Ringing the Same Bells

Best Holiday Promotions: 8 Experts Chime In [Roundup]

It’s that time of year again, kids. Has been since before Back to School, if you go by what’s on the grocery store shelves, which is Halloween candy, of course.

And pumpkin spice everything. Everywhere. Conspicuously, self-consciously, ironically, and comically as more than one of this month’s expert panel have pointed out.

In just a few short days, it seems like, I’ll be tucking into bed with a good book at 10ish on a night of fireworks and balls dropping and Ryan Seacrest emceeing with shimmering starlets I’ve never heard of. Bah humbug to that. And, get off my lawn, you crazy whipper snappers.

Ah, the vortex that is the American holiday season.

The holidaze are upon us.

We asked our panel of social media and content marketing experts, writers, community managers, and PR specialists, to talk with us about how best to get through the holidays. Professionally, that is.

Besides the Pumpkin Spice factor, they rang the usual bells:

  1. good storytelling,
  2. resonance and empathy with your audience,
  3. unique and creative messaging,
  4. and the generosity of the season.

8 Experts Share the Best Holiday Promotions They’ve Seen

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott

Author of ten books including international bestseller, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in its fifth edition.


I loved WestJet Christmas Miracle: real-time giving from 2013.

The concept is unique and highly creative. It is, of course, real-time. And it is audacious! Could you imagine getting the bosses at your company to agree to an effort like this?

[Editor’s note: No. No, I couldn’t. *That* in itself must have been a Christmas miracle!]

Mike AlltonMike Allton

The Social Media Hat

When it comes to content marketing, specifically, the holidays represent a tremendous opportunity for businesses!

You know going in that most of your readers and prospects are all going through the same things day in and day out. They’re excited about spending time with family. They’re stressed about shopping and finances. They’re planning trips and meals and time off. Businesses are winding up their quarter and year and making plans for 2016. All of these things are true, and your content should reflect that.

Maybe your blog or business can directly impact someone going through some of these things by offering tips or resources. Or, if not, you can at least demonstrate empathy in your writing and acknowledge that you’re with them in those shared experiences.

Either way, what’s important is that you recognize the holidays as an opportunity to connect with other people through shared experience, even though they aren’t physically with you as you fight to win a parking spot and still have to walk half a mile to stand in line for half an hour, just to get half off an item that was already overpriced.

Bring that into your content, and you’ll resonate with your readers on a deep and personal level.

Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur

CEO + Content Director

All good content marketing tells a story, and the holiday season makes it easy to determine a beginning (Novemberish), middle (Thanksgivingish) and an end (Happy New Year!).

Because the holiday season doesn’t necessarily lend to creating year-round evergreen content, it’s a good time to create a multi-part content marketing campaign.

  • Meditate on the order of the holidays, and what your customers think about during this time.
  • Write a “table of contents” that outlines a five-to-ten-part series of articles that stand on their own, but can also be interlinked.
  • Develop the articles with the holidays in mind, but also as helpful resources that speak directly to the type of customers you want to attract.
  • Create custom graphics, lots of them. Use them within the posts to illustrate the content in a visual way. They’ll also lend to all your social media efforts.
  • Create contextual calls to action in the middle, and at the bottom of each post, as call-outs, so that you can spend your content being helpful, but so that it’s designed to lead your reader from story to sale.

Creating a story through a strategically planned series of posts like this is the difference between content and high-quality content. If it’s easy to write, and quick to post, it’s not a campaign. If you planned the beginning, middle, and end, it will be more effective and can be more easily tracked and measured for future efforts.

Nick Mendez

Nick Mendez

Digital Strategist and Performance Artist

I’ve got no doubt that, out there somewhere, a winter holiday themed social media campaign has moved the needle—metrically speaking. It’s gotten clicks, increased follower counts or resulted in a 0.2% increase in conversion rate. I’m also willing to bet that the cleverness with which they referenced the winter holidays had very little to do with the campaign’s success.

When it comes to advertising, whether it’s dressed up as content marketing or not, I engage with posts that provide valuable information, an interesting new service, or an unbeatable price. This is the same criteria I use year round, and I think most folks are the same way.

For the purposes of connecting with your audience, the holidays are window dressing. It’s like making small talk about the weather, or framing all your blog posts in the context of Game of Thrones.

Take a minute to think about what you’re doing: co-opting your audience’s feelings around the winter holidays—be they emotional, familial, or spiritual—and using them to sell something. That’s a fairly invasive procedure. Tread carefully.

