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15 Things To Keep In Mind When Designing Your Marketing Plan For The Holidays

via Forbes : The holidays are just around the corner, which means so is shopping season. With spending projected to reach $923.15 billion, according to an eMarketer report, getting in on the revenue share is a must for all businesses ahead of the holiday season.

While the holidays are notoriously a “big spend” time of year, marketing to these consumers needs to be strategic, as you are competing with more advertising than usual.

Below, 15 Forbes Agency Council members discuss some of the most important things your brand should keep in mind when planning your marketing campaign during the holiday season. Here is what they had to say:

1. Your Campaign Should Reflect Today’s Realities

In addition to devastation, the recent hurricanes have also brought with them an opportunity for brands to emerge heroically. This holiday season, advertising needs to be about re-positioning the products and services we all want and need. Don’t sell a Mercedes, offer an escape. Don’t pitch insurance, sell protection. A cell phone shouldn’t be about entertainment, it should be about connectivity. – Anthony Trimino, TRAFFIK

2. Free Shipping Is Essential

In a world dominated by Amazon, it’s incredibly difficult for companies to compete for holiday shopping dollars if they don’t offer free shipping. – Brian Sullivan, Sullivan Branding

3. You Will Likely Be Ignored

Unless you figure out what’s valuable to your audience and offer a trade for their attention, you will be completely drowned out in the holiday chaos. Start with what you have that makes your target audience’s lives better and do it from their perspective. Your campaign should flow out of that. – Joanne Kim, Marcus Thomas LLC

4. Continual Improvement Is Key

Optimize and enhance your campaigns with data. Avoid major changes, pivots or replatforming efforts right before the holiday season. You want enough runway to be completely stable when the rush of new business hits the checkout page. Look at last year’s data and optimize your approach to this year. – Andy Etemadi, EYEMAGINE

5. Emotional Connection Generates Success

Most consumers make decisions based off of emotions. It is important for brands to understand how to create a customer connection, especially for the holidays, since it is a season where friendship, love, happiness and many other emotions are shared. By creating an emotional connection to the brand, success is generated. – Alex Quin, UADV

6. Mobile Transactions Are Constantly On The Rise

Don’t let mobile be an afterthought. Mobile transactions have increased year-over-year and will continue to rise. Stay in front of your audience with smart mobile ad campaigns and make sure your ads deep link so that the experience is easy, streamlined and converts. If your company has a new app, consider adding a loyalty program to drive adoption, and tap into the lucrative mobile market. – Katie Jansen, AppLovin

7. Influencers Create Nag Factor

Brands that want their product to be on Santa’s most-requested list must remember that influencers make a huge difference in generating “nag factor.” In a cluttered holiday season, shoppers take influencer and media recommendations seriously. Leverage and empower a communications agency influencer team to build influencer buzz and make sure your products are generating lots of buzz and demand. – Daryl McCullough, Citizen Relations

8. Now Is The Time To Show Off Your Personality

For business-to-business brands, this is the time of year to have a little fun, and it’s a great opportunity to introduce new technologies, such as augmented reality or virtual reality. If you’re going to spend the money on holiday cards or gifts, you might as well create something truly engaging that reminds people who you are. – Sarah Mannone, Trekk

9. Sincerity Is Paramount

The contentious divide in this country is deep and widening daily. Authentic brand communications backed by sincere attempts to heal will resonate in the spirit of the holidays. The key is to tastefully spotlight the humanness that unites us versus the negativity and hate that divide us. – Stephen Rosa, (add)ventures

10. Image Is Everything

Image is everything. Be sure that your campaign has a variety of original, branded photos that coincide with your marketing campaign. These should be used on various social channels, on your website and in advertising associated with the campaign. – Laura Cole, Vivial

11. Starting Early Is Key

Brands need to know to start early! More than 40% of consumers report starting holiday shopping before Halloween and nearly 40% of women report completing their holiday shopping before Nov. 1. Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest shopping days, consumers are making their purchasing decisions well in advance, and are waiting for the biggest savings on those critical days. – Steve Dinelli, Blackbird Garage

12. Employee Involvement Is A Powerful Factor

It’s important to involve your employees in your holiday marketing campaign from the get-go. Some companies feature their staff in commercials, while others simply encourage their employees to share the campaign on their social networks. However you choose to include your team, don’t ignore the power they have in helping make the campaign successful. – Megan Shroy, Approach Marketing

13. Your Audience Is Looking For Easy

Along with the benefits of your product, let your audience know what’s convenient about ordering it, returning it, assembling it, even paying for it. Your holiday campaign will have to compete with a lot of other messages, and it’ll run during a hectic time of year. Make purchasing your product more attractive to busy, distracted consumers by showcasing your quick and easy buying process. – Scott Greggory, MadAveGroup

14. You Need To Tell A Cohesive Story

Make sure you are telling a cohesive story starting from consumers’ research phase (September/October), through the purchase phase when they are actually buying gifts (November/December). Sequential messaging strategies are paramount in achieving this and should be considered for any brand’s campaign. – Preethy Vaidyanathan, Tapad

15. Too Many Emails Hurt Your Brand

Resist the temptation of sending too many emails. Email – because it is perceived as inexpensive, efficient and most importantly, it works – is often over-leveraged during the holidays. Retailers will often send as many three messages a day and while this may drive short-term sales, it likely is hurting your brand in the long run and impacting the lifetime value of your customers. – Simms Jenkins, BrightWave

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