Just last week, the UK high street was warned to prepare for one of its toughest Christmases ever as consumers would rein in spending and desert shops in favour of online bargains, according to research from the Evening Standard.
The ukNOW poll carried out by Hall & Partners for The Standard found one in three Londoners said they would spend less on presents, food and socialising this Christmas. Just under half planned to spend the same amount as last year, and only one in five expected to splash out more.
In the face of such harsh warnings, retailers and brands need to try harder than ever to connect with shoppers and stand out from the competition – and experiential activities can create the strong emotional ties with people that brands need. Therefore there is no better time to embark on an experiential campaign.
Christmas, however, can often seem to creep up out of nowhere – so your planning needs to be as advanced as possible. Try to have as much information as you can on other promotions and activities due to run at the same time, to ensure that there won’t be any conflicting activity with other brands. This can be achieved by talking to local councils and retailers.
You also need to have in mind a clear campaign objective to get the most out of any experiential activities. Many Christmas campaigns reflect little more than a brands desire to be seen and heard in this busy season.
With clear objectives set, brands and agencies can work together to assess and evaluate the best approach for their customers moving forward. You will then need to put in place a system to ensure they are measurable. If you can’t measure the return on your activities, you shouldn’t be carrying them out at all.
Christmas brings with it mixed feelings for consumers, and brands must make a contextual link to one or more of these. For example, many will see Christmas as a time for entertaining, and therefore will need products to please a wide audience of friends, family, colleagues and neighbours.
In contrast, others may see Christmas as an expensive time of year. These people will be trying to get good value from their purchases whilst worrying about overspending.
To get the most out of the seasonal opportunity, brands must focus on the seasonal relevance of a campaign. For example if products are designed to be given as presents, brands could offer a gift wrap service. Services like these help foster a positive emotional feeling towards their products and company.
You also need to carefully consider the location – which is key for these kinds of activities. Stores may not always be receptive to campaigns if they are packed with crowds of shoppers. To get retailers on your side you should focus on activities that will add value for their customers and as a result get more of them through their doors. For example, in store demonstrations of mince pie, stuffing and cookie making will provide more broad benefits for retail outlets as well as brands.
Also try to consider alternative locations such as the lights on Christmas markets or winter wonderlands. These locations have Christmas connotations to many people and are likely to be more open to marketing campaigns than busy retailers.
Christmas is also associated with celebration, so brands should try to focus activity on positive emotions whilst showing understanding of what their consumers might be feeling in that particular environment. This can take a variety of forms, from ensuring customers feel they’ve had a great experience, right through to creating ties with a charity or the launch of a CSR project. As Christmas is traditionally “the season of good will” it makes it an ideal time for such an initiative.
There are a wealth of possibilities to engage with consumers in the run up to Christmas. Brands need to focus on getting any activity right from the early planning stages. They need to understand their customers and keep any campaigns contextual and brand consistent. That way you can make sure you and your customers are getting the most out of the season’s opportunities.