3 tips for designing a winning holiday campaign

3 tips for designing a winning holiday campaign
By Sam DeBoer
Sep 14, 2022
With consumers sipping their first pumpkin spice lattes of the season, faint jingle bells can be heard as brands prepare for the bustling holiday season. And with holiday spending forecasted to reach record levels in 2022 at $1.262 trillion, it is table stakes that brands break through the endless holiday clutter to deliver meaningful campaigns that excite their consumers.

Here are three tips to consider when designing holiday campaigns:

1. Determine your scale

With the holiday conversation seemingly starting earlier each year, it’s critical that brands align on expectations and needs early in the process. Developing a winning holiday campaign takes coordination across teams, including outside vendors and partners. Being deliberate and thorough in your planning—including leveraging the expertise and POV of colleagues and vendors to fully understand the timing, cost, and strategy needed to execute your vision—will allow you to flex and move quickly when needed, supported by a strong plan.

While in the ideation phase, it is helpful to revisit prior campaigns after action reviews to see what went well and what didn’t. While everyone wants to beat their last campaign, avoid getting too big in the ideation phase. As a general rule, if you can’t explain the idea in a sentence, don’t do it. Remember the barrier to entry and what you're asking the consumer to do. Keep it simple. If your ideas are overly complex, take a step back and evaluate: is it easy and enticing for the consumer to participate?

2. Understand the value of assets

Understanding the power your assets hold and delivering them to your audience at the right time can make or break your campaign. Consumers are bombarded with branded content during the holidays, so it is critical that the visuals are interesting and strong enough to make people's thumbs stop on their daily scroll. Even further, delivering them at the right time is critical. Too early or too late can be equally as frustrating to the consumer—lean on media teams for expert timing.

Influencers are another great asset that brands can leverage to make the most out of their holiday campaign. Influencers are increasingly popular assets and for good reason. Not only do they act as another mouthpiece telling the story, but influencers are a great way to connect to niche audiences and present your brand in an authentic, human way while creating unique content.

3. Tap into the cultural conversation

Keeping a pulse on culture is critical to marketing at all times but incorporating those conversations into your holiday campaigns will take them to the next level. The holiday season holds universal truths that will stand the test of time. Be unexpected and pivot from the traditional gift guides and holiday campaigns. Look to what is happening culturally and hijack that conversation where it makes sense, taking something that people are already talking about and finding an authentic way for your brand to play into it to get consumers engaged.

Our work with Miller High Life took a twist on a holiday classic—the gingerbread house—creating a gingerbread dive bar that consumers could craft at home during the height of the pandemic. Addressing the uncomfortable realities of the pandemic and the inability to gather, this campaign leveraged the raging cultural conversation to make this a smashing (but sticky) success.

Maximize your results in the future by analyzing results

No matter which ideas you implement, it’s critical to plan an after-action review for shortly after your campaign ends to maximize your results for the next year. Having those conversations about what went well and what didn’t immediately after the campaign end ensures points are not forgotten. Putting together an exciting recap can also help to energize teams for future campaigns. Working with an experienced partner with tested and successful results can help amplify the approach and strategy to make the most of your brand’s next holiday campaign—from ideation to implementation and analysis. But don’t wait until the holiday music is playing to get started.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Sam DeBoer, Director, Integrated Communications

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