holiday season brand strategy

Use The 6 Lessons From These Successful Holiday Season & Festival Campaigns to Ensure Your Year-Round Brand Strategy Increases Your Revenue & Expands Your Market Share

As the holiday season and Christmas approaches, it’s time for the nostalgic heart-warming commercials, like those stalwarts from John Lewis in the UK and Stove Top Stuffing in the U.S. Undoubtedly, a lot of money and effort goes into these big-budget Christmas campaigns. That is why holiday season brand strategy matters.

We may love and remember these adverts, but some are more effective than others in ensuring brand strategy during the holiday season drives business performance throughout the year. 

These campaigns involve considerable creativity and thinking to ensure return on investment so a lot of focus and energy goes into the brand strategy behind them. That is why they can teach us a lot about how these strong brand strategy principles can be leveraged to achieve higher revenue. 

branding strategy

© Persona Design

The fact is, there are invaluable takeaways here which can be used in multiple aspects of your brand strategy to drive growth even with modest resources. So don’t dismiss these seasonal campaigns too quickly, even if you never plan to make a Christmas or festival advert in your life.

Here we’re sharing with you six key insights on what some of these successful Christmas and holiday season campaigns from around the world teach us so that you, as a business leader or brand owner, can consider applying them year-round to ensure you have a robust brand strategy that enables you to increase revenue and expand your market share. 

Related: 7 Universal Branding Lessons From Christmas Adverts

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Lisa Kettman-Kervinen

Marketing Communication Specialist

The Switch

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1. Strong Holiday Season Brand Strategy is Consistent with Brand Strategy Year Round, B2B and B2C Product or Service

Christmas, the holiday season overall and other festivals such as Golden Week and Diwali are a time when a lot of people push the boat out and forget about their usual budget constraints. While that might make for a Merry Christmas at home, the same principle doesn’t apply to business spending. It’s important to have the same discipline about what you do and why you do it as you do the rest of the year round during the holiday season or any big festival time like Diwali, Spring Festival, the Golden Mask Festival, Songkran and Obon in Japan.

Effective brand strategy is relevant all the year round. What your brand does – and doesn’t do – at Christmas or any holiday season ought to flow from a well-considered, holistic approach to your brand strategy. 

Related: 7 Luxury Brand Resilience Principles You Can Leverage to Grow Your Profits in Hostile Market Conditions

It should not be an improvised afterthought. So, while the communication may be specific to the festival, the brand strategy which underpins it will apply across the year. That will make festival brand activity more impactful and more cost-effective because it is part of your brand’s bigger thinking. That is true of communication but it applies to other brand activities which are influenced by festivals, from post-Thanksgiving pricing strategy to product portfolio strategy at a time when shelf space is limited.

holiday season brand strategy

Image via Belfast Live © Coca-Cola

A case study is Coca-Cola’s epic new Christmas commercial for the challenging year of 2020. It is far-ranging and does not focus on the product prominently for much of its length. However, its story of togetherness and use of the iconic brand visual identity at key moments helps it communicate the brand positioning and brand image subtly but powerfully.

Related: A Brand is For Life, Not Just For Christmas

brand strategy“We participated in the Persona 7-Figure Business Building & Brand Strategy Mastermind 12 week online course. The 12 week program suited us as the weekly accountability spurred us on to get work done between sessions.

We found the flow of the course appropriate for the development of the brand through the various areas of the business. Already, we have developed our Customers Persona’s and our Brand Persona adding value to the business.

The course has helped us make more astute decisions in the business such as restructuring our product offerings so we grow more profitable lines and remove those with lower margins.

Lorraine is very helpful and accessible as a tutor with follow up after each working session and the half day masterclass. Most of all the clarity achieved has been most invaluable.

In the first two weeks of March 2020, before Covid-19 required us to close, we were 300% up in our online sales compared to the whole of March 2019 and after reopening April 2020 we were back to 108% by the end of May 2020 — results achieved from applying our brand strategy.”

Sinead Heffernan

Managing Director

Thunders Bakery

Sinead Heffernan

2. Effective Holiday Season Brand Strategy is Based on Effective Purchaser Personas

Successful brands identify their target audience, what they need to do to get them to purchase, and the most effective moments in which to do this. Such “purchaser personas” and understanding of drivers for action help the brand plan what to communicate, where and when, for maximum effect. 

