Hitting The Mark With Your Holiday Marketing

In our previous post, we presented an introduction to incorporating seasonal events, specifically holidays, into your digital marketing. Invoking the shared memories that revolve around holidays can be an especially emotional experience for many consumers, and successfully integrating holidays into your marketing can provide a powerful boost for your brand and generate customer loyalty. However, this emotional power can be a double-edged sword, as mishandling the invocation of a shared experience can be disastrous for a business, as consumers and the public at large can be alienated or even offended and outraged. For instance, despite the fact that invoking a national tragedy in your marketing is fraught with peril, it seems like every year businesses both big and small generate public outrage by doing just that. While the vast majority of small business owners are smart enough not to create a holiday-themed advertisement that encourages spiking a woman’s drink, it’s still possible to mishandle even a simple holiday-themed marketing initiative, either by watering it down to the point that it is completely ineffective or by misjudging your audience and creating a campaign that alienating to portions of your audience and target market. What can you do to ensure that your holiday and season event marketing is both effective and inclusive as possible?

Inclusion or Exclusion?

When it comes to including holidays in your digital marketing, there are pitfalls that are both obvious and subtle. Obvious pitfalls can include referencing outdated and offensive terms or symbolism related to a particular holiday, attempting to commercialize an overtly-religious holiday or by creating a piece of marketing that is especially alienating to a segment of the public in some other manner. However, there are less obvious pitfalls that can still create needless problems for small businesses, and one of the most prominent and frequent involves the inclusion and exclusion of specific holidays, especially in the fourth quarter of the calendar year.

Know Your Audience

Should you wish your followers “Happy Holidays,” or should you specifically say “Merry Christmas?” If you say, “Merry Christmas,” should you also acknowledge Hanukah and Kwanzaa? If you chose to say “Happy Holidays,” is it possible that some of your followers and members of your target market will take offense? While there’s no way to guarantee that your marketing efforts will remain completely controversy-free, you can minimize the chances of generating offense by having an accurate understanding of both your target market and your geographical audience. While it is generally considered to be a best practice (and simply the right thing to do) to be as inclusive as possible to people of all religious, ethnic and national backgrounds and identities, it’s okay to focus your efforts on appealing to the broadest section of your target audience as possible. There’s nothing wrong with saying “Merry Christmas,” but it’s also a good idea to say “Happy Hanukah” as well, or to create a specific piece of content directed at your customers and target market that celebrate Hanukah. “Happy Holidays” is an excellent term to use when appealing to a diverse audience, but if you’re specifically marketing your products or services to Christian church groups or a geographical audience that is overwhelmingly Christian, “Merry Christmas” may be more acceptable and even more inclusive than saying “Happy Holidays.” If you’re unsure as to the demographic breakdown of your audience and target market, always err on the side of caution and broad inclusiveness.

Don’t Be Controversial Or Provocative

While it is important to ensure that your holiday-related marketing is distinctive and nuanced enough to generate a positive emotional reaction in your audience, it’s never a good idea for a small business to attempt to be holiday marketing mavericks or trailblazers. Simply put, unless your industry is known for producing provocative marketing and advertising, it’s important to acknowledge your limitations and attempting to be a trailblazer and be provocative or controversial in order to generate a reaction from your audience is a recipe for disaster. Don’t be political or controversial in an attempt to appeal to who you think is your target audience, because chances are you’re alienating just as many (if not more) people than you’re attempting to reach.

If you’re not sure as to what you should do to acknowledge a holiday, look to other businesses in your area and in your industry. Don’t plagiarize their campaigns, but look for common themes and patterns that illuminate the limits of what is likely considered acceptable.