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Don't Make These Holiday Marketing Faux Pas

Updated: Jan 2

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The holidays are a time when most Americans spend money, especially during December. Starting as early as October, TV commercials, online campaigns, billboards and magazines are filled with images of the holiday gifts. Thus, this is a time when companies launch intense marketing campaigns.


Over the last few decades, there has been a movement for companies who want to be inclusive to use the words and images of holidays and season rather than Christmas. This is an acknowledgment of other religions and traditions that exist in the United States.


This attempt to be inclusive has led some to argue there is a “war on Christmas.” Many remember the backlash Starbucks received in 2015 when they removed holiday images from their coffee cups for plain red cups. It is a sensitive issue to be sure. The next year, without being defensive or offensive, Starbucks course-corrected. They asked their customers to design cups for them. These designs were then placed on their red cups. There were varying scenes: reindeer, Christmas lights and balls, snowy outdoors and geometric shapes.


Rather than suggesting they knew what people wanted, Starbucks went straight to the people.


The lesson companies can learn from Starbucks is this: be true to your brand and make meaningful connections when marketing around the holidays.


No one wants to see their tradition watered down and reduced to commercialism just as no one wants to see their tradition ignored. While happy holidays is nice and inclusive, it can get tired especially if companies are using social media daily as often recommended. But Happy Holidays is not the only way to do that.


Rarely are Yom Kippur, Diwali, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa highlighted in a holiday campaign, yet all occur around the Christmas season. For many companies, this is most likely not due to disrespect, but rather lack of knowledge.


In order to be inclusive and authentic, there are a few things companies can do before rolling out their marketing plan in Quarter 4.


Take time to educate yourself and others

Learn about other traditions. Learn why they are important to those that celebrate them. Learn the cultural and historical significance. Learning these things will help companies include these things in a meaningful way. Rather than posting a picture of a menorah on the first day of Hanukkah, companies can educate themselves and their customers about this tradition. Share a fun fact: the first one was used in the portable sanctuary set up by Moses in the wilderness, fresh olive oil of the purest quality was burned daily to light its lamps, it is a symbol of Judaism since ancient times and is the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel. Surely, there is a fact that is on-brand for most companies.


Plan with others

During planning meetings, companies can ask for employee input. Companies can highlight employee traditions and celebrations. Companies with a small homogeneous staff can reach out to their customer base for ideas. Imagine a Facebook post where a company asks its followers to post a picture of their favorite holiday tradition. Talk about engagement and authenticity!


Social Media Calendar

All of this planning is work. And for a holiday campaign to be smooth, on-brand and inclusive companies need to plan. A great way to ensure there is enough content and that content is delivered in an effective and on-brand way is to use a social media calendar. This is a calendar that lays out the day to day ideas for social media posts. Sounds simple, but most killer ideas are.


Inclusivity is not simply a holiday marketing phenomenon. If a company truly believes in inclusivity, this will show up in their year-round marketing.




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