The Christmas season is a special time, in large part because of the indelible traditions and experiences that connect emotion and memory. It is, when you think about it, the holy grail for marketers – taking up residence in the brain with something that can be recalled and provokes feelings.
So we asked our team: What do you most look forward to during the Christmas season, and what can marketers take from it?
As a parent, it’s the mystery and magic that comes with the holiday for my kids. The twinkling lights, bright colors and classic stories all lend themselves to the entire holiday season. Marketers need to try and sprinkle some of that in with their messaging. Back off the hard sell. And let the spirit of giving and sharing breathe a bit more. – Grant Pace, Partner, Executive Creative Director
My favorite thing about Christmas is the feeling of nostalgia and thinking back to Christmas magic I felt as a little kid. Hearing Motown Christmas tunes instantly brings me back to memories of decorating the house with my dad, and watching Christmas movies like The Grinch and Charlie Brown Christmas give me the feeling like I’m 8 years old all over again. What also has made me smile this time of year is seeing vintage holiday commercials. Hershey’s 1989 “Christmas Bells” commercial always brings me back – standard def and all. I absolutely love it and wish more marketers would jump on the vintage commercial train. It surely makes me (and I’m sure others) smile. – Lauren Kimball, SVP, Director of Brand Management and Operations
Growing up, we’d come home from midnight mass and then get to open the first present. I was always excited to see what it would be. Every single year, without fail, it was PJs. My husband and I have continued this tradition as we try to navigate Christmas with two families (and – this year – on our own!).
Now that I’m older, I realize this was a genius hack. My dad’s christmas morning photos had the family in brand-new PJs, making for great photos.
What marketers can learn from this is the need to refresh your assets. Though they might be functional, they could be out-of-date or have just stopped working. – Carissa Ryan, Account Supervisor
We spend each Christmas Eve with my cousins. Large family with an even larger extended family, so there are a lot of people to catch up with. The highlight, though, is always the video: a 15- to 20-minute production that fuses videos and photos from the lives of everyone in attendance over the last year. It always provokes some laughter, a few tears and even a little thinking (a heck of a day, as Jim Valvano might have referred to it).
You could look at this in any number of ways as a marketer: perhaps the power of community or video or storytelling. But what strikes me is the expanded window it provides into the lives of others – beyond just the conversations had before and after. And that juxtaposition reflects, in some small way, the difference between seeing the human and the consumer experience.
As marketers, we often focus on that which we can see – the actions people take on a website, or how they engage with us on social media or whether they click through on an ad. The consumer experience. But we are consumers for only a small period of every day. How/where/when/why we consume is influenced by things happening around us all the time. The human experience. Those who seek to look beyond, while marrying that with what can be seen, are better positioned for success. – Todd Graff, SVP, Public Relations
Experiencing Christmas with children is my favorite thing about the holiday season. From our four children to our seven grandchildren, the wonder of it all brings so much happiness and joy. It also reinforces in them the love of family, the values and ethics of “being good,” giving vs. receiving, helping those in need, and respecting those who came before them. Marketers that touch on those aspects of Christmas have a chance to penetrate the noise of the season and reach audiences more effectively. – Mark Fredrickson, Managing Director, Technology Practice
Christmas is about family and an opportunity to just spend time with each other without interruption. Christmas Eve Mass followed by a big celebration at my sister’s or brother’s house. And then Christmas morning with Renee and the kids. Nothing is more important or enjoyable. But there’s another tradition I love. Last-minute shopping. For some, fighting the crowds of procrastinators is stressful. For me, that’s when Christmas begins. There’s an energy that I can’t imagine anyone can get sitting on their couch scrolling through Amazon on Cyber Monday or standing in front of Walmart at 3 a.m. on Black Friday. The weeks of bow-riddled car commercials, holiday music and Christmas lights are the prelude, not to Christmas morning or Christmas Eve (I love them both) but December 23, shopping day. – Brian Heffron, Partner, EVP
For me, my favorite parts of Christmas are the traditions that remind me of my childhood. Every Christmas Eve, we read ‘The Polar Express’ as a family. All snuggled up on the couch in our PJs, my parents, brothers and I, each take turns reading a page before passing the story onto the next person. This bedtime story tradition started when we were all little, and carries on now into our adulthood.
Thinking back on all the years when we read the story together gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling, and for that reason, I think nostalgia is a powerful tool for marketers. The world is moving so fast right now. It feels like a new, must-have piece of tech comes out every day and that, more often than not, kids and adults alike are spending most of their days looking at a screen. But it’s the good old fashioned, screen-less traditions that evoke the best memories for me. So I think marketing messages that focus on getting back to the basics and evoking feelings of nostalgia and closeness will really resonate with consumers. Especially this year. – Lizzie Manley, Senior Account Executive
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the advent calendar – counting down the days leading up to one of the most magical nights of the year: Christmas Eve. As a kid, I remember battling it out with my sister about who would get to open the door and eat the chocolate for that day, and as the countdown winded down, the excitement (and sibling battle) grew. The advent calendar builds anticipation, and anticipation is something that marketers have long integrated into their campaigns.
While the goal of holiday marketing is to build anticipation, it is just as important to sustain it as well and that means thinking of the journey, not the end point. For brands, it’s being in tune with their consumers’ wants, needs and feelings and striking at the right time. – Lexi Panepinto, Senior Account Executive
FOOD. SO MUCH FOOD. My Italian stepdad has a longstanding tradition of cooking two enormous meals at the holidays: Homemade Seafood Alfredo on Christmas Eve and Homemade Ravioli, Meatballs and Sausage on Christmas Day. He cooks for about a week leading up to the holidays and the house smells like roasted garlic and parmesan cheese for days and days. We stuff our faces, head to the couch for a “break,” and then we’re back at it…eating 2, 3, 4 more servings into the wee hours of the night. Washed down with a nice Cab, of course. So…what does this tell Marketers? If there’s one time of year that all diets and exercise regimens are out the window, IT’S NOW. If you’re marketing something edible, awesome. Edible AND comforting?? EVEN BETTER. – Nikki Peters, Management Supervisor
Seeing joy in the faces of children, which even a pandemic cannot take away. – Fred Conover, President