‘Tis the season for Christmas marketing campaigns: the Coke lorry is on the road, the TV ads are already competing for attention, and – if you’ve planned as far ahead as we’d hoped – your in-store marketing experiences are already rolling out.
But what about next year? Is it too early to think about 2019? For consumers, yes. For brand managers, Christmas 2018 is the perfect time to start planning for next year’s festivities. This year’s results will undoubtedly have an impact on what you do next year. So, what sorts the Christmas crackers from the lumps of coal?
Ten tips for making the most of the season
Goals. What are you trying to achieve in 2019, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it? Assessing what happens this year is a great place to start. Were your goals simply sales? Or brand building? Were they realistic? Do you need to push harder? Setting goals is the cornerstone of any great strategy.
Vision. What do you want customers to feel and do? Did you deliver a coherent and fulfilling experience that reinvigorated your customers and put them in a positive, pro-purchase frame of mind in 2018? What can you do differently next year to improve or refine? In short, what is the big idea?
Seasonal context. At Christmas time, marketing is all about differentiation. You’ll be competing against everyone else’s rebrand, campaign, discounts and events. How have you managed to stand out from the crowd?
Audience. Christmas is fun for the whole family, but that doesn’t mean market segments cease to exist. Who are your most profitable customers, where are you trying to achieve growth, and what appeals to the personas that represent these market segments? Do you need to go “bah humbug!” or be a jolly old elf?
Brand cohesion. You may have decided to put a seasonal spin on your branding – special packaging, tie-in adverts, Santa hats for staff – but you’ve still got to hold that branding together and keep it associated with the vocabulary, tone and style you’ve established in the rest of the year.
Creative. There’s a fine art to festive marketing. It’s easy to sink into twee clichés and turn your audience’s stomach over; you need design, promo material and a script that balance the festive theme with impactful claims. Sometimes, less is more.
Execution. Stores are busier, shoppers are preoccupied, and time is short – you only have a few weeks for a Christmas campaign to make a splash. Did you nail the logistics, the timing and the staffing, or is there room for improvement?
Comms. Don’t forget that your in-store marketing needs to be marketed. As ever, you’ll need to set a budget, and put people in charge of monitoring your social feeds to manage the feedback, share the content and address any complaints. Beware of oversubscription too: #Christmas is, shall we say, a somewhat crowded hashtag.
Data collection. Next year’s campaign will depend on your learnings from this one. You’ll need a way to collect insights on who’s attending, what they’re feeling, whether or not they purchased – and you’ll need to make the collection swift and seamless so it doesn’t slow down the Christmas shopping experience.
Before/during/after. Christmas marketing doesn’t end on Christmas morning. It needs to feed into whatever you have in mind for the January sales, and beyond into Q1 of the New Year. For that matter, it doesn’t start on the first of December either – if you’re running a month-long campaign, you need your plans in place by Hallowe’en.
So much for nice: what about naughty?
There are two major ways a Christmas campaign can go wrong.
Starting the campaign too early. People aren’t in Christmas mode in mid-November. Yes, Christmas products have started to appear on the shelves by the time the pumpkins are on discount, but the marketing push has to wait its turn. The backlash against Christmas creep is real, and your campaign will have outstayed its welcome if you set it off before Black Friday’s been and gone.
Solely sales thinking. In-store marketing is a sales push, but it’s not about pushy sales. People, after all, don’t want to be sold to – especially not at Christmas. Overt and in-your-face salesmanship alienates customers; experiences that add value bring them on board.
Christmas offers so much potential for in-store sales activations. If you can win a customer over at Christmas, then between gift-giving and word of mouth, their whole family could end up with your products in their hands. Reflect on your Christmas marketing, and plan ahead to make next year’s Christmas campaign a proper winter wonderland.
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