How to Market Christmas
Tis the season to be jolly! Welcome to Christmas my friends. If you are new to marketing, it is time to burst your Christmas bubble…(and not just that Santa is fictional)…because in marketing the festive season lasts all yearrrrr round. Yep, by the time it arrives, you will be lucky if the sight of Rudolph doesn’t make you want to reach for the mulled wine immediately. Christmas is a year long (sometimes plus) project. When I worked with a global retailer, they would have their Christmas mock shop up and running in November where creative could work alongside product developers to bring the following years Christmas to life. Sound intense? Well yah!
Let’s run some numbers. Christmas shopping is one of the biggest holidays with shoppers spending over $1 trillion in the United States and shoppers in the UK spending over £2 billion (WeAreTopTen). Typical household spends over £500 extra in December (Bank of England) plus there’s all the presents and fun activities to consider! So as Kevin in Home Alone would say - arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
So this is big business and getting the right proposition takes time and consideration. So let’s take a look at the steps required for a successful Christmas PR & Marketing campaign.
Right, timelines are not your friend with Christmas. No matter which brand I have worked with over the years, almost every single one encounters problems hitting the deadlines required to max out festive opportunities. Why? Let’s work it back:
December. By the time December hits, everyone is already on the slide into Christmas and is generally continually drunk on mulled Cider. The only thing you want to be launching in this month is end of year sales and/or a Minced Pie into your mouth.
November. Public Launch - Any earlier and people get annoyed so I think about it as the second Halloween is over (or Bonfire Night in the UK), you should be ready to rock and roll.
September / October. If you’re launching in November, you’ll need all your creative signed, sealed and delivered. Any last minute problems should be ironed out and printing should be delivered in October ready to go-live.
July / August. Press launch time. Yes Christmas in July is an industry LOL. Yes we roll our eyes, yes it feels too early, BUT if you’re a journalist working on a long lead magazine or God forbid a Christmas supplement, then this month is golden. It is common to hold a press day or begin your PR activation in July - ho ho ho.
May / June. Oh hang on tho. If you are having a press day in July…you’re gonna need the high res images aren’t you? And some nice campaign shots? Ya know, with Santa holding said product next to a tree. Soooo we need to shoot the campaign in May in order to build in time for repro and design. Merryyyyy Christmas.
March / April. Sooooo we’d better get the marketing campaign decided then? And the creative team briefed in order to hit our blooming deadlines? Simplyyyy having a Wonderful Christmas time.
January / February. You’re gonna need some festive products to shoot. This is when your buying team will be finalising their designs and getting final samples in. SEE this is how it becomes an all year round effort.
So that is quite simply how you will be detoxing from Christmas with your Dry January while simultaneously be talking about the NEXT years Christmas campaign. FML.
Campaigns - things to consider
So that’s timelines, now onto how to capture the imagination with some of my favourite examples.
November 14, 2018: New economic forecast data released by the Advertising Association shows businesses will spend close to six and a half billion pounds on seasonal advertising during the final quarter of this year. The competition to be the number one Christmas advertiser intensifies every year, with spend increasing 5% on the previous record amount in 2017 https://www.adassoc.org.uk/2018/11/christmas-adspend-18/. Big businesses - say the likes of John Lewis and Marks & Spencers, have enormous pressure to deliver at Christmas.
In past years, John Lewis really have delivered adverts with emotional connections which highlight their overall campaign - my favourite was the Man on the Moon a few years ago which connected to their charity link with Age UK.
This year my favourite campaigns have been the underdogs. Marks & Spencer have made more misses than hits in recent years but their link up with Holly Willoughby, arguably the most influential woman in fashion has scored major points for being relatable.
Advertising generally means spending stacks of cash - and although it certainly can end up being very expensive, creativity sometimes wins through. Just look at this alternative-Christmas video which only cost £50 to make and for me is a much bigger win this year.
After this went viral, the filmmaker Phil Beastall has since been commissioned by Good Morning Britain to make their One Million Minutes campaign.
Advertising is all-encompassing so consider this in your marketing mix and find your audience; whether it is TV to radio to print to digital and social media.
This year things have gone extra AF. The rise, and rise of Instagram and social media has put the emphasis fairly and squarely onto the double V - visual and viral. I’ve talked before how businesses including shops, cafes and pubs can use their physical space to become a haven for Instagrammers. Traditionally we would rely on councils or streets to decorate but now, businesses can take matters into their own hands.
