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How to Win Holiday Season Marketing with Relevance and Timing

How to Win Holiday Season Marketing with Relevance and Timing

Retailers stand to benefit substantially from the holiday shopping season, so act on your holiday marketing strategy early.


5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


There’s nothing like a classic holiday scene. Snow dusts the ground, smoke climbs from the chimney and Hershey’s Kisses “Christmas Bells” ads ring out from the TV.

Consumers endure nonstop advertising, so most marketing messages amount to mere background noise. Per Kantar’s research, 89% of U.S. consumers feel indifferent at best about advertising, and even that number seems like an understatement.

Regardless, the holiday season brings in big business for retailers. According to Deloitte’s forecast, holiday sales will increase by up to 5% this year, racking up more than $1.1 trillion.

If you’re a retail marketer, you may plan on upping your media buys to ensure 2019’s last quarter is a good one. If so, you’ll be fighting for consumer attention with almost every other brand, which means your marketing had better strike the right holiday sentiment.

Marketing timing is everything — and it is tricky

The first holiday marketing trick is timing. Multiple major shopping days run through the holiday season, and ads often start before Halloween.

Etsy and eBay commenced their promotional merriment even earlier this year, as both launched holiday marketing in September. The online auction site quipped about “Christmas Creep” — the industry term for holiday ads that announce themselves earlier every year — but eBay was simply being clever with its anti-holiday-sales holiday campaign. Both e-commerce brands vied for consumer attention before the shopping craze could start in earnest.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Plan on Advertising This Holiday Season: A New Survey

Whether snow has already fallen or not, keep in mind that it’s not too late. You still have plenty of chances to win customers over, but you must focus on proper timing and relevance to battle advertising oversaturation. According to Andrew Browne, owner of social media marketing firm Browne Box Creative, sellers should consider branching out beyond typical forms of marketing communication. Consider, for instance, the meme.

While bad advertising is protracted and unequivocal, good memes are pithy and nuanced; they strike a culturally relevant chord. Fit those elements into an ad, and you will draw attention — but it’s easier said than done. “The sweet spot between overwhelming an audience and being funny is very small,” says Browne.

You can find success with your holiday marketing campaigns, but it requires a thoughtful strategy and a witticism or two. Here are three tips to help you develop your plan:

1. Find your festive niche.

You can’t reign over the entire holiday season, nor should you try to. Instead, select one holiday where you can stake a claim, whether that’s Halloween, Flag Day, Green Monday or something else. Use that holiday to guide your creative, and start your campaign in the weeks leading up to it to build anticipation.

When Proximo Spirits partnered with Generator Media + Analytics to introduce Kraken, a black spiced rum named after a legendary sea monster, the partners chose Halloween for the brand launch. Citing “a strong creative alignment for a dark brand during a dark holiday,” they negotiated with FX cable network to make Kraken a sponsor of “American Horror Story: Coven” and built buzz with out-of-home marketing in key markets. Over Halloween week, year-over-year sales volume rose by 29%, and social media engagement skyrocketed.

Related: 6 Things to Consider for Putting Together Your Best Holiday Marketing Plan Yet

2. Use behavioral data to find your audience.

Seasonality drives relevance, but to make an emotional connection with your target audience, your marketing needs to be personalized in a way that will appeal to the prospective buyer. Just as people outside the U.S. wouldn’t care to buy fireworks for July 4th, not everyone stocks up on beer for the Super Bowl, buys a Christmas tree in December or makes a turkey on Thanksgiving.

You probably don’t have access to data that tells you individual customer interests with regard to each holiday; data providers, however, can develop a targeted audience list based on individual consumer interests and spending habits. This will allow you to design customer creative that speaks to a wide range of potential customers, ensuring optimal impact. For example, a major jeweler partnered with Epsilon, a data provider, to target jewelry buyers specifically around Valentine’s Day so its ads would be directed at qualified leads.

3. Accommodate each generation.

Similar to individual differences in the way people celebrate and prepare for specific holidays, there are also critical generational variances that affect the way consumers approach this season.

Any brands targeting Generation Z consumers will need to create highly individualized experiences with a focus on mobile. These customers spend money more frequently than other generations on tech disruptors like iTunes, Netflix and Uber. Baby Boomers, however, don’t shop with as much frequency as other generations, but when they do, they spend more money. They typically prefer to shop in-store, though Boomers who are parents actually shop online more than those who aren’t parents. With the right data, you can develop a campaign based on individual preferences that differentiate members of the same generation.

Retailers stand to benefit substantially from the holiday shopping season, so act on your holiday marketing strategy early. With relevance and the right timing, you’ll get a chance to make a little holiday magic.

Related: 5 Ways to Maximize Mobile Advertising ROI Ahead of Holiday Season

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