Holiday Marketing Brand Planning Guide for PR Teams

Long before consumers’ inboxes and social media feeds turn red, green, blue and gold with the best holiday deals, brands need to have their marketing strategies ready to roll out and ready for print and digital gift guide inclusion months in advance. Unfortunately, new brands often fail to plan ahead, particularly for the holiday season. The poor planning often results in missed placement opportunities and soured media relationships.
So when is the right time to begin your holiday marketing strategy? Late spring. May/June is the ideal time to begin holiday marketing discussions with your clients (though we all know how easy it is to suddenly find yourself mid-summer and scrambling!). Early strategizing gives you and your clients enough time to allocate a sample budget, as long-lead publications begin accepting pitches right after Independence Day (July 4), BUT there are a ton of marketing initiatives that can be developed over the next few weeks to make the most of gifting season.
To ensure your clients don’t get left out in the cold this holiday season, here are five tips to help with early planning of holiday-centric initiatives:

1. CAUSE-RELATED PARTNERSHIPS CREATE MEANINGFUL PURCHASES

The holiday season is a time to spread goodwill and cheer. Cause marketing is an alternative way to generate positive buzz through authentic collaborations that give back. Launching a holiday-themed promotion with a nonprofit that your client is passionate about organically boosts sales and your client’s brand image. It allows consumers to associate their brand with goodwill and generosity. Review your client’s line for overstock or special colorway items to use in the partnership with all or partial proceeds from each purchase going towards a cause. “Feel-good” stories are great angles to pitch editors seeking content for their holiday give back sections. Nonprofit partnerships provide charities much-needed support and buzz for their cause, and a human connection for your clients’ long-term brand growth.

2. CURATE GIFTABLE HOLIDAY THEMED BUNDLE SETS

The holiday season marks a time of gift giving and surprises. It also marks spikes in consumer spending, so gifts that appeal based on a price range makes gift giving easier for their customers. Gift set bundles can combine other products, services or deals to offer different price points. Group together the most popular items customers have bought over the last 6 months and build a picture of the different segments for holiday promotions. Aside from the generic her/him, mom/dad, stocking stuffer gift sets, consider creating tailored bundles for friends/work bae, fitness-inista, homebody, social media addict, secret Santa ideas, etc. in holiday-themed colors (i.e. metallic clothing, shades of blue/silver, and red/deep berry) and fragrances (i.e. caramel, cinnamon, gingerbread, peppermint).
Editors like new items that haven’t been sitting in your inventory. Also, be sure to add some holiday flair to your branding, packaging and photography. Seasonal packaging is not cheap, but it will make brands stand out and can open up additional placement possibilities, like unboxing features.

3. TEAM UP FOR a HOLIDAY PARTNERSHIP CAMPAIGN

The holidays are a time for coming together, so team up with another business to cross-promote your client’s products or services to reach a new audience. Holiday partnerships with like-minded brands allow your clients to create cross-promotional campaigns and develop new relationships with potential customers that extend beyond the holiday seasons. For emerging brands, cross-promoting creates strength in numbers by pooling resources, for example to host a collective pop-up shop for Small Business Saturday (Saturday after U.S. Thanksgiving), or put together a co-branded holiday gift set. Partnerships should be based on shared values and goods and services that make sense together, but non-competing for the same target customer. Partnership campaigns set your clients apart with new story angles, double the social media promotion, and dual spokespersons to speak on the partnership during the high-spending season.

4. REWARD CUSTOMERS WITH A HOLIDAY LOYALty PROGRAM

The holiday season is a time to give thanks and be thankful, so take care of your loyal customers first. Design special holiday incentives beyond what is offered during the year. Brands can create private/secret sales websites or host an in-store pop-up where they can get early bird access to shop exclusive products or services. Pitch short lead outlets the exclusive products or services that will be available to select consumers through the site. Subscription-based private sales are a means of driving email subscribers, motivating repeat purchases, and providing digital media insider access to the upcoming sale.
Partnership campaigns set your clients apart with new story angles, double the social media promotion, and dual spokespersons to speak on the partnership during the high-spending season.

5. INFLUENCER gift guides ADD A PERSONAL TOUCH TO GIFTING

During the saturated holiday advertising season, influencer collaborations are the new gift guides. These collaborations help brands navigate through the non-stop holiday advertising, inbox promotions, and gift guide roundups by editors, through personalized content by a trusted adviser. Partnerships can range from multi-channel live unboxing; hosting a giveaway; posting a visual how-to-wear guide for the season; to creating gift guide boards with Pinterest power users. Their followers are akin to friends, who are able to organically integrate the brand’s message. Perfect for mobile and social marketing. No pesky ad blockers. Micro-influencers offer the ideal connection to cut through the clutter, and are cost-effective for end-of-year budgeting purposes.
The first round of gift guides will hit the shelves and digital outlets in mid-November, triggering those first bouts of urgency and impulse shopping. It is important to begin early preparation with your client to get their brand in front of consumers’ eyes as soon and as often as possible. Unexpected tactics provide brands new ways to gain exposure and increase their market share during the happiest time of year.