.
It actually works.
You could harness the results interactive content gains by allowing it to form the basis your seasonal marketing campaign.
- Create a fun, Buzzfeed-style quiz that tells potential customer which type of Christmas dinner food they are.
- Build an interactive infographic with statistics on Thanksgiving.
- Post a short festive-themed question to your Twitter profile or Instagram Story, asking people to respond in emojis.
While these ideas are great, you’ll need to assess whether they’ll sit well with both your product and your ideal customer.
A Buzzfeed-style quiz might work better with a B2C audience of pre-teens, whereas an interactive infographic might be preferred by busy B2B CEOs who want a fresh way to view exciting content.
It all comes down to knowing your audience’s preferences.
(Survey them using these questions if you’re not sure.)
You’ll also need to think about whether the idea of the campaign relates to your business. There’s not much point in creating a Christmas dinner quiz if you’re not operating within the food, drink or leisure industry—and could downright confuse your customers.
That’s never a good thing.
Kellogg’s and Rice Krispies Scares
Let’s take a look at the Halloween marketing campaign used by Kellogg’s and Rice Krispies.
They took interactive content to the next level and installed vending machines that offered their seasonal products in various locations.
Sounds boring, right?
Here’s where things get creepy: When unsuspecting people reach to grab the Rice Krispies from the machine, an actor dressed in a scary outfit grabs their hand—with a camera capturing their reaction:
Their initial freak-out, combined with the realization that it was just an elaborate prank, makes for a hilarious watch—and fits perfectly with their Halloween-branded products.
That ticks to important boxes for successful interactive content: Involvement and emotion.
Their vending machines were enticing enough for the unsuspecting public to use, but Kellogg's played to the fear emotion in a unique way to truly get them into the Halloween spirit.
5. Use Push Notifications Strategically
If your phone has started blowing up with push notifications from all the branded apps you’ve downloaded, you’re not alone.
Done wrong, such push notifications can be rather annoying. Done right, however, they can increase customer engagement and generate huge amounts of revenue for your company.
Etsy's Three Step Process
Etsy’s simple push notification tells you exactly what you need to do to be the star of the gift-giving season:
This tongue-in-cheek message simplifies the process of holiday shopping, alleviating its audience’s worries about “finding the perfect gift” for their loved ones.
Not only does it alleviate their worries, but it also makes them the “star” of the campaign, as well. While the beginning of the message is all about how Etsy can help them shop for their friends and family, the final message refers to the feeling of accomplishment they’ll feel once their loved ones open their perfect gift.
Note: Though the “steps” in this example are silly and superfluous, it’s important to reiterate the importance of a CTA in your push notifications. Remember: it’s incredibly easy to swipe a notification away and forget all about it - but it’s just as easy to swipe the other way and dive deeper into the offer.
6. Differentiate your Google Shopping ads
We all know the power of Google Shopping ads.
The PPC technique is dominating the retail search market—but you’ll need to differentiate your ads if you’re looking to attract the attention of online holiday shoppers.
Why? Because in product search, you’re actively competing against other competitors.
You won’t stand a chance at snapping-up their cash, boosting your conversion rates or increasing website traffic if you’re not doing anything to stand out.
Luckily for you, differentiating your Google Shopping ads isn’t a huge time (or cash) investment. You could:
- Collect 5-star reviews for your brand
- Optimize product photography
- Price your products competitively
- Include key details in your product title
Sounds simple, right?
(Spoiler alert: It is.)
Are You Ready to Start Planning?
Getting the attention of your audience during the holidays is no small feat.
With brands ploughing thousands of dollars into advertising and marketing, you’ll need to think of a one-of-a-kind campaign that dominates the market and takes the shine away from your competitors.
Remember: Creativity is key.
Reusing or adapting these holiday marketing campaign ideas totally fine, but don’t forget that you’ll need to think of a unique take that makes people think, “Wow. This brand is totally killing it with their marketing campaign, this year”.
It’s not an easy task, but it’s not impossible, either—as these brands have shown!