When is the right time to start marketing Christmas? | DMA

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When is the right time to start marketing Christmas?

It’s been a tough few years for retailers. Shoppers haven’t had much money to splash about but they usually make an exception for gift buying at Christmas time. Therefore, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that marketers are once again beginning their Christmas activity long before the big day itself.

Christmas takings can account for around 20 to 40% of annual revenues for many companies and there is significant pressure to start making the tills ring. However, walk around any high street in the lead-up to Christmas and you hear the grumblings of consumers already bored with festive marketing. There is a sentiment that runs through this gloomy discourse that Christmas is getting earlier and earlier. With Morrisons already plugging its support of ITV’s yuletide activity, “Text Santa”, and Selfridges opening its Christmas world in August, it is hard to disagree.

However, it’s impossible to make a blanket decision for every brand out there. Each one is different and this will affect their marketing activities, which means making a personal choice is vital.So much seasonal marketing activity lacks this focus, which can only add to customer dissatisfaction. Simply delivering a Christmas message for three months is not effective, and the data that brands now have at their disposal can feed into a structured marketing story that actually engages the customer.

Clear planning that incorporates defined Christmas messages like last order dates, early discounts and stocking fillers, will actually make the marketing easier to manage and help it resonate with the customer who can find something that engages them, rather than simply sells to them.

John Lewis is a prime example of a brand that achieves this. Last year, the retailer launched its “Countdown to Christmas” campaign that consisted of in-store events such as a pop-up parlour in the womenswear department that offered style advice and free mini-makeovers, and competitions for luxury holidays and gift hampers that incentivised the customer.

The activity hinged around a message of getting prepared for Christmas, focusing heavily on the customer and prompting them to buy more through activities that excited them. The campaign had demonstrable results as the store reported a 7.6% rise in year-on-year sales in the run-up to Christmas, proving that marketing that focuses on the customer can provide a tangible ROI.

It is clear then, that brands that set out to capture the imaginations of the customers will always do better than those who go for the hard sell. Essentially, it’s about putting the customer back at the heart of any activity. This is possible at anytime of the year but the opportunity offered in the run-up to Christmas is too good to pass up.

Christmas does seem to be creeping ever forward, but this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A more focused, well-planned and customer-led approach will make even the earliest of Christmas activity palatable for the customer.

By DMA guest blogger Simon Gray, Head of New Business, Lateral Group

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