Holiday Marketing Traditions, Old and New

Holidays are all about traditions. They’re a blend of the old and the new: sharing favorite seasonal practices with those who look forward to them every year, and establishing new rituals, too.

Digital media buyers and planners take a similar approach. In their efforts to secure their share of consumers’ shopping dollars, marketing professionals refresh themes that have worked in the past. They’re also known to try their hand at something new based on the consumer media consumption trends they’ve observed throughout the year.

For Auld Lang Syne

It’s the sixth year running for OfficeMax’s award-winning “ElfYourself” – described by the brand as “the most loved viral holiday website in history” – and my, how times have changed. Apart from involving several different development partners over the years (the most recent iteration of the campaign was created by participation marketing company Oddcast), ElfYourself has gone from being an interactive viral site to a Facebook app and a free mobile app, expanding to better correspond with consumer media habits.


The mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod were launched just this year, along with ElfYourselfLive, a real-time dedicated channel on social TV site With the tool, consumers can create a video of themselves wearing elf hats and ears to broadcast live to a global audience.

OfficeMax’s awareness of media trends and willingness to adapt to them seems to be out. According to the company, consumers spent the equivalent of 7,124 years on between 2006 and 2011 – and the site is only functional during the holidays.

Apparel retailers rely heavily on branded email newsletters to distribute information on sales and special offers to customers, but for several years now they’ve also been used to deliver marketing content. Land of Nod intermingles these with its direct marketing messages, as do Patagonia and J. Crew.

J. Crew’s most recent content-rich email message, which bore the subject line, “My guide to holiday party style,” was sent on behalf of the brand’s fashion director. It’s written like an editorial piece and includes tips on dressing up for the holidays – with links to J. Crew products, of course.


Meanwhile, Netted by the Webbys – associated with the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences’ award competition by the same name – is revisiting its “The 12 Days of Netted” gift guide, originally launched last year. The newsletter’s editors select 12 “great tech gifts spanning the price spectrum” and send them out to subscribers one at a time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Brands can purchase editorial space to promote their products in association with the business and marketing world as well as holiday shopping, and add value to the consumer experience by offering a promo code. The guide has been “fantastically successful,” the publication says. Halfway through this year’s run it has already doubled last year’s traffic.


New (This) Year

The growing popularity of photo-based sites like Pinterest and Instagram have led this year to numerous social holiday campaigns. Among those brands giving it a try are Saks Fifth Avenue, with its “Pin it to Win it” contest. To participate, consumers must create a pinboard and pin at least six items from the Saks website that they would like to give as gifts. Up for grabs are five $2,000 Saks gift cards. Saks promoted the contest through Facebook and Twitter, as well as by email. By the end of the campaign’s first week consumers had created over 6,000 contest pinboards.


Gap is taking a similar approach with a “Pin to Win” campaign of its own, although this one incorporates both Pinterest and postcard site Postagram. Gap is promoting its “Be Bright” holiday tagline by subsidizing postcards created by consumers using their Facebook or Instagram accounts (Gap is even paying to mail them). On Pinterest, the brand is encouraging users to post their favorite holiday items for a chance to win a Gap gift card.


Whether old or new – or a mix of both – holiday campaigns like these are a surefire way to entertain and engage consumers. What will your next digital tradition be?

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Vector graphic of a megaphone spewing out business themed items, such as a laptop, tablet, pen, @ symbol and smartphone