The mega-brand of Christmas – 6 marketing ideas for the holiday season

It doesn’t take a marketing genius to appreciate the power of marketing leading up to and during the Christmas season.
Christmas is typically a peak selling season for retailers with sales increasing dramatically as people purchase gifts, decorations and supplies to celebrate.
From a marketing perspective, Christmas is more than the observance of a religious holiday and the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It has become a mega-brand and a marketing juggernaut for business.
For many who recognise the religious significance of Christmas, the heavy marketing focus on the holiday may not sit well. This is an understandable sentiment and personal beliefs, whether you celebrate Christmas tradition or not, should be respected. That being said it’s hard to deny the force of marketing and the sales opportunities it presents for business.
So I wanted to share some Christmas marketing ideas and tips to get your holiday sales season on track. But before I do, let’s take a look at the evolution of Christmas, as a celebration and a marketing brand.
Where it all began
The name Christmas means ‘mass of Christ’ and since around the 4th century, 25 December has been associated with the birth of Jesus. Prior to this, festivals were often held in December to mark winter solstice or harvests.
Over the centuries many other associations including gift giving have evolved, with the economic impact of Christmas growing steadily with it.
Christmas and December markets have been a fixture in Europe since the Middle Ages. The street markets are traditionally associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. They feature seasonal food and drink and often singing and dancing. The largest of these markets are significant trade and tourism drawcards. The annual Christmas market in Lincoln, England attracts more than 100,000 visitors over its four days and Birmingham’s Christmas Market boasts 3 million visitors each year.
When it comes to gift giving though, the biggest impact on modern day Christmas by far has been the association with Santa Claus. 
If Christmas is a mega-brand, Santa is arguably its poster-boy.
Santa Claus ­– the face of Christmas?
A number of figures are associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these figures is Santa Claus, which can be traced back to the Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas). Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern-day Turkey, during the 4th century. He was known for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. He is said to have inquired after the behaviour of children during the past year before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not.
Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop’s attire and was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf.
The depiction of Santa as a big, jolly man with a white beard has been largely attributed to Coca-Cola.  

small business marketing Kylie Fennell
Coca-Cola’s original 1931 ad featuring Santa

Back in 1931, Coca-Cola was looking for ways to increase the sales of its cold drink during the winter months and hired commercial illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create ads featuring Santa with Coca-Cola. For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa. The new Santa was introduced at the 1931 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

From 1931 to 1964, Coca-Cola advertising showed Santa delivering toys, pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, visiting with the children who stayed up to greet him, and raiding the refrigerators at a number of homes.
Along the way, Santa became synonymous with Christmas, and became the face of millions of marketing campaigns.
It’s more than marketing
Despite all the hype it is comforting to know that some people have not only embraced Christmas as a marketing opportunity, but have used it to “do some good”.
Rod Hyatt is a man who knows a “little” bit about Christmas, Santa and marketing.
Rod is Chief Operating Officer of The Fuller Center for Housing Australia, a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide.
Previous to this he worked in marketing and advertising with 15 years experience working for global brands such as Arnotts Biscuits.
More to the point, once a year Rod pulls on his beloved red suit and fulfils the role of Santa. 

small business marketing Kylie Fennell
Rod ‘Santa’ Hyatt. Image courtesy of Sullivan Portraits.
His first Santa gig was 27 years ago, for David Jones, but for the last 20 years he has co-ruled Santaland at Brisbane City Myer. He has even appeared as Santa on Japanese television shows and commercials.
It all started for Rod when his hair and beard grew white suddenly after surgery.
“People started to say I looked like Santa and I took a look at myself in the mirror and thought they were right,” he said.
He said donning the red suit was an obvious choice for him.
“I love working with kids. I have three kids of my own, six grand children and one great grandchild.”
Rod said he also saw it as a way of “giving back” and spreading the Christmas message.
He will also tell you that being Santa is serious business, with prospective Father Christmases having to attend Santa School.
When asked how much the role of “playing” Santa was about marketing, Rod explained that it was much more than promoting the latest toy.
“It’s about listening to kids, building relationships with children and their families.
“Sometimes a child will ask you for something personal that can’t be bought. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking, but it’s my job to listen to them and try to make them feel a little better.”
In conclusion, if this is what Santa can do for your customers and brand, what better marketing ambassador could you ask for?
This brings me to my top Christmas marketing ideas.
1. Embrace the Christmas spirit within
We can’t all be Santa, but we can all afford extra gestures of goodwill during the Christmas season. Take a moment to really listen to your customers and connect with them and their families. Genuine acts of kindness will result in customer goodwill, as well as a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
2. Use seasonal messaging and images
Ensure your website and online presences feature seasonal keywords typically used at Christmas time. Focus search terms on longer keyword phrases rather than general terms to target your specific audience.
Other marketing materials also need to leverage Christmas messaging and create a sense of urgency. All materials, web and social media should feature seasonal images and shopfronts should be decorated festively.
3. Give gifts
This doesn’t necessarily mean giving away free products or services. It can mean rewarding regular customers through loyalty programs or discounts. You can offer free gift-wrapping. Even a simple handwritten Christmas card to valued customers can go a long way in building goodwill.
4. Optimise for smartphones and tablets
Most businesses should have a website optimised for smartphones and tablets especially since these devices are popular Christmas purchases.
If you have an on-line shop it is critical your website is optimised for smartphones and tablets, as more and more people buy via their mobile devices.
5. Be accessible
You should try and cater to last minute shoppers, as well as extended opening hours if possible. You should clearly publicise your opening hours on your website and other appropriate marketing materials.
6. Be social
Being social has two meanings. Christmas is a great time of year to network with important contacts. Attend industry events or functions where you can connect with people important to your business. Better still, hold your own function or take your valued clients out for lunch/dinner. Just take it easy though on the festive drinks and avoid the inevitable Christmas party karaoke session.
Secondly, be active in social media. Ask your connections/followers for gift ideas and recommendations. Offer giveaways or run a competition on Facebook. Share Christmas tips, bon-bon jokes or recipes. Ask people to post their daggiest Christmas photo, or worst Christmas present. Ask people to vote on Christmas subjects eg. full baked Christmas dinner vs cold seafood platter?
The key thing in all of your Christmas marketing activities is to engage people. And most importantly have a happy holiday!
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Kylie Fennell
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One thought on “The mega-brand of Christmas – 6 marketing ideas for the holiday season

  1. Ho Ho Ho y'all stay good now y'hear

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