How Brands Can Stand Out During The Crowded Holiday Advertising Period

November 17, 2023
Alex Song

The fourth quarter is a unique time of the year when people’s minds and wallets are open. But to realize the potential of the holiday season, brands must adjust their marketing approach well in advance. Here’s a holiday season playbook that will help you plan a well-orchestrated marketing conversation, so you can build stronger relationships with your customers and maximize sales in the long run.

Acquiring customers will be more expensive, and that’s okay.

Customer acquisition needs to be balanced with conversion rates and other marketing measures during this period.

In the U.S., we are trained to open our wallets and spend like mad during November and December. Brands expect that type of behavior, and they count on consumers to spend. But acquiring new customers during this time is a matter of supply and demand. During the holidays, there is more advertising activity and, therefore, the rate of their impressions will increase, as with any supply-and-demand market.

Don’t overreact to the cost of each impression going up. Impressions are just one variable in the total formula for how much it costs to acquire customers. Chances are good that your conversion rate will also increase during this period, so the two measures offset each other.

Here’s a very simple example: Let’s say it costs me $50 to acquire a new customer under normal circumstances. Then, in the holiday buying season, that cost might jump to $100. But if the conversion rate also doubles, then the costs even out.

Invest in engagement.

During the run-up to the holiday season, it’s important to have a balanced advertising approach. October and early November are not necessarily the time to focus exclusively on acquisition. Instead, focus your advertising dollars on engagement.

Think about how you can get potential customers to your website and keep them there, moving around the site to understand all your products. Focus on your social posts. Leverage Instagram, YouTube and TikTok to engage viewers now. You don’t necessarily need them to purchase now, but you want them to still be thinking about you later, on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other big holiday purchasing periods.

Rather than focusing on the purchases that might happen today, focus on getting in front of current customers, targeting future buyers and making sure you are top of mind for them when they decide that it’s finally time to buy. If they believe in you as a brand, you will get back the investment you made in that longer sales cycle thanks to the marketing you’ve done before and throughout the noisier, more crowded holiday season.

Find a way to stand out.

What can you do to market your brand in a unique way? During this crowded advertising period, you need to have an idea that’s elevated—one that will make your brand stand out from the crowd.

Your marketing must take you from being a part of the conversation to actually owning the conversation. It’s not easy to do and will require an especially thoughtful content strategy. That’s because it’s no longer enough to simply offer a discount or donate to an organization that’s doing good things. These tactics are just table stakes. You need to do more to lead the conversation around who you are and what you stand for.

For example, if you were considering offering a gift box during the holiday season, you might elevate the campaign by curating a more holistic box with partner brands that have similar values and purposes. Form partnerships with like-minded brands and offer their products alongside yours within that box. By combining brands that stand for similar things, the box represents something greater than the sum of its parts—and this drives a stronger commitment in the long run.

If you break it, you can fix it.

If something goes wrong with your operation at the height of the holiday season, it could be catastrophic. So you’d much rather know about any weaknesses now when you have time to fix them.

Try to break your supply chain and your distribution channels in the early fall. Stress test every element of your infrastructure to get ahead of any glitches. For example, test the details of your fulfillment center, including your packaging and shipping processes, your ordering and fulfillment technology and your payment processing. Essentially, you’re trying to break your business now, so it doesn’t hold things up when sales matter the most. If you can understand all the variables and create contingency plans, you’ll be ready for the holiday rush when it arrives.

The holiday season can be a great source of annual revenue, but unless you’ve laid the groundwork long before then, you may have a hard time being heard over the increased marketing noise. Make sure you’re thinking about long-term relationships with your customers, investing in the conversation before you need the sale and maintaining a flawless infrastructure so you can make the most of the fourth quarter and beyond.

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