Monday, November 3, 2014

CMOs: 3 Steps for an Early Holiday Campaign That Customers Actually Like

Most people are just getting used to the onslaught of all things pumpkin flavored, but CMOs and planners know the importance of championing another season that's quickly approaching: holiday shopping season. As a graduate student in Northwestern Medill's IMC program, I'm concerned with focusing in on consumer behavior and needs, and have found two great articles that show the importance of engaging your customers with early holiday campaigns, even as we're just wrapping up Halloween.

A recent Adweek article explored the results of Google’s Holiday Shopper Intentions survey and found that 26 percent of all shoppers start searching for gift deals before Halloween. That’s right, over one-quarter of your customers are already looking for gifts. So the challenge, then, is creating an early holiday campaign that doesn't feel out of place in early November.

Stuart Elliott, advertising columnist at the New York Times, tackled this challenge in a recent article, "Autumn is in the Air, but for Marketers, Christmas Has Already Begun." He cites examples of companies like Kmart and Betabrand that have proven a healthy dose of humor can go a long way in winning over consumers. For example, FCB Chicago recently produced a clever Kmart spot entitled “Not a Christmas Commercial” The ad confirms, “It’s way too early for Christmas, so just to be clear, this is not a Christmas commercial.” But Kmart jokes with the viewer that perhaps they’ll have some sort of event in late December that requires a lot of gifts. “Like maybe your entire family is having a birthday on the same day.” In that case, it’s the perfect time to visit Kmart and put your gifts on layaway.

If a brand is able to poke fun at its early campaign, customers can appreciate the humor instead of getting annoyed. Elliot refers to this as "meta" marketing — a trend in which the brand or company itself makes wry comments about its own campaigns in a self-aware manner.

From my consumer insight work at Northwestern, combined with the findings in these two articles, here are three action items you need to consider in planning your upcoming holiday campaigns:
  • Start early – As pointed out in both of these articles, a large portion of consumers are already out there looking for gifts. Make sure your brand doesn’t miss out on the opportunity.
  • Use humor – You better believe most people aren’t looking for Christmas music or over-the-top holiday stories in early November. Keep it light. Don’t be afraid to poke fun at your own campaign.
  • Utilize extra time – Starting a holiday campaign early gives you the option for a longer campaign that could include multiple parts. It also gives you more time to build up a stronger relationship with consumers before the market is saturated with holiday ads. 

So don’t be late to the holiday party. Consumers are out there and ready to find gifts – it would be silly not to reach out to them. And if you can be silly while reaching out to them, even better.

Lizzie Bartek is pursuing her M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University, focusing on digital marketing, strategy and content. She is passionate about discovering fresh consumer insights and translating them into awesome strategies and compelling stories. After graduating in December '14, she hopes to work in planning. In her spare time, she runs, writes, explores and manages social media for Vitamin IMC. You can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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