Posted on: 08.12.2023

Heading for a (marketing) Christmas crisis? Here’s what you should have done…

It’s that time of year. The tree is up. The Bailey’s is chilling in the fridge. The office party invites have gone out and a collection of the world’s worst secret Santa gifts are filling your TikTok shop basket.

That faint jingling sound isn’t Santa’s sleigh. It’s your carefully crafted Christmas marketing campaign clicking into gear, bringing festive and profitable cheer to your carefully defined audience groups across a stocking-full of appropriate and efficient channels.

Or… is it?

For those whose seasonal marketing efforts have ended up more bah humbug than ho ho ho, we asked our ever-prepared ilksters what you should have done…

Make merry months in advance.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If the classic campaign mantra ever applies, it applies at Christmas. The greatest gift you can ever give yourself is time, and trust us – no pressie under the tree compares to going into the festive season knowing you’ve beaten the rush and your brand is where it needs to be pre-crimbo.

Account Managers are sticklers for organisation, so yes we push for longer timelines on Christmas briefs. Because you need them to impress in such a saturated market come December. Prepare early. And there should be no excuses because Christmas comes at exactly the same time year after year. Put summer on hold, even if it feels strange, and get that brief out at least five months before C-day.

You’re going to get a better campaign as a result, with increased productivity, efficiencies and savings. Plus, your creative ideas won’t be rushed, and your strategic decisions won’t be rash and reactive. So talk to us in mid-2024, yeah?                                                                                                                                                                                                               Melissa – Account Director

Ensure your social sparkles.

An advent calendar. The 12 days of Christmas. A #ChristmasCompetition hashtag…

Just like Scrooge re-visiting his past, we see these Dickensian Christmas classics time after time. Is there anything likely to add less sparkle to your social? 

Now, more than ever, consumers want something new! Even John Lewis ditched the folksy cover song for an opera singing Venus flytrap this year! So here’s how you can help beat the creative Christmas rut…

Start with social listening tools like Sprout Social, Pulsar, Falcon or Brandwatch, or do it manually. Search the hashtag, slogan or theme you’re considering and see what’s been done, and what’s just going live. You’ll never be totally unique, but if channels are flooded stay away.

Rely on the data to help convince stakeholders and clients. How did your campaign perform last year, and the year before? Did you send more to achieve the same results? Offering your audience the same festive fare year after year means dropping engagement and KPIs. So use it to justify something sparkly and new!

Take inspiration back to basics, and think about what your product or service offers, and how it fits the festive season. The big thing these days is emotional, purpose-tinged storytelling with brand taking a back (sleigh) seat. But though that works for the likes of Amazon, smaller brands need to be careful not to get lost in the snowstorm. If in doubt, keep it simple. And focus on core brand messages.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Shauna – Head of Social & Paid Media

Find that festive feeling, even if you’re designing in summer.

We’ve already talked about planning Christmas activity during the height of summer. But how do you lock in that festive feeling? Eggnog by the pool? Christmas carols on the beach? Turkey flavoured ice cream? 

Maybe that’s a step too far, but finding some seasonal design mojo is a must. Start by saving inspo now. It’s Christmas, so there should be plenty about. Ads that make you cry, packaging you couldn’t leave on the shelf or decorations that bring a smile. So when summer rolls around, you’ll be ready to go.

When the time comes, with inspiration at hand, it’s time to fire up the Christmas-o-matic 1000 festive feeling machine, or whatever your equivalent is. Crank up the aircon, dig out a woolly jumper, blast some Wham and try to source a mince pie or two, if possible.

We’re only half joking. Because getting yourself in the mood is genuinely the best thing you can do, even if that means sitting in front of your Mac with a big bowl of stuffing balls and gravy. You’ll be feeling warm, emotionally open and generous… hopefully… just like your audience will become at Christmas! Getting into their mindset always helps, after all. But most importantly, have fun! You get two Christmases! Buddy the Elf would be jealous.                                                                                                                                                                               Becca – Junior Designer

‘Tis the season to shape up your SEO.

Right, so you’ve got your ideas and creative wrapped and ready with months to go. Or have you? Because there might just be a stocking-full of SEO essentials you’re missing. 

Start with seasonal keyword competition. Volume for Christmas keywords can really fluctuate, so take a look at the organic landscape from last year to find high performing keywords related to your brand and products. Keep an eye out for your competitors too. Keyword tracking tools can be used to analyse their high performing keywords and pages, so you can build a chronological analysis of their Christmas marketing roadmap.

After all that analysis, think about creating Christmas-themed landing pages for your seasonal content. They’re the perfect device for targeting the keywords you’ve identified, with targeted CTAs, offers and product announcements all in one place. 

Finally, make sure you don’t neglect local SEO, if it’s relevant. Keep your audience posted about seasonal products, local events and other goodies implementing structured data and updating your Google My Business profile.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Lin – SEO Manager

Don’t pull the Christmas controversy cracker.

The classic Christmas PR crisis has been out in full force this year, with the star at the top of the tree being M&S pulling their ads after complaints of insensitivity to the war in Gaza. Whether or not that particular festive f-up was avoidable or not doesn’t much matter once it’s happened, no doubt to the great annoyance of the retailer’s marketing team. But how can you get ahead of any potential seasonal snares before they happen?

Forget about the rights and wrongs, and start by expecting all possible outcomes. Because if we know one thing about Brits, it’s that they love to complain. So explore how a variety of audience groups might receive your campaign. What might spark debate? What might pull a few crackers? And what might get families fighting over the Christmas dinner table?

Unless you’re a brand comfortable with courting controversy (looking at you, Ryanair), it might be better to avoid topics like religion, politics or culture war debates. Too many brands have come unstuck by clever creative they thought sounded tongue-in-cheek, but ended up alienating consumers.

Monitor the news agenda closely to make sure you’re primed and ready with seasonal sensitivities for any unexpected events. Not just on a global scale, but nationally and regionally too, consumers turn to brands that support their own worldview. Getting it right could build big brand value into the new year. But getting it wrong could lead to a soggy sprout of a festive season.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Beth – Head of PR

Got all that? Good. Because Christmas is coming. Christmas 2024 that is. 

And when it does, we’re here to help. So stick something in the diary for July and we’ll get the mulled wine warming, and the ideas flowing.

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