7 Successful Holiday Marketing Campaigns to Inspire You



Gather ‘round, everyone. I’m about to share the 3 most important rules of holiday marketing:

  1. Treat every day like Christmas.
  2. There’s room for everyone on the Nice List.
  3. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

What’s that? These are actually The Code of The Elves from “Elf,” the single best holiday movie ever made? 

via GIPHY

Well, that’s okay. They’re still good rules for the holiday season, no matter what you celebrate — and they’re a great way to get the ball rolling on your holiday marketing campaign, too.

Here’s a look at how the most wonderful time of the year can impact your brand story and give your customers that cozy feeling!

Spreading Cheer for All to Hear: Using Holiday Marketing Campaigns

First things first: Why bother pulling out the Christmas lights, menorahs and other holiday necessities to make your marketing campaigns a winter wonderland?

Aside from the fact that it’s super fun (which is reason enough in my book), here are 5 big benefits of holiday marketing:

1. Holiday Marketing Tells Unique Stories.

Marketing campaigns are your chance to be creative. That’s especially true of holiday marketing campaigns, where you’re playing in an entirely different landscape. 

The truth is that holiday marketing allows you to take part in a generations-long conversation with your customers, taking part in their traditions, values and customs right alongside them. These stories can’t be told in the middle of summer (unless you’re one of those “Christmas in July” folks) — which means you have the opportunity to be part of something rare and unique. 

2. The Holiday Season Is Also Known As the Shopping Season.

I’ve got 2 words for you: Black Friday. It’s practically a holiday itself, and at this point, it’s become a huge part of the season. Don’t believe me? 2021’s Cyber Week, stretching from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday, brought in $33.9 billion in online sales alone. 

That’s a pretty big deal.

Of course, holiday shoppers are busy for more than one week — and the right marketing campaign helps you take advantage of that seasonal urge to buy stuff. Think of it like this: Your customers are going to be shopping anyway; they might as well be doing it with you.

3. Holiday Campaigns Humanize Your Brand.

Customers want to know there are real humans behind social media interactions, customer service emails and conversations with salespeople. They need to know your brand has a heart — and holiday marketing campaigns are a great way to do that. You get the opportunity to set aside day-to-day business conversations and focus on things like family, faith or community, showing your target audience that you’re just like them.

4. A Little Holiday Cheer Goes a Long Way.

Remember winter 2020, when most of the world was on lockdown and everything seemed decidedly grim? For many people, the holiday season represented something to be happy about — an excuse to focus on things that didn’t use the words “social distancing” or “new normal.” 

That’s just one example of how holiday cheer has always brought something special to the world. Not to sound like a sugary-sweet Hallmark Christmas movie here, but the truth is that the holidays can often make people forget their troubles for a little while. If your brand can be part of that by presenting fun marketing campaigns, you get credit for creating some of that oh-so-precious holiday cheer. 

5. It’s Like Regular Marketing, but With More Gift Wrap.

Remember all the benefits of your everyday marketing strategy, like increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers? You still get those with holiday campaigns — they’re just on top of all these other benefits, like icing on a fruitcake. (Wait, do those have icing? I’ve never seen one in real life.)

7 Memorable Holiday Marketing Campaigns

When it comes time to find holiday marketing ideas, it’s always best to look at the pros. Big brands don’t just have the platforms they need to reach both potential and existing customers; they also have the creative chops necessary to stand out from a cacophony of Christmas campaigns. 

Here’s a look at some of the most memorable holiday campaigns and why they work:

1. “Santa Tracker” by Google

Imagine you’re a kid eagerly waiting for Christmas Eve. What’s the 1 thing that could get you even more excited for the festivities ahead? 

Why, tracking Santa Claus himself, of course! 

Google’s Santa Tracker campaign allows you to do just that, providing kids of all ages with a virtual playground of holiday-themed activities, games and other content. While Santa’s busy at the North Pole, the Santa Tracker shows a Christmas countdown. Once the holiday season gets closer, however, you can watch Old St. Nick charting his course across the globe to deliver presents for all the good kids (and all the good content marketers, too).

Why It Works: The Santa Tracker is nothing if not fun. It provides hours of entertainment, bringing potential customers to Google’s site time and time again — plus, it’s likely to become a household name around the holidays, as kids constantly ask where Santa is right now. When you first visit the site, you’ll also notice Google is gathering usage information so they can learn more about their target audience while delivering holiday cheer.  It’s a great way to turn Google itself into a Christmas tradition.

