Image shows Scrooge in the dark

A Christmas Carol’s Guide to Marketing

Bah humbug! It’s Christmas. So what has that got to do with your marketing?

Christmas campaigns are an accepted part of this time of year, so much so that the hype around the big brand adverts of John Lewis, M&S, Coca-Cola make the news on an annual basis. Whether they prove to be a hit or not, they are always the topic of online discussion once they hit screens, and this itself creates further traction, bringing their brands in front of the eyes of those who haven’t yet seen the adverts, and thousands of subsequent searches for those adverts.

It’s the sort of thing that’d have Ebineezer sneering. And you don’t have to be Scrooge to dislike Christmas. If you’re a business that doesn’t feel particularly ‘Christmassy’ then it can be difficult to create brand associations and tap into the festivities. It’s even worse if you just don’t like Christmas. Is it even worth bothering with?

In 2018, the Advertising Association published research showing that for every £1 spent on advertising in the UK, £6 went back into the economy. There is value in Christmas campaigns. And generally, good seasonal marketing content increases both sales and engagement, because like it or not, buyers habits are dictated by the time of year – and that doesn’t mean just Christmas.

Creating a good content and a tight marketing strategy can be a great way to meet audiences that you might not have. So, using a Christmas classic, I take you through the considerations, A Christmas Carol style.

1. Time: when to start

If you know anything about Ebineezer Scrooge, then you’ll know that time is everything, in fact, time is money to him (that was one of Dickens’ criticisms about society!). It’s vital to get it right in your campaign – be careful on when you choose to kick off Christmas.

If you were to believe my local card shop and supermarket, it’s been Christmas since late August. Everybody knows you shouldn’t do it before Halloween – and if you didn’t, then you do now. What businesses could do well with remembering is that many people resent being marketed at too early for Christmas. They have enough worries. And whilst you should get your plans well underway by August – because it can take a lot of organisation – it is my opinion that November is the most appropriate month to kick off your Christmas marketing.

The only exception to this rule is small businesses, particularly those making handmade goods, because so much prep and time goes into those lovingly made items and they need the time to get orders in. If you’re a bigger business, don’t do it too early. There are other events to focus your marketing on (summer holidays, back to school, autumn, Halloween).

2. Money: give a temporary discount

If time is money, then money is… money! This isn’t because Scrooge is tight, but because the people will appreciate it, so run a seasonal discount. This might seem overdone, but people are looking for bargains, they are stretching their budgets to accommodate all that present buying, and if they can save a few pounds, they will, so help them to choose you. Be competitive, and if you can’t, then think of other ways you can offer something extra special.

3. Family (run a competition)

One thing the novel teaches us is that there are more important things than time and money. Christmas is really about our loved ones (they aren’t always family, sometimes chosen family!) So run an online competition that encourages that. This time of year people are looking for experiences, and they want to share them. Run a ‘like, share and tag’ call to action campaign, the ultimate prize being that they’ll get to do something nice with the person or people that they tag (should they win). It’s a fairly easy thing to run, particularly if you run an advert at the some time, where new people will come to your page and catch sight of the competition, which hopefully will result in more shares and likes. You don’t have to spend lots of money on the prize, but try to keep it high quality and worth it for the participants.

4. Transformation

Ok, I admit, Scrooge’s transformation is a tenuous link, but, really – deck the halls. Creating some Christmas themed features for your website and socials is a really lovely way of getting interaction up: a nice snowy banner for your website, a Christmassy cover photo. This obviously depends on your taste, but a good graphic designer will be able to help you do something really effective according to your branding.

You could also create some new products for the season if you don’t already have products that people are looking for this time of year. I have friends running jewelry, cosmetic and homeware businesses that create seasonal products for their customers, and those are the businesses that I can see are majorly busy on their facebook pages.

But also, look at your existing ranges, what do you have that people want this time of year? Fancy glassware, fashion, wine and cheese (that’s a good Christmas list there).

For those businesses that find it difficult to create Christmas associations to their businesses – then create associations with the things people care about instead. This is a time of year for family, friends, getting cosy, feeling safe, doing good, giving and buying ‘just because it’s Christmas’ – and treating ourselves. Tap into that. There’s also countless associations to products and services that people start thinking about for the New Year that they need to get sorted – remind them of their resolutions and those responsible things they need to get around to.

I always feel a need to stress that you should be genuine about this. Don’t promise the world with your product, just show them you have something they want – if they like it and need it, they’ll bite.

5. Society and learning to give

Why not do something nice and create content your customers will find useful? What can you tell your customers that will help them? Create vlogs, ‘how to’ blogs and other eye catching video content. This time of year is no different to any other, and your content should be helpful and engaging, no matter the season.

Or work with a charity…

Dickens is very critical of how unfair society is in his novel, and highlights the importance of being selfless and giving to those who don’t have a lot. What better thing to do than just get into the spirit by supporting a local charity that aligns with your values?

My favourite example of this (in big business) is the 2015 #manonthemoon John Lewis advert . I think it’s one of the best Christmas adverts there have ever been and if it didn’t make you cry then you honestly can’t have a heart.

It was made in conjunction with Age UK, and was created to raise awareness of loneliness of the elderly at Christmas. It hit the headlines and helped Age UK cross over a £2 million income that year. It also inspired 12,000 people to inquire about becoming a volunteer.

If you aren’t a Christmassy person, and can’t abide the thought of donning a Santa hat, then consider doing some work with a local organisation that needs your help. Write about it, make videos, tell their stories – and yours, why are you supporting this charity? You don’t do this to look good, you do this because you care. What this exercise does is to help alert others to a plight that they might not have heard of, and the subsequent benefit is that, like me, someone might think about you four years after the fact – still feeling inspired by it and what a bloody great initiative it was.

Think about the rest of the year

In general, seasonal content can help increase your engagement – that’s right, seasonal, so not just Christmas. It can be a way of getting your brand in front of customers that might not have known you existed. That’s the purpose of all marketing campaigns, so don’t overlook the easy associations of your products and services with the time of year.

And go beyond Christmas. Valentines Day, Easter, Bank Holiday, Eid, Ramadan, Hannakuh. And also focus on niche holidays – this increases your probability of ranking highly in a search.

Enjoy the festive period, and whatever you decide to do, watch as many different film versions of A Christmas Carol as possible. It’s not Christmas otherwise. And look out for our ‘New Year Marketing Resolutions’ later this month.

Jade Zienkiewicz, Content Director at PhlashwebWritten by Phlashweb’s Jade Zienkiewicz.

Need a marketing revamp? Get in touch for some New Year inspiration for 2020 and Jade will give you a call back.

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