Customer Data & Analytics Blog

‘Tis the season for what exactly?

Ariella Brown | 4 minute read


Here we are in November, and holiday marketing is in full swing already. In fact, some holiday marketing has been in place already since early October, much to the chagrin of those of us who think they should at least let us get through Halloween before decking things out in red and green. While there is some method to the marketing madness, there is much room for improvement, and the key to that is meeting the expectations of your target market.

Timing is everything

The first question is: what do we talk about when we bring up the holiday season? The National Retail Foundation (NRF) offers us answers. What it includes are the following holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Note that means that one holiday style does not fit all because we’re talking about four different ones, which include three different religious practices.

Yet, there is one period of year designated for all those holidays, which the NRF identifies as the 61 days that make up the last two months of the year. In other words, no one is only counting the shopping season from Black Friday any more, though it is still a major shopping day. But the new normal is “Black November” punctuated by days like “Cyber Monday,” online promotions that also tend to extend beyond the single day.

So what’s up with Santa making appearances in October? The NRF answers that question, which really has been bugging me with this statistic: “More than 4 in 10 holiday shoppers say they begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.” And, of course, retailers are always happy to hype holiday marketing, which is what yields the Christmas in October phenomenon.

One size does not fit all

But here’s the thing: while appealing to the 40 percent, retailers who jump on the holiday bandwagon too early may be wasting their efforts and marketing dollars on those of us in the 60 percent. They also may be sending altogether the wrong message for some of us because they’re assuming we’re in the market for trees and holly when we are really in the market for a kinara or menorah and candles.

Just like you can’t just buy one size holiday sweater for everyone on your gift list, you can’t assume a single marketing mold will fit everyone in your target marketing. This is where data and personalization comes in: you have to know what they’re about and what will resonate with them for holiday marketing.

Give them what they want and not what they don’t

Did you have a relative who always gave you gifts of clothes you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in? This is how some customers feel when retailers send us marketing promotions that have no relevance to us. And just as the thought is what really makes the gift count, marketers have to think about what will speak to all the people on their lists in their terms.

What and when they celebrate

While everyone has Thanksgiving on the same day, not everyone celebrates it in quite the same way. For some, the turkey defines the day, but vegetarians have a different spin. For many, it’s all about family, but some consider it primarily a time to give to their community. Then there are those who consider the football game the pinnacle of the day. If you can find out what they mean when they talk about Thanksgiving, you’d be able to have more meaningful conversations with them than “Gobble, gobble.”

As we move into the December holidays, it gets even more complicated. Even though the majority of the country likely celebrates Christmas, they do so in different ways with different motivations. You have to market differently to the type of person who has the bumper sticker “Keep the Christ in Christmas” than to the person who doesn’t consider herself a Christian but enjoys the exchange of gifts and parties.

Now if you’re aiming for people who celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, aside from getting the holiday imagery right (no Santas or evergreens) you need to show awareness of the fact that they don’t mark December 25th as the day. For Kwanzaa it’s the 26th, and Hanukkah usually starts earlier (this year on December 2). That means that targeted holiday marketing should not aim to wish your customers a Happy Hanukkah after December 10th.

What resonates with people for the holidays

Fortunately, there are some universal themes that do cross across cultures and practices. Working off some of these in ways that fit your audience can be very effective. They include offers to save people time and money, connecting to causes, and tapping into what makes them feel warm and fuzzy.

Less stress and lower cost

Everyone can experience stress and concern about costs in working through a gift list and planning holiday parties. So most people would be receptive to offers for simplified gift giving that saves them time and discounts that save them money. As often as you have to pay more for convenience or deal with more aggravation to reduce costs, showing them a way to achieve both could win you more business and loyalty.

One caveat here: you have to show awareness of your customers’ budgets and priorities. There are people who are happy to pay a premium for convenience because their time is what they value most. Also even when people are looking to save on costs, they are working off their own expectation of appropriate amounts. So those who want to spend hundreds are not in the market for the gifts under $10, and those who are looking to spend that little will not appreciate high end items even if they are offered at a good price.

Causes close to their heart

In the spirit of giving, around the holidays, many brands promote charitable causes. This is a good way to appeal to your customer base, but it can also backfire. So be wary of adopting religious political causes that may rub some of them the wrong way. One solution is to allow them to select the cause that will be supported by their purchase.

What grabs them

Holiday marketing often seeks out warm and fuzzy associations to resonate with audiences. For many it’s nostalgia that show scenes from that time of year that may take people back to their childhood. While that could be appealing, particularly for those of a certain age, you do need to know what makes the customer you’re addressing tick. Perhaps his favorite scene is a modern one with clean, sleek lines. If you’re selling electronics, appliances, or even furnishings and dinnerware, the holiday scene you set could be something one would look forward to in the future rather than looking back at.

The bottom line for holiday marketing is the same as gift giving: to succeed you have to know the person’s size, taste, habits, and needs. This is why the 360 degree view of the customer is the starting point for planning an effective campaign.

Ariella Brown is a Zylotech contributing writer.

If you liked this post, check out our other blog post on 4 ways AI and machine learning enhance the customer experience.

Topics: Tech Startup