Janet Fouts

Janet Fouts

Social Media Strategist for Tatu Digital Media

We are so inundated with holiday noise that most people ignore the lot of it. Particularly if it’s full of marketing, discount codes and sales jargon.

Instead, give some thought to your market. What are they really interested in? What reflects their personality or tastes? What is going to be something they want to share with their friends? Tell us a story.

I loved this video from Kate Spade with Anna Kendrick who’s been locked out of her house. It’s cute and there is no call to action to buy, just some great product placement. Oh, and they made the video on the website clickable so you could click on a product you like and buy it. Subtle and fun!

Then there is the approach Starbucks takes with the Pumpkin Spice Latte. They gave the drink its own wise-cracking personality on Twitter. They don’t respond much but I’ve seen it shared quite a bit and the account has 119K followers, so somebody actually cares!

Bottom line, you’ve got to stand out from the herd if you want to be heard. (See what I did there?)

[Editor’s note: Yup. See it! Clever lady, you.]

Christine Cavalier

Christine Cavalier, M.Ed.

Content Writer and Tech Journalist

From October through December, every business out there is scrambling for views, hoping they will translate into end-of-year sales. As always, we want our content to drive purchases, but during peak times like the winter holidays, why not set your brand apart by focusing on giving back to your customers?

Whether you cater to a B2C or B2B market, it’s best to remember there are real humans on the other side of your screen. Just like you, they will be inundated with “asks” during the next few months. Demands from work and family will increase and stress will rise.

It’s time to focus your content not on “asks” but “gives.”

Invite your readers in. Share a small in-house process that saves time and energy. Offer a special service for a limited time that will make their holidays better. Share office quirks and traditions. Concentrate on content that is RESTORATIVE for your readers. You want to give them a place to relax and perhaps find a solution.

Too often “holidays” translates into “high gear” for marketers. Let your content be more useful and calmly entertaining than fever-pitch sales dumps, and you’ll have loyal readers for years to come.

Jackie Dana

Jackie Dana

Professional Writer, specializing in copywriting, blogging and copyediting

The trick to content marketing during the holidays can be summed up with two points:

1) Know who your audience is, and
2) Do something different.

Blogs during the holidays are filled with similar content: feel-good family memories, recipes, gift-guides, and the like. Is this the kind of content your readers love? If so, you’ll need to work a little harder to stand out. Posts that can work could offer a light-hearted spin on the holiday that didn’t work out as planned or a recipe using unusual ingredients.

Depending on your readers, perhaps acknowledging the difficulties of the holidays might be better, or focus on “alternative” holiday traditions such as Festivus, Krampus, Boxing Day, or Kwanzaa.

Not all holiday posts have to focus on religion, Santa, or sugarplums!

Follow the same tips for your social media engagement, and ask your readers to contribute their own stories, recipes, or favorite non-traditional traditions.

Dana Marruffo

Dana Marruffo

Principal of Buzz Public Relations, LLC

During the holidays, people tend use social media in various ways—gift ideas, customer service, purchases. Build the right content and they will come.

For example, brand your campaigns with holiday themes or have an advent calendar for the season. Incorporate hashtags and contests, provide exclusive offers or sneak-peeks, discount codes, giveaways, or support a charitable cause or holiday countdown to drive call-to-action.

Target is a great example of rolling out successful holiday campaigns. Knowing the diversity of their audience, the brand’s 2013 viral video strategy with the Twitter hashtag #MyKindOfHoliday took on an open-ended, personalized Twitter approach, influencing consumers to connect not only with the brand but with each other.

Consider visual storytelling, which has proven to be a successful message method for brands. As was the case with J.Crew’s Elephant in the Room, in four video clips featuring a claymation elephant who promoted holiday customer service offerings, like personal stylists and same-day delivery.

Lastly, be sure to keep your customers satisfied by talking to them. Social media community management is critical during the holiday season—it’s the extension of the brand that ensures customer satisfaction 24/7. Have a community management team in place to be ready to proactively and reactively be responsive at any given time to ensure needs are met, questions answered, and conversations happening that could potentially bring on new customers, or save existing ones from jumping ship.

Friends, we wish you and yours a cheerful, joyous, restful, blessed, and safe holiday season. May it be good.

May your social media and content marketing serve your audience.

And may we all be snuggled warm as bugs in rugs 67 sleeps from now. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Featured image credit: “Salvation Army red kettle at supermarket entrance Ypsilanti Michigan” by Dwight Burdette – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

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Suzanne Hoenig is a strategist and writer helping small businesses, nonprofits, and private practitioners craft their marketing copy, grow their online and offline community, and navigate the changing tides of social media and digital content marketing.
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