Cutting through the noise at Christmas

Let’s face it, Christmas is a noisy time for marketing – particularly for retail or food-based business (such as restaurants, cafés, bars, etc). Everybody wants to cut through the noise and be the business that stands out during the festive period, but the noise is so deafening that few make an impact.

You’ve got two options – either go all out and grab attention with a big budget and something to grab the public’s eye (see John Lewis, Sainsburys, etc) or do something a little different. I read with interest today with café-chain Pret A Manger has announced that instead of spending money on marketing activities this Christmas, it is instead donating its marketing spend to five charities – meaning its charitable donation per sandwich goes up from 5p per sandwich bought to 50p. In doing so, it has generated publicity in itself – just by doing something different (yet worthwhile).

Supporting charities appears to be the key message this festive season, and rightly so. In donating and supporting others, Christmas cheer is spread and helps the public to help others whilst going about their usual routines.

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This can also work for small businesses. Three quick ways to cut above the local Christmas marketing noise, with little or no marketing budget needed:

  • Tie in with a local charity – for example, a cafe bar could donate unsold produce to the local YMCA or Foodbank. Completely newsworthy, whilst incurring no (or little) additional cost to the business.
  • Use social media to target your Christmas audience with focused updates, tweets, images, etc. Tell a story or support a cause, update often and with a clear aim in mind.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your customers… what do they want / do / support / need at Christmas time. Where will they be and how can you capture their attention about all others? Spending some time thinking as a customer (instead of how you think your customer acts) can make a huge difference to the success of your marketing, and help you to ‘think outside the box’ (to coin a cliché).

And if you haven’t already started your Christmas marketing, now is the time to do so!

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It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking About ‘That’ Time of Year

As of today, there are only 36 sleeps until Christmas. The season has started on television, with John Lewis’ “Monty the Penguin” taking the lead in this year’s favourite festive ad, and many people have already started their Christmas shopping and arrangements.

Making your marketing plans for Christmas - O'Loughlin Marketing Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, have you prepared your business’ Christmas marketing plans? If not, here are some things you might want to consider:

  • What markets or audiences do you want to target for the Christmas period – maybe you want to particularly attract office parties, parents celebrating baby’s first Christmas, or corporate gift buyers? How will you appeal to them, and are your products or services attractive to that audience?
  • Make sure you can deliver. Much like Santa, if you say people can have their product or service before Christmas, make sure you can actually do it!
  • Consider extending your Christmas opening hours if demand requires it. Don’t miss out on Christmas orders or shoppers, especially if businesses around you are extending theirs – they could take your custom if you are unavailable.
  • Collect email addresses from those who buy from you in December, and send email marketing to wish them a Merry Christmas and any offers you have for Christmas and/or January.
  • Promote your Christmas activities on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages, so that your customers know what you have planned.
  • Think about January – a typically quieter time for many businesses. Can you offer a voucher or offer to customers if they visit you or buy in January too?

You should always try to make sure that your marketing stands out, especially in a busy period for consumers. However, don’t forget that people want to feel festive at this time of year, so don’t be embarrassed to put Christmas, and all it entails, firmly at the centre of your marketing activities throughout the period.

Event Do’s & Don’ts – Christmas Edition

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You may have seen the news over the weekend about Milton Keynes’ “Winter Wonderland”, which was closed down just one day after it opened for being below the standard you’d expect for a festive-themed event, with complaints about a Santa in a cheap suit, an ice rink without ice and reindeers without antlers.

It isn’t the first time that an event aimed at families and Christmas-lovers has sunk below the bar and generated a storm of complaints and bad publicity, so you have to wonder why organisers open events which are bound to meet upset and complaints.

The best way to make an event memorable is to go the extra mile in the small details. People will remember those details that make them smile, whether it be bales of hay at a barn dance, or flower garlands given to guests at a Hawaiian summer party. Some details on their own may seem cheesy, but when they are part of an event which has been well thought out with the theme running throughout the event, these touches will go a long way to generating positive word of mouth publicity for your event.

The outcome of Winter Wonderland’s failure as an event on the company itself is largely financial – a loss of earnings during this Christmas period, the missed opportunity of repeat bookings by the Milton Keynes Council for future years, and the unlikeliness of being hired for an event in the near future without some serious improvement to their operations.

If you are planning a festive event this Christmas, whether it is for a public audience or even just your company party, put some thought into the details, go the extra mile, and make sure people are talking about it for the whole festive period.