Halloween is tomorrow, but my senses have already been bombarded by Christmas cheer in retail stores for the last month. Growing up in a mixed household I took part in both the Hanukkah and Christmas spirit, and truly am the happiest little holiday elf in December. But since it’s still October, I’m finding it hard enough to wrap my head around the concept of Thanksgiving let alone late December holidays.
It is absolutely important for marketers and retailers to plan ahead and take advantage of the holiday season since emotion plays a huge role in purchase decision. Consumers are more susceptible to having their heartstrings tugged at since the nostalgia of purchasing for others (and themselves) is as real as it gets during the holidays. But how soon is too soon to bring out the holiday cheer?
According to the National Retail Federation, “Consumers have the holidays in mind long before the first snow with more than half of holiday shoppers starting to research and plan their gifts in October or earlier.” So for a retailer to tap into that mindset and plant the seed early-on is smart, even if only 33% (of half) of those consumers make actual purchases in that timeframe.
As experiential marketers, we know too well the importance of leveraging the holiday season to get some face-time with consumers all the while immersing them in holiday delight. But since this time of the year is cluttered with marketing and messaging, how can a brand set themselves apart? Here are some of the more creative examples of holiday experiential marketing campaigns that have captivated consumers in years past.
WestJet Christmast Miracle
WestJet Airlines, a low-cost Canadian carrier, is huge on experiential marketing and have implemented countless campaigns. But my all-time favorite is from the 2013 holiday season. They selected a flight heading home for the holidays and set up a live video feed of Santa Claus at the gate so that passengers could tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Their wishes ranged from big screen televisions to socks and underwear and of course, toys. While they flew, WestJet volunteers scrambled to pick up the 250 individually wrapped gifts that were requested by passenger. When they landed, the gifts were sent down the conveyer belt at baggage claim to the travelers delight.
5,000 Pound Gingerbread House
Bank PNC opened a life-size gingerbread branch to celebrate the 2015 holiday season in Philadelphia. The cookie bank took 6 months to research and design and was in promotion of its annual holiday financial report that calculates the prices of all the gifts in the famous carol ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas.’ Created by agency Deutsch in collaboration with Philadelphia’s Bredenbeck’s Bakery, the 340-square-foot bank was made with 5,000 pounds of gingerbread. Those who came through its doors over the course of a weekend in December could use a cookie-covered ATM and even open accounts. Certainly a sweet and tasty way to bank.
A Carlsberg-Tapped Christmas Tree
A couple years ago, Carlsberg, the Danish brewing company, set up a 27 ft. fir Christmas tree overnight in London. This, was no ordinary tree. The tree dispensed complimentary Carlsberg beer via a tap — a unique and engaging way to reach consumers. The tree was also decked out with candle-lit beer bottles and topped with a large beer hop. Carlsberg also gave away limited-edition beer bowls to a few lucky onlookers.
So while a well-executed experiential campaign with a holiday focus will take lots of advance planning, the trend over recent years has been to implement closer to the December holiday season. At least when it comes to experiential marketing. That’s not to say that retailers shouldn’t introduce the holiday cheer sooner…I waaaas inspired to start my gift list already after a recent shopping excursion…’tis the season after all.