It’s July, it’s meant to be the height of summer, and whilst we’re all hopefully wishing for a heatwave, it’s also a critical time to start planning for your Christmas marketing activity.

There will be a series of blogs to accompany our Attention: Christmas Countdown July fortnight, this one focuses on the over-arching naughty (things to avoid) and nice things to do during the festive period to engage with your customers, and drive sales.

the naughty list

1. Failing to plan

If you’re reading this blog, then you’re already one step closer to being on the nice, rather than naughty list. As the great Franklin quote goes: Failing to plan, is planning to fail.

It’s imperative that you have a Christmas action plan, and one which is shared with all departments so that you’re all on the same page and can share updates/assets/knowledge and even resource.

Identify all key dates that are relevant to peak shopping periods, but also align with your own tactical sales plan.

Also think about key moments during the festive season to appreciate when the best time might be to pop up and say ‘buy me’ or align with a specific need - whether it’s ‘inspiration’; ‘advice’ or ‘entertainment’, appreciate what your audience are looking for and respond accordingly.

Micro-moments are a prevalent marketing trend for 2016 and their understanding could not be more important when marketing in the frenzied Christmas shopping period. But simply being in these moments isn’t enough, identifying them is only half the battle, The content you deliver needs to provide the required information or answer what the user is looking for, otherwise they’ll ignore you and you’ll have wasted time and effort. So choose these moments wisely and don’t over-task yourself.

2. Disappointing customers

So, you’ve done the hard work to grab your audience’s attention with your advertising, and even get them to visit your site, but you run the risk of disappointment and/or abandonment if you don’t keep on top of stock levels and fail to offer adequate delivery options.

Timing is everything with Christmas, and unfortunately many consumers leave things to the last minute! The brands which win are those which can offer speedy deliveries, and those that can guarantee delivery (offering compensation if it doesn’t come through as promised). If you can’t offer swift turnarounds, you’ll need to plan to cease your marketing efforts much earlier than those that can.

With regards to stock levels, having a constant dialogue between departments is paramount. You’ve hopefully got your plan in place, but this also needs to be flexible enough to avoid advertising products which are unavailable - keep the internal flow of communication open and have contingencies.

3. Creating a Christmas campaign just for the sake of it

Christmas could possibly be your peak sales period, and with so much pressure to deliver a strong sales performance, we may all be guilty of creating a Christmas campaign or two just for the sake of it. These campaigns are not true to the brand, or objectives, and are devoid of any reference to a brand’s unique selling point, but they’re created just to generate a bit of Christmas cheer, elicit an emotional response or achieve views. But for what purpose?

Effective Christmas marketing should be rooted in deep customer insight, and offer consumers a compelling reason why they should choose your company over someone else’s (we all know that the same product can be bought in multiple locations - so what does it take for someone to purchase the item from you, rather than your competitor?).

If you struggle to differentiate yourself, you may need to reconsider why you’re in business in the first place.

4. Hijacking the wrong theme

A slight extension to point 3 above, but if you’re going to get social this Christmas, make sure you’re only getting involved in hashtags that are relevant to your business and add a positive enhancement to your social media / marketing strategy.

There will be so many generic hashtags floating about (or ones that take off due to the usual Christmas ad battle) that it’s easy to be lazy and jump on the bandwagon just to get some visibility. However, you have to think how your association with it will enhance or detract from your brand values.

Whilst not Christmas related, these are still some of the most epic hashtag fails.

5. It worked last year, so I'm going to do it again

As a data enthusiast I spend a lot of my time comparing year-on-year stats, assessing why things worked then or why they’re working now. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, times quickly change and what worked last year, doesn’t guarantee the same level of success (or failure) a year later.

My advice here is to evaluate what you did last year, and taking into account how platforms have upgraded, and customer expectations have changed, make sure you do at least some things differently.

Always experiment, and push your limits further - last year could be a good foundation to start with, but you may need to think about moving where you have the conversation or capture the sale.

If you’re an ecommerce brand with a strong Facebook presence, try selling via a platform like Shopify’s Facebook Integrated Store - with rolling monthly contracts, and the sizeable sales potential, Christmas could be a great time to trial the platform (lots of data, lots of learnings, potentially lots of sales!) and discover a new sales channel.

6. Spam

Finally, whilst not strictly restricted to Christmas marketing, remember no one likes to be spammed. Whether that’s via email, social media or direct mail. Plan your activity accordingly, segment your customers and tailor your communication. If all else fails, ask yourself - how would I feel if I was bombarded by this many ‘buy buy buy’ messages? If you wouldn’t tolerate the constant barrage, what makes you think your customers will?

Christmas Countdown

The nice list

1. Knowing thy customer

With the trillions of advertising messages that litter TV, print, radio and the internet during the run up to Christmas, it is obviously one of the hardest times to achieve consumer attention. However, by personalising your communication via subtle shifts in language, choice of imagery or timing of your contact could make all the difference.

More fondly known at the ‘cocktail party effect’ - it is the familiar situation when in a busy social context, we can immediately detect when someone mentions our name across the room.

Our brain has a primal ability to filter irrelevant information and focus on things it deems valuable to us. In an advertising context this means personalisation and context can help people detect saliency in the work we create and enable them to take notice amid the ‘communications storm.’