That is also true for charity brands. Christmas makes a lot of people reflect on those less fortunate, and never more so than in the current global pandemic. That makes it an ideal time for brands to communicate, even when many people are pulled to spend money on things they may not really need. There has been a growing trend amongst younger demographics such as millennials to avoid waste and excessive spending. Understanding what drives these different types of consumers and time triggers for attitudinal shifts can be very important. 

holiday season brand strategy

Image via © The New York Times

For example, that is why dieting and exercise companies heavily concentrate their spend in the month following festivals such as Christmas, and Diwali in India. They know that that is when their target consumers are most conscious about their body image, after indulgent festivities.

Related: Using Buyer Personas to Increase Your Business Profitability

“An exceptionally talented individual. Lorraine Carter, Persona Branding and Design has a wonderful ability to ‘horizon scan’ for any business and then bring them on a journey that delivers value to their Balance Sheet.”

Dave Feenan


Technology Ireland & ICT Skillnet

Dave Feenan

Are you a business leader, manager, or entrepreneur who wants to re-evaluate or build your brand strategy so you can use any holiday season brand communication appropriately as part of a year-round approach to increase your sales? Are you curious about how to build or scale a highly successful standout brand? Join one of our branding masterclasses because they empower you to build your brand, enhance customer experience, expand your market impact and create higher perceived value so you can command a premium. 

In fact, the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is all about fast-tracking you, your brand and your business through the brand building, agile branding strategy process using professional big-brand know-how with proven systems that get results so you can grow your business faster and more effectively. 

The programme enables you to make your brand highly visible, different, credible, trustworthy, memorable and much loved amongst your ideal customers so you can become more profitable and leave your competitors way behind. Be The One — your ideal customers’ favourite brand of preferred choice commanding a premium.

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3. Holiday Season Brand Strategy Needs to Drive Brand Communication 

A lot of holiday campaigns are fun and light-hearted. But merely using a random fun idea to drive the communication won’t help your brand longer term. It is much more powerful to start with your commercial rationale and brand strategy first. Then, make sure that any brand communication ladders down from there. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.

holiday season brand strategy

Image via Verve Magazine © Burberry

A case study is fashion house Burberry’s classic “From London With Love” Christmas campaign. Although the look and feel managed to be very Christmassy, it is also totally consistent with the brand’s strategy, from the visual brand identity elements through to usage occasions. 

Related: Christmas Branding: Top 10 Tips to Infuse Your Brand with Seasonal Spirit 

If you’re interested in the brand strategy that will take you to the next level, that will put you on the market in a premium position, Lorraine Carter is the person to assist you in getting there with specific elements and with specific tools that simply work. All you have to do is focus and know what you want — she provides the tool kit you need to accomplish your goals.”

Adina Iacob

Founder, PR, Communications & Media Relations Consultant

Adina Iacob
Brand Audit Consultation

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4. Holiday Season Brand Strategy can Involve Socially Conscious Branding – If It Fits With The Brand

2020 has seen a big increase in awareness around corporate social responsibility and what it can mean for a brand. ESG – short for Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance – has been one of the year’s buzzwords

Holiday season campaigns often involve an opportunity for a brand to talk about some element of its socially conscious branding. CSR can help a brand – but only if it is congruent with the brand, it’s positioning and what it stands for. Increasingly, brands trying to talk about CSR for whom it is not a good fit are accused of greenwashing, for example. So while Christmas and the holiday season can offer a good moment for CSR communication, it is only useful if it fits your brand well to start with.

holiday season brand strategy

Image via Independent

A case study of where a CSR message worked well with the brand identity is British pharmacy group Boots the Chemist. Its Christmas ad tying in with the health service, burnished its own role as a healthcare enabler

Similarly, Take Care of Yourself from Doc Morris is fully aligned with its core brand purpose. 

Contrast that to Supervalu’s latest campaign. It makes an important point around COVID-19 but clearly recognises that its role as a supermarket is limited when it comes to certain CSR topics – it doesn’t have the permission a pharmacy like Boots does to talk about heath. So instead, it engages viewers on the topic of the pandemic but in a way and with a tone of voice which is a good fit for its brand.

Related: 5 Remarkably Heartfelt Brand Personalities Winning Buyers at Christmas

“Lorraine’s depth of knowledge in branding is immense. I have attended some of her courses and also see first hand the benefits Persona Branding & Design can bring to a business. I am always happy to recommend Lorraine.”