2. Nick Offerman’s Yule Log” by Lagavulin

We can’t all have a crackling, cozy fireplace to keep us warm throughout the holiday season. We also can’t all look as classy as Nick Offerman, sitting in a leather chair and drinking a glass of whiskey. Luckily, there’s a solution for both of these problems: Nick Offerman’s Yule Log by Lagavulin

That’s right, folks — this is 40 minutes of 1 man in a dimly lit room, his eyes leaving the camera only to pour more Lagavulin whiskey. Although it’s far from new, it’s still the perfect complement to any holiday party, bringing warmth and refinement with just a hint of cheekiness. It’s also a pretty effective marketing campaign, especially if you sit through the 10-hour version.

Why It Works: This isn’t the only yule log video of its kind — take, for example, Disney’s Arendelle Castle Yule Log, which includes characters from “Frozen” instead of Offerman — but it’s certainly among the most memorable. Why? It’s simple: This holiday campaign doesn’t try too hard. It’s effortlessly funny because it’s so deadpan, so unexpected, so honest in providing exactly what it promises. It also takes a holiday icon (the fireplace, not Offerman) and uses it as a literal and metaphorical backdrop for this marketing story. Lagavulin gave us a 40-minute joke and we loved every minute of it.

3. “12 Days of Doughnuts” by Krispy Kreme

Doughnuts might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re choosing a traditional holiday treat, but when they’re sold in special packaging, they could just become your new favorite winter snack. 

The Krispy Kreme “12 Days of Doughnuts” campaign was an obvious nod to “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but it was even better because it came with frosting. And sprinkles. And a QR code that directed customers to a free holiday video. You can’t get much more holiday cheer than that.

Why It Works: Despite no particularly famous association between doughnuts and the holiday season — at least not on the same level as hot chocolate or frosted sugar cookies — Krispy Kreme played on a different tradition. By using “The 12 Days of Christmas” as its inspiration, the brand provided customers with a unique doughnut experience and a fun play on words. The result was holiday cheer that built an association between Christmas and Krispy Kreme. 

4. “12 Days of HBO Now” by HBO

In another “The 12 Days of Christmas” holiday marketing campaign, HBO spent the 2015 holiday season encouraging existing customers to get into the gifting spirit. Current subscribers were invited to share certain episodes of their favorite shows with non-subscribers, allowing everyone to take advantage of downtime during the chilly months. Nothing says “holiday cheer” like “Game of Thrones,” right?

Why It Works: The key to this holiday campaign was to win points with already-loyal users. HBO let them turn their existing streaming service into a gift-giving opportunity — which, in turn, helped get potential customers hooked on their friends’ favorite shows. It didn’t hurt that the brand also had actors from its most popular titles, like Liam Cunningham of “Game of Thrones,” rewrite lines from “The 12 Days of Christmas” for a little extra marketing fun.

5. “#OptOutside” by REI

Despite a significant lack of snowflakes, Christmas trees or other hallmarks of the holiday season, the #OptOutside campaign by REI has a lot to say. The idea is simple: Instead of staying open on Black Friday, REI has been closing its doors since 2015, helping customers and employees opt to spend more time outside. It’s a bold move — one that still inspires conversations on social media.

Why It Works: At this point, #OptOutside is more than a holiday campaign — it’s a full-blown marketing strategy. Instead of telling customers to “buy, buy, buy,” REI is encouraging them to spend more time outside — which, of course, can indirectly lead to more sales for the outdoor supply brand. 

However, there’s more to this approach than meets the eye. REI has expanded the #OptOutside campaign to help people “imagine if everyone felt welcome outside.” Although the brand is making a statement by closing on Black Friday, it adds even more to the conversation by focusing on the social justice element of its industry.

6. “Elf Yourself” by Office Depot

Confession time: I have “elfed” everyone I’ve ever known. I have elfed my dogs. I have elfed my friends. If we’re anything more than acquaintances, your face is on these elf bodies, dancing around in a holiday music video.

And I’m not the only one. Office Depot’s “Elf Yourself” campaign has gained massive popularity, allowing users to create more than 1 billion elves since 2006. It’s not just Christmas fun, either — “Elf Yourself” fans can also cast themselves and their friends in Hannukah-themed songs and dances.

Why It Works: “Elf Yourself” isn’t about pushing a particular product. Instead, it does what very few marketing campaigns can successfully do: It acts as its own self-contained service. Much like Google’s “Santa Tracker,” this app provides hours of entertainment and helps people get connected, spread good cheer and have fun with loved ones, all while making Office Depot an indispensable part of the holiday season. 

7. “Santa Claus” by Coca-Cola

In 1931, Coca-Cola commissioned Haddon Sundblom to create a work of art that would rock the marketing world and the nature of Christmas traditions for generations to come. That creation was a depiction of Santa Claus — who, before this time, had been depicted in a variety of less familiar ways. This cheery old fellow helped shape Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy and had a noticeable influence on Santa Claus depictions from that day forward.

