‘Tis the Season to Set Your Holiday Marketing Strategy

It’s not too early to start planning your holiday marketing strategy — in fact, you’re right on time.

According to the National Retail Federation, sales during the 2020 holiday season grew 8.3% despite the unexpected disruption of a global pandemic. While resilience is the word many would use to describe the incredible year-over-year growth, I would argue strategic communications and integrated marketing were at the forefront.

‘Tis the Season to Set Your Holiday Marketing Strategy - photo of wrapped gifts on a beach

I’ve spent more than five years working as a senior counselor and spearheading both the approach and execution of holiday-specific programs within the toy, retail and home industries. Based on that, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind if your company or brand wants to win this holiday season.

Place Your Bets

Know now which SKUs are priorities for your business to highlight this holiday season. Yes, NOW! June is the time to develop holiday look books and start embargoed previews with long-lead media and broadcast contributors.

To provide a media perspective, I spoke to Julie Loffredi, a commerce journalist for national news outlets such as Today, CBS, Forbes and Brad’s Deals, and a Broadry broadcaster. “Many publicists are surprised to learn how early we start working on online and broadcast gift guides,” Loffredi told me. “That said, editors may continue to make updates and changes once a gift guide actually goes live. So, that could mean a product gets added or deleted. Tip: take a screenshot of those online gift guides as proof of a product featured. There’s always the possibility the guide will be changed.”

Long-lead gift guides and top retailer toy lists can typically go live as early as August, but their impact is significant as they influence other, short-lead online gift guides throughout the holiday season.

Make It Easy

Make a look book that not only highlights your products but directly shows their applicability to various gift guides and themes.

“Editors are becoming more and more SEO-focused when it comes to content and headlines for holiday gift guides,” Loffredi said. “Contributors and gift guide writers may be encouraged by their editors to write very specific articles. So, instead of a very broad ‘Jewelry Gift Guide’ it could be ‘Heart Necklaces Under $50.’ Or instead of ‘Best Gifts for Kids,’ a gift guide could be ‘Best Educational Toys for Kids Under Five, According to Pediatricians.’ Publicists can use this editorial direction to explore new ways to promote products for possible inclusion in gift guides.”

Ground It in Research

Use tools to uncover research and predictive trends to guide your themes. Not sure where to start? Ketchum Analytics offers a suite of services — everything from predictive analysis of social conversation to research mining, unique survey creation and distribution, and more.

Be Prepared to Pivot

Last year, retailers were hot to kick off the holiday season, with deals beginning in October and leading up to Christmas. With an unprecedented amount of deals came an unprecedented amount of coverage.

Deals were also getting moved up from anticipated dates to help keep up with consumer purchase behavior and encourage early shopping.

When developing your communications campaign, know it’s likely that some of the fine points will change, but the core of your strategy should be solid enough to pivot.

Know Your Pricing and Build Your Strategy

Deals, deals and deals are what drive conversation from October through the end of the calendar year. It’s imperative to know as early as June which products will likely have a price reduction and which will remain full-price regardless of the shopping event.

“The deal space is really getting competitive and crowded right now,” according to Loffredi. “It’s also possible some online publishers may favor offering more coverage to brands or products that offer high commission for affiliate partners, so stay up-to-date with clients in regard to their affiliate strategy. But there are still plenty of media outlets that simply want to share a great deal with their audience, regardless of whether commission is involved. The trick is to stay on top of your most sought-after media outlets to identify trends in coverage.”

She also recommended media pros submit products to sites like Knocking.co that do deals segments for media outlets.

For those without deals, start focusing in June on building product equity and reason for being within the respective category. Build up buzz, demand and ultimately consumer purchase intent.

Speak with Authority

Establish your company’s role as a leader by identifying one internal stakeholder to serve as your spokesperson throughout the season. Whether it’s leaning into trend predictions for your category, penning thought leadership pieces, participating in business interviews or submitting a quote to accompany a press release, personifying your brand will assist with recall and ultimately substantiate how you can serve as a resource for media requests throughout the year.

Reviews Count

While retailer site reviews help, consumers also look for unbiased third-party reviews to help inform their decision. Many consumers acknowledge the exchange in payment for affiliate posts, whether they’re positioned as blogs or influencer social posts.

Work to identify which products may require an external source to break down their tech and advantages, and create a workstream dedicated solely to garnering earned media reviews at least four months in advance of a holiday push.

Ketchum has strong relationships with a variety of consumer tech and lifestyle publications and can help make the connection. All we need from you is a strong product and a sample.

Measure Impact on Sales

While each company has its own preference on determining success (e.g., number of placements, impressions, tonality, call to action, etc.), Ketchum now has a first-of-its-kind offering, omniearnedID, to validate the impact of influencer content and earned media on brand reputation and sales. Yes, sales. This new platform and approach ensure measurement is as consistent as possible with other integrated marketing disciplines.

How ready are you to kick off your holiday marketing strategy? Ketchum’s retail and CPG experts can partner with you to make this holiday season your best yet. Reach out via email and let’s schedule time to discuss.

Lauren Samaha is a vice president, group manager in our New York office. She serves as a strategic leader within the CPG sector, guiding top agency clients on ways to break through with brand equity campaigns, new product launches and annualizing success around marquee sales periods.

A self-proclaimed expert in pop culture, Lauren looks to trends and current conversation to guide her creativity when developing strategies. She has an earned forward approach and a passion for finding interesting and unique ways to engage media.

Lauren sees challenges as opportunities to push the boundaries of thinking and ultimately drive forth strong programming that not only meets but exceed expectations.