OPINION: Make Christmas marketing into an all year-round event - Stephen Carter believes retailers and magazine publishers should learn to treat the festive season as a foolproof marketing tool that has relevance for the whole year

Every year, without exception, retailers see a huge upturn of shoppers between October and December.

Every year, without exception, retailers see a huge upturn of

shoppers between October and December.



For many, this part of the calendar represents the biggest event of the

year and, with some businesses doing more than 40 per cent of their

annual volume during this season, you can see why the Christmas plan

occupies so much of marketing directors’ mind during the year.



The same is true of magazines as people looking for tips/what to do/what

to watch over Christmas swells circulation, and promiscuity is well

above normal levels.



With stakes like this, it is easy to see why retailers and media

publishers adopt a ’tunnel vision’ view of Christmas by treating it

merely as a volume opportunity to be milked to the full until ’life

returns to normal’ in the new year.



Sadly, those who do treat this part of the calendar this way are missing

a more important issue and bigger opportunities.



For retailers and media publishers alike, Christmas is the single

biggest (and cheapest) recruitment vehicle available. What other

marketing tool could match its credentials?



It will encourage lapsed and non-users to trial in huge numbers. It will

encourage people to spend more than they want to. It’s predictable. Once

a year without fail. And it’s free.



But how many retailers and media publishers convert this flirtation into

something far more rewarding for both parties? A recent J. Walter

Thompson survey (which is being updated this year by BMRB) indicates

that, in fact, the conversion figures are frighteningly low.



If this is the case, then the manner in which Christmas marketing

budgets are being spent will need serious attention. The second part of

our survey (out in the new year) will address this question.



Christmas will also either diminish or enhance brand equity. Common

knowledge is that, despite the imagery, Christmas is a time of strain

and stress for everyone -financially, domestically, socially and

professionally. It is especially bad for those with young children who

create the added ’I must get it right.’ pressure. But herein lies the

real opportunity for the retailer and the media title.



Helping the consumer ’get it right’ is not merely a business

opportunity, it is a marketing obligation that will add value to the

brand equity.



And, to be successful, both retailers and media publishers need to do a

number of things.



First, they must build Christmas authority. That’s to say build relevant

seasonal authority beyond the usual price, range and location

authorities.



Second, they must resist the ’dramatise the merchandise’ tendency.



Third, they must drive active store and active product preference.



Following these three guidelines can help Christmas function as a lens

by which a brand’s differentiation can be brought into sharp relief.



The way people shop/buy at Christmas is often thought to be different

from the way they shop/buy during the rest of the year and,

consequently, analysis is of little value.



This view is fundamentally flawed. Christmas shopping patterns are

largely driven of perceptions formulated during the course of the whole

year.



And, given that Christmas is almost entirely marketing and media driven,

there is no reason why the same principles should not be replicated

during the rest of the year.



Themed merchandising, wrapping service, shopping suggestions, etc, are

all as relevant in May as they are in December.



Christmas is a time of optimism. A time for happiness. A time of hope

for the future. Above all, Christmas is a time for giving and receiving.

If only we thought about marketing it in the same way.



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