Sing along with Charlie Brown: “Christmas time is here again.” Therefore, you have approximately eight weeks to develop and deliver the greatest holiday marketing campaign in the company’s history. With a little vision, some professional guidance, and a healthy dose of the Christmas spirit, you can do it.
You know businessmen use the term “black” to describe the Christmas marketing season, because holiday sales have the power to take the company out of the red and into the black. The big corporate retailers have been developing their Christmas tools and tactics since Memorial Day, and Macy’s hired summer interns to do nothing but Christmas-themed promotional materials. The minute the ghosts and goblins came down, the boughs of holly went up. If, however, you are a little behind the Christmas curve, do not panic; instead, take time to plan and execute a comprehensive Christmas marketing campaign.
Start with a catchy, memorable Christmas slogan and theme. If your business has a familiar slogan or motto, adapt it for holiday use. You will recognize the major home improvement retailer that experimented with “More Saving. More Decorating.” A one-word change adapts the company’s standard line for the holiday season. Once you have your slogan and theme, begin plotting, mapping, and moving so that they appear everywhere and on everything. In order clearly to establish your theme, consistency counts most of all””same colors, same font, same illustrations and same ornaments, different sizes and locations.
Five keys to Christmas marketing success
Especially this year, plan on holding nothing back, because market analysts report even cash-strapped families have set aside money to make certain the children have an excellent Christmas. This year, people are willing to spend a little more for the good stuff if they see excellent values. Experienced marketers say this year, because the news has been so relentlessly dismal and depressing, shoppers will respond especially enthusiastically to big displays of “comfort and joy.” The veterans, therefore, recommend you follow five key points in your holiday marketing plan…
Decorate early. Decorate well.
Do not, however, decorate all at once, because your decorating and merchandising plans should build customers’ anticipation, and “regulars” should feel your business becoming more festive each week until “Black Friday,” when you naturally throttle-up “the wow factor” to full power. Each new element in your design should complement and elaborate the decorations you already have put-up. Consistency and continuity tattoo your brand on customers’ consciousness and memory.
Professional decorators strongly caution executives to keep their egos out of planning and execution of this major marketing initiative. If you have very little design sense and artistic skill, hire a skilled professional to bring your visions to life. If you have even a moment’s hesitation, hire a pro.
Create total Christmas ambiance.
Although you and your associates grow weary of Christmas music, you know you must play it. This year, though, instead of the same old Christmas mix that ranges from profoundly religious to ridiculously comic, make your own mix that complements your theme. If you can add fragrance to your scheme, do it! People naturally associate vanilla and cinnamon with the holidays, so find ways to waft a little aromatherapy into your displays. Pay attention to little details, putting jars of candy canes at your cash registers, and putting poinsettias in every vacant space. Put Christmas cookies at your customer service desk.
Leave no nook or cranny unadorned.
At venerable Marshall Field’s, a Chicago landmark and still the second city’s prime purveyor of all things holiday-cheerful, the chief display designers follow an inviolable rule. They put Christmas everywhere. The grand Christmas tree at the store’s heart groans under the weight of each year’s custom-made ornaments, and Field’s signature Christmas character””Uncle Mistletoe””appears in unexpected, usually dark places. No matter which direction a shopper turns or which department she shops, she finds Christmas all over it. Borrow one other hint from Field’s “ornament crew”: When in doubt, light it up. As darkness descends earlier and earlier, people naturally will gravitate to your lights. As with everything else in your displays, though, keep your lights consistent.
Every Friday is “Black Friday.”
You probably have seen the big-box retailers already are running “Black Friday” promotions, releasing special items and host buys early to boost normally slow pre-Thanksgiving sales. Follow their example, running advertised specials and special in-house promotions consistent with your plan for building regular customers’ anticipation and enthusiasm. Just as importantly, run “Black Friday” specials throughout December, holding back some of your best values for the last Friday before Christmas. The strategic release of excellent bargains will sustain higher-than-normal sales throughout the holiday season.
Work the web.
Use your website’s analytic tools to identify your most frequent online shoppers, and convert them to “preferred customers,” sending them special discounts via e-mail, thanking them profusely for their loyalty and patronage. If you have not established a business identity on Twitter and Facebook, get your IT guys on that project right away, sending regular and timely holiday greetings and promotions to the people who follow you. Remember many of your customers track their social networks on their smartphones, so that you have opportunities to meet, greet, and sell them throughout their busy days. You may want to complement some of your virtual promotions with direct mail, too. Because no one sends Christmas cards any more, you should–provided they are earth-friendly, of course.
If this year’s holiday marketing campaign seems more like the allies’ assault on Normandy than a month-long sales-fest, recognize that Christmas sales will determine whether or not some of your competitors survive into next year. Discount, display, decorate, promote, and market accordingly. Because your most prominent rivals are going “all-in,” you must follow their lead or get left behind.
Photo credits: Black Friday by Beth Rankin/flickr; Only 43 More Shopping Days Till Christmas! by Sister72/flickr
About the Author
Author Annie Sullivan enjoys the holidays and loves to coordinate the decorating of her office building by visiting Santa’s Quarters for beautiful artificial trees and unique, commercial grade large ornaments.