Why It Works: These days, the Coca-Cola Santa Claus is a symbol of nostalgia. He doesn’t appear on much of the company’s current marketing or advertising, and, in a tragic twist of fate, he doesn’t have his own social media account (even though he totally should). However, this strategy just goes to show that you can turn a classic holiday character or tradition into part of your company’s story — you just need the right artist (or writer, or social media strategist) to bring it to life.

Putting the Bow on Your Own Holiday Campaigns 

Now that you have all the holiday marketing ideas you need, it’s time to wrap it all up and put a bow on it. Here are a few best practices for your own holiday marketing campaigns:

Time It Just Right 

If you’re reading this in the middle of summer and thinking, “Holiday marketing? That’s months away!” then I have some bad news for you. 

You’re falling behind.

While you probably shouldn’t launch your holiday marketing campaign just yet, it’s important to plan ahead — like, way ahead. That’s because you’ll need time to:

  • Identify your target audience or update your customer personas.
  • Organize your marketing strategy across multiple channels (like social media, email, blog posts and more).
  • Align with sales teams on offers and messaging.
  • Design, create and finalize content.

Don’t forget that holiday shoppers need to plan ahead, too. After all, they have to research, buy and wrap gifts throughout the holiday season depending on what they celebrate. That means you should give them plenty of time to:

  1. Get familiar with your holiday campaign through multiple impressions.
  2. Research your brand and offerings.
  3. Make a purchase related to your marketing campaign.

Choose the Best Message

There are a lot of ways you can go when it comes to holiday messaging. This is the perfect time to get creative with your marketing strategy, so feel free to think outside the box — for example, subverting expectations like REI does by closing its doors on Black Friday. 

Of course, some messages work better than others. It’s generally best to stick with themes that are in line with the spirit of the holiday season — joy, love, friendship, family, kindness and more. If you’re marketing to a target audience that celebrates the more religious aspects of these holidays, make sure to be respectful of that when planning your campaign. If, on the other hand, your customers celebrate from a secular perspective or represent a wide range of religious backgrounds, it might be best to stick to more generalized topics and traditions to keep from alienating anyone.

Use Content Wisely 

Holiday marketing isn’t all about snowmen and mistletoe. It’s also about social media posts, blogs, email copy, videos, infographics and any other content you can create. No matter what “content marketing language” your company speaks, remember to use these assets in ways that put your holiday cheer in the spotlight.

For example, if you’re all about those blog posts, try adding a holiday spin on a target keyword. Let’s say you’re writing about multifunction printers; maybe you could talk about how those printers make it easy to plan and organize a holiday party, or how they can print the brightest greens and reds you’ve ever seen.

Similarly, if you leverage video marketing, you could shoot certain scenes against a snowy backdrop or put Santa hats on your animated characters. It’s all about taking the medium and sprinkling a little holiday magic over every detail.

Get Personal 

The holidays are the perfect time to remind customers that there are real humans behind your brand. Here are a few ways to get a little more personal:

  • Highlight how different employees celebrate their respective holidays.
  • Share your team’s favorite holiday recipes.
  • Post pictures of your company holiday party.
  • Encourage customers to share their favorite winter moments on your page.
  • Share customer stories about how your product or service has become a tradition for them.

Show Off Your Nice Side

Remember, there’s room for everyone on the Nice List — and that includes your company. The holidays are the perfect time to inject a little love into your marketing strategy, and you can do that in a few key ways:

  • Volunteer: Organize volunteer groups to help out in your community — for example, shoveling snow or working at soup kitchens. (Hint: Company tee-shirts make for great photo opportunities and help increase brand awareness!)
  • Donate: You can make donations to local, national or worldwide charities under your brand’s name. You could also make donations part of your employees’ Christmas bonuses to let them have a say in how your company influences the community.
  • Share: Don’t forget to share your stories on social media. Your customers want to know how you’re helping make the world a better place, so show them all the pictures, videos, shoutouts and shares.

Find Marketing Inspiration for Every Season

Winter holidays like Christmas and New Year’s (and even Black Friday) might be the most fun to build into your marketing campaign, but don’t leave those other holidays out in the cold. Instead, look at every celebration as an opportunity to tell fresh brand stories, engage with your customers and make waves on social media. The key is to find out what interests your target audience and become part of it — and if you’re lucky, your brand might just become a new favorite tradition (like “Elf Yourself”). 

No matter what holiday is coming around the corner, you can always count on us to have your back. Subscribe to our newsletter for year-round marketing inspiration that treats every day like Christmas.

And remember, everybody:

via GIPHY





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