You might think it’s too early to start thinking about Christmas, but you’d be wrong. This year, Starbucks introduced their fall menu - including the magnum opus of western civilization, the pumpkin spice latte - on August 27th. That’s right, while you were celebrating the last breath of summer over Labor Day weekend, you could have also enjoyed the token holiday drink, and it’s not the only part of the holiday season that has been coming earlier and earlier.
Americans have long complained about the holiday season starting earlier and earlier. We even have a name (and a Wikipedia page) for it: Holiday Creep. It results from brands consistently trying to get ahead of the buying patterns they created, and it’s time that media buyers and the marketing industry as a whole take a closer look at how we contribute to holiday creep and how it has exacerbated the stress of this highly anticipated - and dreaded - time of the year.
Santa Isn’t Real (And Other Hard Truths)
If there’s one thing you can count on leading up to Christmas, it’s shopping. According to a survey conducted by Slumber Cloud in 2018, we will spend an average of 13 hours holiday shopping. Every brand would love a piece of that action. However, ad inventory around the holidays is limited and very competitive. In order to find more affordable rates, many brands push their campaigns back into October and September.
The ads themselves can also contribute to the strain of holiday creep. Many aspects of the holiday season are built upon an ideal rather than reality, a Hallmark movie full of cheer and merriment. For most people, holiday ads don’t represent their holiday experiences. Santa doesn’t come down the chimney to deliver our presents, after all, and the happy family gatherings, romantic moments under the mistletoe and brand new cars with giant red bows are more the exception than the rule. You’re much more likely to find awkward conversations with your relatives, screaming children and bad gifts you pretend to like. Marketers have long portrayed a version of the holidays that is mostly unattainable, and seeing it in our media for three to four months of the year is enough to make anyone stress-eat the entire pumpkin pie.
Holiday Burnout: The Nightmare Before Christmas
In the same Slumber Cloud survey, 35% of Americans say they will have holiday burnout before Christmas day. 17% say they’ll be burned out before December even begins. There are a number of reasons for the burnout, including crowds and long lines, shopping, continually hearing Christmas music and the constant bombardment of holiday-themed ads.
68% of Americans also report feeling anxiety during the holidays. Instead of spreading out the stress of shopping, decorating, planning and working to achieve that elusive holiday cheer, holiday creep intensifies the anxiety over many more months. Creating a worn out, stressed out consumer base is not good for any brand. But there’s still hope. Your marketing campaigns can still create conversions and save the holidays too.
How Can Media Professionals Save the Holidays?
There are a few things creatives and media buyers can do together to stave off the foreboding sensation of holiday creep and help prevent our audiences from experiencing burnout.
The Creative and the Copy:
Instead of delivering yet another picture-perfect version of the holidays in your marketing material, go for a more relatable, empathetic message. You can acknowledge the stress and chaos of the holidays and still highlight the moments of joy and humor. The important thing is to be authentic and make your audience feel like they’ve been heard and that your brand understands who they are.
In your campaigns, highlight how your products or services can help consumers during the busy holiday season. For instance, a maid service can market the benefits of having an extra helping hand around the house. Or, an e-commerce site can advertise their offer of free shipping on last-minute gifts.
Instead of instructing them on how to have an impossible-to-achieve magical holiday, you could encourage your target audience to practice self-care and take steps to reduce stress. This is an excellent advertising opportunity for spas, salons, gyms or other wellness-focused brands to include the importance of health and taking time for ourselves in their messaging.
Holiday Media Buying:
It’s no surprise to us that consumers don’t like holiday creep; 59% of shoppers think that Halloween is too early to start seeing Christmas decorations and advertising. We aren’t suggesting that you should avoid the more affordable September and October ad placements, though. Instead, we suggest structuring media buying efforts with a focus on other holidays such as Halloween or Thanksgiving. You can also include a benchmark for social holidays such as #GivingTuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving), and focus on your philanthropy and giving back to your community as part of your holiday media plan.
Meet Your Media Elves
Bring some authenticity and Christmas joy to your media plan before it’s too late. As media stewards, our planners and buyers at The Ward Group work diligently to deliver thoughtful media plans and buying strategies that focus on budget as well as quality. Are you trying to find more successful ways to connect with your audience throughout the holidays? Reach out to us today to meet our team of media elves.