My favourite hot spots are London based but there will be plenty more examples - Tweet me when you find them!
Florist Dickinson & Doris have been creating beautiful displays for Peggy Porschen for the last few years and for 2018 we have a pink Winter Wonderland which ticks all the festive boxes. This is Instagram genius - we literally have pink and sparkly backdrop of the cafe on the pretty cobbled streets of Belgravia serving up cute Christmas cupcakes and pastel coloured treats. A must visit - just expect to queue on a nice day.
Churchill Arms - if there was an award for a pub which has gone viral - it would be the Churchill Arms because as soon as they installed their Christmas tree decorations, it made national news. The Churchill Arms famously spend £25,000 a year on decorating the pub with flowers and over Christmas their budget is £5,000 on Christmas decorations. That money provides 90 Christmas trees, almost 12,000 lights https://secretldn.com/churchill-arms-flower-pub/. The ROI on just one of the national news pieces would have paid for itself in terms of press coverage and ensures it is consistently top of the must-visit pub lists for tourists and Londoners alike.
Annabel’s has been killing it in Mayfair this year with their OTT floor to ceiling, purse busting decorations but the ROI on Instagram is OOC.
The key is to make it impactful enough and ensuring you get the ROI. You can never be 100% sure of the results but each year you can test new decorations through fresh campaigns and track your mentions and engagement.
Creating a Christmas Offering or Experience
Nothing says Christmas without yearning for a special mulled wine or a stacked hot chocolate with whipped cream inside a festive, cosy igloo on the Thames. Well this has happened! Coppa Club are booked up solid for the Christmas period with their igloos which overlook Tower Bridge. This is the perfect Christmassy experience where getting that shot inside the igloo looking super smug is reserved for the very lucky or the very early bookers.
Dalloway Terrace have also created #WinteratDalloway with a cosy festive setting by Wild At Heart and Christmas cocktails including the Belsazar Vermouth Winter Warmers.
Ice Bars and skating rinks have also been on the rise, popping up in iconic places like Somerset House, the National History Museum and Winter Wonderland. Speaking of Winter Wonderland, it has been growing and growing since it opened in 2007. It now spans a huge area with bars, rides and activities and attracts over 2.5 million visitors each year.
Creating Christmas Products
Christmas products have a SHORT SHELF LIFE so their reason for being needs to absolutely clear. For Christmas shopping guides, festive themed outfits or cosy wintery pieces are absolutely crucial. This is a crowded market though, so it needs to be cuter, funnier, more colourful and more festive than the rest to stand out. Christmas jumpers have had a particular resurgence in recent years, partly due to Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day and also to embrace the festive period, creating a fun party uniform amongst family, friends and colleagues.
If you work in the food or drinks industry, then ding dong merrily on high. Get a Christmas menu pronto with festive cocktails and introduce special offers for parties.
PR Tips for Christmas
Be Ready - Get your high res images and lifestyle shots by July. Think about what the press want for gift guides and make sure you have cut outs on plain backgrounds.
Press Release ready - If you don’t have a product you can photograph prior to installation (for example - Churchill Arms festive pub), make sure you have confirmed your plans and signed off the press release with quotes which you can send out in July. If you have images from previous years, you can use those to give everyone a taster and get everyone excited by adding to your blog if you have one on the lead up to the event.
Get to know the press - Find out the specific contact or commissioned journalists on key titles so you can be super targeted.
Use social media - Many journalists will use the hashtag #journorequest on Twitter to search for Christmas Gift Guide suggestions so get yourself a Twitter account. Many media databases will send out alerts if you pay to join them too - like Gorkana and Diary Directory.
Hold an event - Brands like Jo Malone are the gold standard in holding luxury events in beautiful settings, and Christmas is no exception with their stunning dinners to launch the new season with a signature scent or their Christmas Wreath. Depending on your budget, you can hold a simple press day in July, or even join one which will feature many brands, or you can hold a smaller, more personal breakfast, lunch or dinner. An event is always an extra cost and not always what I call a basic requirement, however, the social reach around the brand and potential to reach Christmas Gift Guide decision makers, should make it all worth it if you do it right!