2020 Ain't Over, So Don't Throw in the Towel on Holiday Marketing

Ideas for a different kind of seasonal cheer

At this point in 2020, it might seem easier to close our eyes and stick our head in the sand (or salt rim on our bucket-sized margaritas), but the truth is we've still got plenty of mileage left in the inaugural year of the decade.

And if you're thinking the best thing to do is wait it out and hang on until '21 rolls around, you're missing out. Seriously.

If you're smart, you can be one of a few brands to throw some s'mores on the dumpster fire and own the holidays. Of course, it'll take more than a run-of-the-mill ad campaign … but if you're willing to let go of the multimillion-dollar-Hollywood-budget-condensed-into-60-seconds-of-commercial ego and embrace some ingenuity, there's plenty of room to break through and build lasting brand loyalty. It's just a matter of figuring out the right way in.

For you, it might mean being useful.

Novel idea, eh? Seriously, though, people do need help, and given the current state of general unrest, it's a perfect time for brands to offer it. For example, if you're a tech brand, why not help out some of the millions of folks who will be having VideoChatsGivings, ZoomNoraLightings or FaceTimeSantaSightings this year. Instead of leaving it to family members to tech-support grannies, uncles and aunties getting their systems working, insert yourself into the equation (we're lookin' at you, Geek Squad). How great would it be if there were a brand-supported third party that was on-call to make your calls happen? It's also a fantastic opportunity to get some new devices out there as well (what's up, Samsung, Apple and Microsoft). Perhaps it's a tablet rental or loaner service or a family bundle offer (even throw in that free family support … eh, eh??). What better way to get products into people's hands? 

Maybe you're a little closer to the kitchen. Consider how many new holiday-meal cooks are going to be delving into the stress of over (or under) cooking a roast. Now dive in. Turn your ad units into little lessons; create YouTube videos with real-time instruction; Join Butterball in offering helpline support on the day of; or do something better. I'm just here to get the bad ideas out of the way and get some good ones flowing.

Or … it might mean finding some new retail.

Black Friday, Main Street strolling and mall days are a no-go this year. So instead of just relying on the typical retail channels to pick up the slack, forge some Instagram partnerships that allow you to leverage in-platform commerce. Make it your new Main Street. Find a series of folks with influence and collaborate with them. Sell through their channels. Turn them into your retail storefronts.

Perhaps you're a coffee shop whose name begins and ends with an S. You're already known for your localized mugs—consider extending that into digital communities. Create a series of collab mugs with influential folks available through their channels. Maybe you're a footwear or fashion brand. Consider how you'd treat six squares of an instagram account like a holiday window. Artist + influencer + instagram = something new. Could be fun, right?

It almost certainly means insulating, not accelerating.

Typically, companies use the holidays to hockey stick their sales. As they should. But this year, with emotions running high, they should do something to drive a lasting consumer connection that helps insulate their brand for months to come. Because stability is the new success story. Sexy, right?

This one doesn't need examples, but if you're reading this, you probably are well aware of the power of branding. If not, give me a call and we'll have a not-so-healthy argument. This is a fantastic time to build a relationship with consumers. Insulate yourself, stay part of the conversation, and it'll pay dividends. Time and time again research shows that trust translates into dollars over the long term. But don't take my word for it, take it from some folks who get to drop a D and R in front of their names.

Experiences aren't dead. Like, at all.

Cold weather is coming, and bars and restaurants can't afford to solve for it. But chances are you can. So, do it. Build igloos. Heat parks. Or do something that's a little closer to home. If you're a company like Spotify or Sonos, perhaps you help recreate the holiday connection by sending in carolers (famous or otherwise). Stream it, share it, create moments. Or maybe you're living in the Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime content world where you can give people somewhere to escape to. Build a drive-in holiday screening. Create a holiday branded experience (somebody PLEASE do something with Nakatomi Plaza … yes, Die Hard is a holiday film, not up for discussion). They can be socially distanced, they can create shareable content, and they can make people love you. My partner and I have created experiences like these for Mrs. Maisel and Zoolander in the before-times, and we continue to be amazed at the power of a real-world connection.

Experiences aren't dead, they're just different. Find the one that connects to your brand, and use it to connect your brand to people.

Last, and far from least, you should... 

Experiment with media, because media is willing to experiment with you.

This one has nothing to do with the current state of affairs, other than it's become even more important that it was prior. And media outlets are even more incentivized to build creative partnerships. Expand beyond traditional assets and experiment with different media spaces and places. Try new channels, new mixes, new creative strategies. Partner with networks and media outlets. 

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that this is NOT the end of time. Sometimes we forget that people don't take marketing as seriously as we do. That doesn't mean we can pretend things are normal or we can be tone deaf, but it does mean it's OK for us to be creative. In fact, it'd be a shame not to. If there ever were an opportunity to use creative thinking as a means to drive business, this is it. 

After all, that's what we're here for.

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Evan Slater
Evan Slater is creative director at Caveat.

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