Christmas might be a nightmare for many consumers, but it’s a bounteous time for brands and retailers. For two months at the end of every year, consumers descend into a mad panic in order to fulfil the desires of their loved ones and inspire a little of that crucial Christmas Spirit. We need to be the ones making this annual process less challenging; guiding them in the right direction and making the most of the frantic festive free-for-all.
Of course, with the season now officially descended, most of us will have already sorted our Christmas in-store campaigns. Indeed, we will probably have settled on them months ago. However, there are plenty of things we could be doing throughout December to leverage the festive atmosphere, the innate hysteria of the season and the increasingly fickle fancies of the general public.
Below, we’ll examine five last-minute ideas brands could use to stand out this December: tactics that will draw attention, drive sales and (perhaps) claim loyal customers.
1. Get social
“Getting social” at Christmas used to mean rallying the troops and knocking on doors to drum up business. These days, things are a lot more immediate, but a lot more complicated. It means utilising social media to make sure people know you’re there and that you’re ready to help them get in the festive spirit.
The best way to nurture a convincing and attractive social media feed that will draw in consumers is to make sure your brand ambassadors and in-store teams are given access to your feeds. This could mean anything from documenting daily in-store activities and referencing popular trends (or even memes), to promoting in-store competitions and sales.
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You don’t want to give your ambassadors too much freedom, of course. Give clear instruction and limitations around the type of content and the tone you want to convey, but give them enough freedom to be creative.
By its very nature, social media is a beast in perpetual motion. Leverage this by never standing still and updating feeds at least a few times a day to keep up not only with your competitors but also with shifting trends.
Social media outreach doesn’t need just to be a national concern either. Indeed, there are thousands of local Facebook groups and Twitter feeds that you could be taking advantage of. Don’t just rely on your brand feeds, as these will only be reaching the already converted. Make sure you share your relevant posts to local groups in order to grab the attention of local consumers. If you’re lucky, you might even get a share from a local influencer, which is always a major free advertising boost. Over the season, you’ll also find social media groups that are specifically tailored towards Christmas events and activities, so try to keep these on your radar too.
Be brave, and be different!
2. Festivise your brand ambassadors
Whilst you don’t want to go too far here as it could risk turning away consumers who are a little timid and perhaps not quite as inclined towards the festive delights of the season, there’s a lot to be said for simply making sure your team gets into the spirit of things. It can’t hurt to make sure your staff are dressed to impress and are referencing the season in some way, without going overboard.
Everyone is also sick of hearing the same Christmas songs on a loop in every store they visit, so why not avoid Wham and Band Aid this year and instead pop a few more esoteric and playful songs on the playlist. This will not only lead to less employee and consumer fatigue, but could also even be promoted online and in-store as a shareable Spotify playlist or bespoke compilation CD.
As the day itself approaches, you might also want to consider ramping up the festive cheer by encouraging carol singing and festive in-store karaoke. These are ideas it would be ill-advised to even entertain at any other time of year, but Christmas is special so don’t be afraid to make a noise.
3. Incentivise your brand ambassadors
Simply giving them a song to sing and allowing them access to the Twitter feed might not be enough to incentivise your workers to increase productivity over Christmas. It’s a busy and stressful time for everyone, remember. In order to keep staff spirits high, give them added incentives to draw attention, footfall and sales.
On a local level, you could create incentives such as a special Christmas present for the staff member with the most inventive Christmas outfit or the best rendition of their favourite Christmas song. These are all ideas that can, of course, be shared on social media to draw in local customers who might want to involve themselves in the festive frolics.
On a national level, meanwhile, consider offering a prize to the best performing store over the Christmas period. You’ll have to consider a fair and reasonable way of comparing performance (a store on a busy high street in London is always going to perform better than a store on a deserted high street in Kidderminster), but competition has always been a guaranteed way to motivate team members.
4. PR stunt
The phrase “PR stunt” might have been a dirty one in years past that brands would shirk for fear of being seen as cheap and tawdry. However, with social media now amplifying these stunts organically and on a wider scale than we could have possibly dreamt of even a few short years ago; stunts sell brands.
This doesn’t need to be something as ostentatious as gift wrapping a helicopter, like Harrods did with their “Anything is Possible” campaign. There’s a middle ground to be claimed where extraneous stock meets the potential for shares and column inches. Raffling off extra stock or donating it to charity can create a positive buzz. Fizz managed to find this sweet spot when they distributed unsold Lindt chocolate stock to local schools. In 2016, meanwhile, Burger King allowed customers to exchange their unwanted gifts for free burgers, with the gifts being donated to local charities.
Whatever the plan and whether you’re aiming to make an impact on a local, national or even international level, think “show-stopping”, think creatively and think fast! Of course, it’s important to share on social media, but also make sure the press is at least aware of the activation. Local outlets, in particular, are always sniffing out light stories for the season and your local teams need to tap into this.
5. Link the in-store to wider advertising
Brands should always bring their wider advertising in-store in order to drive sales, particularly if their TV and digital advertising is gaining traction. This is doubly important at Christmas when brands are competing on a very public stage to capture the hearts and imaginations of the public. This can mean anything from having your Christmas ad playing on a loop in-store so your customers make the connection, to creating displays and activations that reference the ad and build on the world it’s created.
Aldi hit a goldmine recently with their Kevin the Carrot campaign when they decided to bring their computer-generated mascot into the physical world. The Kevin the Carrot stuffed toy sale went beyond traditional in-store success; it became a legitimate phenomenon, with mainstream news coverage, blanket social media posts and unprecedented in-store footfall. Indeed, Aldi couldn’t keep up with demand, to the extent that Kevin the Carrot toys are now being sold on eBay for more than 10 times their market value.
If you’re fortunate enough to have created a campaign or a mascot that transcends its origins to become a cultural touchstone, don’t neglect it; capitalise on it. John Lewis do this almost every year. Whereas at other times of the year you would run the risk of burnout, the Christmas retail season only lasts for 2 months of the year, giving consumers just enough time to get emotionally invested in your brand’s virtual ambassador, but not too much time to get sick to death of them.
‘Tis the Season
A long-term strategy is always important, but being creative on the day/week of your in-store campaign is equally crucial, particularly in the lead up to Christmas. You don’t have to lose sight of long-term goals by focusing on short-term gain, however. The Christmas season is a true anomaly in the retail world, and one that we should all be taking by the reins.
Christmas comes but once a year, after all.
Of course, in-store isn’t just for Christmas. Check out some of the creative (and successful) campaigns we’ve launched for brands all year round here…