CMOs must leverage a persona-based approach for holiday marketing brand tactics

The new rules of holiday marketing

It’s the first week of November, which means the retailer floodgates are officially open, releasing their annual tsunami of holiday-themed ad campaigns. By now, many consumers tune it out as soon as it begins. How can a CMO leverage the season to drive revenue yet still remain authentic, creative, and profitable? Rather than blasting all channels with sweeping announcements of slashed prices, taking a more strategic, persona-based approach to holiday advertising that actually connects with customers can help ensure you’re not just throwing dollars at a marketing arms-race.

First, consider what channels and messages are right for your product and audience. Luxury brands like Burberry have historically done a great job connecting with consumers during the holidays—they know their target market well, and are at-the-ready to provide personalized recommendations when customers search for a special gift or holiday attire. Rather than producing expensive TV commercials or broad PPC campaigns touting their latest tartan boots, Burberry opts to reach its niche audience through more direct (and less expensive) channels such as email. This ensures that marketing dollars are funneled to relevant audiences.

Some big box retailers like Target, Kohl’s, Macys, and Wal-Mart seem to be taking a note from niche brands like Burberry’s playbooks. Offering a wide range of products and in highly-competitive markets, they traditionally opted to reach as many eyeballs as possible in mass channels like TV. Often carrying the same products, the goal for these retailers is to get consumers to complete the majority of their holiday shopping through them versus the competition. With this in mind, many retailers are opting for more lifestyle marketing rather than the traditional holiday discounts. “Buy with us because ‘we are your home for the holidays’” or “Because we, too, think the holidays should be about giving,” or anything that focuses on coming together as a family. Connecting with buyers on a more personal level often means they’ll be more loyal when it comes to making emotional or special holiday purchases.

Conversely, retailers like Best Buy and hhgregg have continued to focus on product-based marketing, which doesn’t leave much room for personal connections. People may be willing to wait in line for 8 hours to buy a deeply discounted TV, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve connected with the brand or that they’ll be buying electronics for everyone in their families. By taking this approach, brands benefit in the short term but miss an opportunity to create lasting loyalty.

This topic is close to home for me because my husband is a wholesaler in the car industry. The dealers he works with on a daily basis take the cake when it comes to holiday gimmicks, and not just for our favorite Fall and Winter holidays– “limited time offers” go on year-round. From New Year’s to Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day to Independence Day, Labor Day to Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day to Black Friday, and most definitely throughout the entire month of December, it seems like every month is the “perfect time” for you to get the best deal on a new car. What does this do for car dealers? It leaves them looking desperate, inauthentic, and phony. Constantly creating a false sense of urgency turns off savvy buyers. Slapping a big red bow on the hood of a Lexus doesn’t mean anything to me, except that you want to sell as many models as you can before the end of the year.

With so much retailer competition, targeted, persona-based marketing tactics are becoming more and more important. Many brands that are still opting to produce expensive TV spots have moved from discount and product-based marketing to lifestyle and even personalized marketing. Connect, relate, and stay relevant to your target audiences, and you’ll have more success moving the needle not just this holiday season, but throughout the year.

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