We’re well into December, which means brands have had a few good weeks to warm up their holiday marketing strategies. If you haven’t yet developed your own brand's holiday-specific marketing strategy, don’t worry -- there’s still time before this year slips by.
And, better yet, you can look at some of the best marketing campaigns out there to generate inspiration for your own creative, forward-thinking campaign.
Take a look at these five brands doing holiday marketing right:
1. John Lewis and "Buster the Boxer"
Retailer John Lewis kicked off the 2016 holiday advertising season with a popular video ad featuring “Buster the Boxer” and a number of other animals enjoying a little girl’s trampoline Christmas present. The retailer is also working with a wildlife charity, in direct relationship with the ad.
The ad is powerful because it capitalizes on the joy and nostalgia of the holiday, but does so with humor and levity. People find it refreshing and amusing, but still perfectly suited to the season.
2. Aldi and "Kevin the Carrot"
Grocery chain Aldi made an interesting move by featuring an ad with a short story about a carrot named Kevin and his journey to Santa’s sleigh. The narrative is admittedly ridiculous, but the brand gets the opportunity to show off its food products and remain top-of-mind in a season when most consumers are thinking about buying more food and drink.
Characters are always popular around Christmastime, as seen with Buster the Boxer, and as you’ll see with Juliette.
3. McDonald’s "Juliette"
McDonald’s released a holiday advertisement featuring the story of Juliette, a doll who comes to life but has nobody to purchase her. Eventually, she finds happiness with a fictional Meteor Mike doll at -- you guessed it -- McDonald’s. The campaign ties into a number of holiday-themed efforts from the restaurant chain, including Juliette-inspired imagery on its paper materials, and augmented reality integrations on its in-store table mats.
The multi-channel effort aims to promote sales during the holidays, and introduces a character while drawing on emotions and nostalgia.
4. Dollar Shave Club’s “perfect” gift
The Dollar Shave Club has an obvious demographic -- and the company made light of this in its marketing campaign last year, with the “perfect gift for almost everyone.” The ad campaign features images of people receiving gift subscriptions who have zero use for the service, including children, women, proud beard-growers and even an invisible man.
It pokes fun at traditional ad campaigns, and again injects humor into what is otherwise a stressful holiday.
5. Reese’s turns criticism into gold.
Last year, Reese’s pulled a brilliant marketing move after receiving an influx of criticism about the shape of its Christmas tree-themed confections. Every year, Reese’s releases its signature peanut butter cups in the shape of Christmas trees, though some social media users opined that many of these trees looked more like human excrement.
Rather than ignore the criticism, Reese’s played it up, injecting humor into the situation and showing its customers that it really listens to them: It spawned the hashtag #alltreesarebeautiful, and while short-lived, the Twitter campaign attracted an amazing response on social media from the same people who had rejected the initial Reese's effort.
So, what can you learn from these five examples?
Market early and often. The earlier you start marketing, the better -- you only have just over three weeks before the year’s out and the opportunity is gone. Though people often criticize the “Christmas creep” that pushes marketing earlier and earlier, there’s a reason why so many businesses are pushing for more marketing time and opportunities.
Use multiple channels. The holidays are on people’s minds everywhere, which means you have lots of opportunities to reach people -- try using more of those opportunities. Write blogs, post videos, publish advertising, send emails and get more social.
Feature characters.Storytelling is a marketing mainstay, and the holiday season makes narratives even more powerful. Create a character -- even if it’s a silly one -- to represent your brand in your campaign. Even something simple, like your logo with a Santa hat, could work.
Draw on nostalgia and emotion.The most powerful way to connect with people is through their emotions, and nostalgia is one of the most powerful, holiday-connected emotions you can use. Tell stories, use imagery, and convey ideas that resonate with your target audience.
But keep it light. At the same time, as evidenced above, consumers want a break from the seriousness. The holidays can be a stressful time, and keeping things light with humor and fun can be just what they need.
There’s no single right approach to marketing for the holidays, but the brands described here teach us some important lessons about reaching your target audience during the season. So, get your holiday marketing campaign into gear, and pay attention to how your audience responds.
This is your last sprint before we all close the book on 2016.