Ruaidhri Prendergast

Co-Founder, Author

Pinpoint Local

Ruaidhri Prendergast

5. Holiday Season Brand Strategy Means Focussing on Results

As an SME or SMB, it is normal to have a sharp focus on what impact any given brand marketing activity delivers to your business. Actually that is good practice for brands of any size, though some large brands have such big resources it might appear as if they don’t act like that.

Any Christmas or holiday season advert ought always to ensure your brand lands front and centre in its target audiences mind — even it the actual brand logo is very low-key. This is important so that the target audience doesn’t just engage with the brand communication but fails to link it clearly to the brand itself. No matter how heart-warming or amusing a brand communication is, it isn’t money well spent if it doesn’t motivate your target users in the way you want or achieve your commercial objectives.

Good brand communication has a “call to action”. That is a way of answering the question: what do you want people to do in response to engaging with the content? Simply feeling good about a brand isn’t a call to action. Some clear linkage to a desired behaviour for example purchase or requesting more information is a call to action. That can be explicit, or it can be by picturing it or describing it in the brand communication.

holiday season brand strategy

Image via Indian Retailer

A case study from India is retailer Big Bazaar and its “patakha” advert, for the Indian festival of Diwali. Although whimsical and sentimental, it is clearly anchored in the store, in the act of shopping.

Related: How Four Marketing Giants Evaluate their Branding ROI, Return on Investment

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Shona Cooper


MGI Learning

Shona Cooper

6. Only Use Humour in Your Holiday Season Brand Strategy which Fits the Brand

A lot of brands use humour in their adverts at a holiday season like Christmas or Thanksgiving. In itself that can make sense – the audience is often in a more relaxed, fun mood than usual. However, humour can easily be misconstrued and it is hard to get right. Sometimes, it can go badly wrong and damage the brand long-term. In general, if you can’t do humour well, it’s best not to do it at all. 

Brand communication works best when it is consistent, so it makes sense for a brand which often uses humour as part of its brand communication to do so at Christmas. Other brands should tread much more carefully. Even for a brand which does often use humour, it ought to be engaging humour which brings target consumers onside rather than alienates them.

A case study is Lidl’s Christmas 2020 advert. It parodies the cute approach of other supermarkets’ Christmas adverts and instead focusses on the relevance at Christmas of the brand values such as quality food and cheap pricing. The communication manages to be funny, but still communicates the brand proposition clearly and repeatedly.

Related: Seasonal Branding, Tread Carefully with Christmas Themed Brand Strategies

In contrast, John Lewis in the UK is famous for its annual Christmas adverts, and they’re often much awaited each year as an almost unofficial start to the holiday season. Consistent with other years – this year is heart-warming and takes a simple, universally recognizable motif (the heart) and sticks with it. That helps the clarity of messaging. It also captures the public mood of fatigue at the end of an annus horribilis. 

branding strategy

© Persona Design

However, if we’re evaluating the advert in the context of the core principles of brand strategy to drive increased revenue, grow market share and build IP brand asset value than I’m not convinced it’s done a commercially successful job. I’d even go as far as questioning congruence with the year round brand strategy aligned with corporate strategy and the growth objectives of the business.

Final Thoughts

When enjoying the latest adverts for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Diwali, Songkran or any other festival, evaluate the brand strategy behind them. Good brand communication is always part of a wider brand strategy, even if its execution is optimised to make the most of a particular festival or selling opportunity for the brand. 

It ought to fit with the brand strategy overall. It also ought to have a clear purpose, like any other brand communication: who is the target for the communication, and what action do you want them to take as a result of seeing the brand communication? 

If your brand strategy is well thought through and consistently executed, your brand will have cause for celebration a lot more than just once a year!

Questions to Consider

  1. What opportunities do festivals like Christmas present specifically for your brand?
  2. Do you have well-developed Purchaser Personas to help direct your brand activity?
  3. Does your brand consider CSR in your brand strategy and planning process?
  4. How do you measure success and evaluate the return on your brand communication activity?
  5. What is your brand’s optimal tone of voice?
  6. Do you need to consider re-evaluating your brand using a brand audit so you can better identify its strengths, vulnerabilities and opportunities for innovation and growth?
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