Humbug! The Dark Truth About Holiday Advertising

Posted by Angela Voss on 12/23/15 9:39 AM

In the spirit of the Holiday Season, we’re giving away a golden nugget of battle-tested direct response knowledge. Nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like shattering some conventional wisdom.

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There’s a common assumption that, “If everyone’s doing it, then it must be working.” That fallacy runs rampant during the holiday season. Marketers slap some holiday cheer onto their advertising, sit back with their eggnog and pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

In the last 18 years of constant A/B testing in DR, Marketing Architects has accumulated a gigantic vault full of invaluable, but sometimes inconvenient, truths. Here’s a truth about holiday advertising that may make you want to rethink your December marketing plan:

Holiday advertising is NOT for everyone.

It is, admittedly, a little weird. A holiday is an event. We’ve proven time and time again that event-based messaging is extremely effective. An event implies an end date which elevates the urgency of your message and offer. But attempting to tap into the holiday magic never seems to work for traditional direct response products.

Here are two key reasons why hanging jingle bells on your marketing may be a bad idea:

  1. Solutions for Personal Problems Don’t Make Great Gifts

    Direct response advertising is at its purist when you’re communicating in terms of problem/solution. Your audience has a problem they may or may not even know they have. You raise awareness to the problem in a way that rips off the band aid, exposes your audience’s wound and compels them to take immediate action. Conveniently, your product or service is the perfect solution. You’ve got an irresistible offer waiting for them, only if they act now.

    The result of problem/solution messaging is that it’s very personal. Incorporating discretion into your messaging is often an effective strategy. People don’t respond impulsively on behalf of someone else’s pain.

    A holiday message does evoke event-based urgency, but it’s tethered to gift giving. Giving the gift of a weight loss product, an acne treatment, or a debt solution is a great way to get a pumpkin pie in the face.

    There are exceptions of course. We’ve seen success marketing mobility aids as holiday gifts because caregivers are constantly on the lookout for their loved ones. It’s a delicate balancing act that depends on both the product positioning and how personal the problem is.
  1. Saturation Prevents Disruption

    “I’ve got an idea!” an advertiser might say. “Let’s do an ad for a weight loss product and tie it to New Year’s Resolutions! I’m sure no one has ever thought of that before!”

    Yes. Someone has thought of that before. Everyone in the category, in fact, is trying some variation of that idea. Follow in their footsteps and you’re walking into a shouting match you will lose. The sheer volume of holiday advertising will suffocate your message. Particularly if your product isn’t a perfect gift for the season.

    DR ads have been disruptive long before ‘disruptive’ was a buzz word. Good DR ads cut through the clutter. Ideally, they don’t even look or sound like ads at all. The more you can make your message stand out against the mind numbing sea of advertising that looks and sounds exactly the same, the more likely your audience is going to pay attention to you long enough to actually hear what you have to offer them.

    Jumping onto the holiday bandwagon can also pigeonhole you as a “me-too” product. People are less inclined to believe you are superior, unique and different if you look and sound just like everyone else.

How to Get Rich like Ebenezer Scrooge

At Marketing Architects, we’ve seen success on both sides of the Holiday Bonanza. We have some products that thrive through holiday advertising. Toys are an obvious example that live or die by their holiday performance. For them, incorporating the holidays in your messaging strategy is crucial.

For holiday products, a tremendous amount of strategic planning leads to a massive, year-end windfall of profit. If the wrong strategy leads to a bad season, you could be facing a bleak year with very little opportunity to test solutions. It can be a rollercoaster of risk and reward.

Ebenezer Scrooge was extremely wealthy and successful in business because he humbugged the fickle whims of erratic holiday shoppers. He would have loved DR.

The problems that DR products and services solve never go away, giving marketers the power to confidently advertise all year. Having a constant flow of new customers sets you up for a chain reaction of testing that leads to perpetual optimization. Not only do you have steady money coming in, but you constantly get to react to real-world data and make moves to improve.

Whether you humbug the holidays or thrive by them, we should talk. At Marketing Architects we have everything you need under one roof to launch advertising campaigns in radio and TV with the online optimization needed to get them working together.

Topics: Direct Response Marketing

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