And…they’re off! Black Friday is just around the corner, festive playlists are on repeat, and marketers are revving up to make the very most of the holiday spending – ahem, giving – season.
With so much at stake from now through Christmas – holiday sales represent nearly 20% of retail sales for the whole year – marketers pull out all the stops to get an edge on the competition. For most, that means amping up and ramping up on the digital advertising front. After all, more than 57% of marketers say they rely on digital ads to increase brand awareness and purchases; digital drives a significant amount of both offline retail behavior (through online branding) and online purchasing (through brand and direct-reponse initiatives).
But before we ladle out the eggnog and throw marketing caution to the wind, it’s important to remember that with a few slight tweaks, holiday marketers need to follow the same guidelines this time of year that they do when the fake snow’s not falling. So what’s the hot, new trend for marketers this holiday season? Common sense.
Based on best practices and insight from colleagues around the digital industry, I’ve identified five essential rules to follow for your holiday marketing, guaranteed to see you through to 2012 with nary a regret:
- Always be relevant. It sounds like Marketing 101, but keeping consumers and their wants, needs, conditions, and situations at the core of what you do will guarantee results. Along with demographic info, you must understand what content your audience is viewing, watching and reading, and align your ads with that content. This year, more than ever, we’re seeing consumers who are not only price-conscious, but also spending-conscious. The better you understand consumers’ circumstances, the better prepared you’ll be to make a strong case for the value and benefits of your product.
- Context matters – and so does content. What are you serving in your display, toolbar, and in-text ads? Time and again, we see that the most engaging ads offer users relevant content within the context of the page they’re viewing. Maybe you’re marketing a tooth-whitening product, for example. Serve ads that understand the context of a page – whether it’s about finding a date for New Year’s Eve or taking great holiday photos – and change dynamically to give users meaningful information they can use.
- Serve a need, need to serve. We all know that geo-targeted, locally relevant marketing holds great appeal for brands and consumers (viz. a recent major IPO), so make sure your advertising caters to consumers’ needs. Here’s a cue from retailer Lowe’s, who used a targeted keyword strategy to score big with an award-winning campaign during the holiday season last year. Lowe’s created a custom in-text store locator ad unit that leveraged ShopLocal's robust API feed to deliver geo-targeted product deals within relevant, topical, and seasonal content. Cha-ching!
- Don’t share your voice, own it. Keyword ownership is everything, especially in auto, consumer electronics and other hyper-competitive sectors. Along with category and brand words, seasonally specific terms like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are obvious winners. Act first and fast, and you can let keywords do the work for you. A smart contextual plan gives you access to every relevant nook of the Web without specific spot-buying.
- Know the channels and work them. It goes without saying that social media is attracting heat and dollars from marketers. Brands look for increased mileage from their social media assets – surfacing social content in new ad formats that push the Facebook page and Twitter feed to the consumer in a relevant context, as opposed to pulling them away to their social media. Last year, Best Buy successfully brought its “Twelpforce” help-desk Twitter feed into relevant content and engagement through customized in-text ad units. And, this year, envelope-pushing brand Axe is using an innovative social toolbar to bring its clever social media content to a broader audience.
Happy holidays, and here’s to a happy and hangover-free marketing season full of common sense, brand lift, and conversions for all!