In order to personalise, you need to know thy customer. Segmentation is key. If you don’t do it already, you have at least 3 good months to get your hands dirty on your data and discover who your customers are.

Who are one-time purchasers?

  • When did they purchase? Could they purchase from you again this Christmas?

Who are your loyal customers?

  • How often do they buy? When do they buy? Why?
  • If you reward them, would they buy more? are my ‘loyal customer marketing gurus’, I love everything about how they keep me engaged, offer discounts from time to time to tempt me to shop, and add a spark of personality in how they go about delivering their message.

  • Payday + Black Friday = Trouble ;) - 20% off EVERYTHING
  • It's your ASOS anniversary, get 10% off
  • Hey Kherrin - We're sorry! Let's kiss & make up with 20% off everything

Data analysis can seem cumbersome, but the knowledge and insight you’ll get will be thoroughly worth the time and effort. Following a recent attendance at Once Upon A Time, we are advocates of Who Buys Your Stuff, a customer research company who seek to identify your lead persona. Check them out!

2. An enhanced, seamless experience

Whether you have a bricks and mortar store and/or a website it is essential to enhance the retail experience during Christmas. It’s the perfect time to offer little perks, or a pleasant atmosphere - shopping for Christmas can be stressful, but the environment in which you shop can be made pleasurable.

Econsultancy offer a good round-up of last year’s creative experiential marketing campaigns. My favourite would have to be the Notonthehighstreet gift-o-matic at Waterloo.

It’s also important to adjust the experience depending on the number of days left before Christmas. As we get nearer to the big day, time becomes a major challenge. As a result, behaviour and needs change by the day, even by the hour.

Adapt your website layout and messaging to take into account the shift in urgency as we start to run out of time. Website optimisation tools could be major allies in this fast paced, time sensitive period - UX architect Chris did a fantastic talk about confirmation bias this year - it’s worth a watch if you need to get enthused about website testing.

Likewise, appreciating the cross device shopping journey will ensure that your message is kept consistent and continuous, you understand the true impact and attribution of all marketing channels and you can hopefully develop a familiar connection with your consumers which will lead to trust, loyalty and business success.

I’m currently liking the new media product launched by Sky - Sky AdVance. You can read more about it here.

3. Removing barriers between discovery and purchase

A significant part of the moment marketing trend is the ability for a company to remove the barriers between a consumption moment and a purchase opportunity.

In the last year, some notable shortcuts for sales have included:

  • 'Buy it' button on Pintrest which was released in June 2015;
  • Shopify integration within social platforms like Facebook allowing customers to browse product catalogues and keeping the shop always visible;
  • Google launching shopping ads within TrueView videos to cut down the click-path between seeing a product in action, and purchasing it;
  • Google piloting a buy button in mobile search with “purchases on Google” - making mobile purchases easier for consumers
  • Lead generation cards on Twitter and Facebook (ok, not directly sales, but a precursor to them)

By Q4 there may be even more opportunities to cut the links in the chain and offer consumers the opportunity to impulse buy, buy on the go, and buy within the platform they’ve discovered the product in.

4. Throw a party!

We all love the office Christmas party, and whilst I’m not suggesting you should try and emulate anything as debaucherous as colleagues letting their hair down at the end of the year, bringing your customers together is a nice way of showing them how much you value them, and also gives them a chance to share their experiences with one another.

Whether it’s inviting them to an event at a physical location (your store, your place of work, a venue or a local restaurant) or via a virtual meeting of minds on social media, hangouts or messaging apps, spreading the joy of Christmas could put you in good favour for the new year and perhaps repair some burnt bridges.

You also have the opportunity to invite your customers, but also offer them a +1 invite thus extending the potential to drive new advocates for your brand.

5. Christmas stunts

Last but not least, it’s the time of year to get creative and step outside of the comfort zone, if only for a short while. Cleverly designed Christmas stunts could be a low cost, or multi-million pound, way of doing this. Here are a couple of stunts from years gone by which I thought were worthy of some attention here - they made me smile.

No room at the inn - Travelodge

Travelodge offered any couple called Mary and Joseph a free night's stay at any UK Travelodge to become known for its city centre locations and comfortable rooms.

Professional light untangler - Tesco

To help locals enjoy the festive season and relieve some of the stresses often associated with the yuletide season – specifically tangled tree lights – Tesco employed someone to conquer one of the most frustrating jobs of Christmas.

Mistletoe drones - TGI Fridays

Each drone had mistletoe hanging underneath and a "kisscam" ready to take a snap of the victims (er, willing participants) to spread a bit of Christmas cheer, and make get-togethers more entertaining.

Hopefully this list has given you some food for thought on how you could do things (at least) slightly differently this year. If you’re reading this, you’re thinking about it and hopefully will be starting to plan for it now, so perhaps you have a bit more preparation time to do some attention worthy things. Good luck!

christmas marketing naughty and nice list

Back to blog
Meet the author ...

Kherrin Wade

Strategy Director

Kherrin works with clients to develop effective marketing strategies, whether that's introducing brands to digital for the first time or pushing the boundaries with more ...