The holiday season means something different for marketers than it does for everyone else. It still represents love, generosity, and sentimental sharing. But there is an emphasis on understanding how these festive feelings translate to consumer buying decisions. Because this time of the year is competitive. Customers are in a buying mood. And every brand needs to cut through the noise.

A brand’s winning formula during the holiday season is underpinned by its ability to stand out. Understanding how our brains perceive brand is an advantage in everyday marketing. But during this time of the year, it’s our most important advantage.

Here are five psychological principles that form the basis for a strong festive marketing campaign:

1. Appeal To Holiday Emotions. The festive season is a happy time of year. People are known to report on social media that they feel more uplifted and excited in the lead up to the holidays. No surprise there. But tellingly, when customers are happy, they are more inclined to purchase more. Although it seems obvious, brands need to position their campaigns as festive to capitalize on this swelling consumer sentiment. This elicits a cheerful nostalgia from customers who view this period with positivity. Take online Australian book retailer Booktopia, for example, who launched a campaign selling elf-themed toys to attract seasonal traffic. It encourages customers to think of the holidays while viewing their brand. This warm association increases the proclivity for consumers to purchase from Booktopia.

Google’s Santa Tracker count-down. (Photo credit from Google/santatracker.google.com)

2. Build Up Anticipation. Remember the Advent Calendar? It gave people something to look forward to on each day of December. It builds excitement about what form of chocolatey goodness will be behind the next day’s door. This builds anticipation. When our brains anticipate a reward, we feel greater pleasure than receiving the reward itself. Because of this, we are subconsciously drawn to whatever is building those positive emotions. Make your brand that source of anticipation. By building up to a holiday related announcement, offering discounts on mystery products or giving customers a “TBC” (To Be Confirmed) present, your brand will create excitement about the unknown. Google’s Santa Tracker is a great example. It releases new Santa-related content on each day of December in the lead up to the 25th. This is buzz. And it psychologically encourages consumers to notice a brand. Getting customers to pay attention is half the battle.

Kogan’s real-time sales countdown.

(Photo credit from Kogan/Kogan.com)

3. Make Campaigns Finite. The worst part of the holiday season? It eventually ends. Marketing campaigns, festive sales or giveaway opportunities should be framed with a similar expiry date. It appeals to our cognitive bias called Loss Aversion. When we feel a sense of ownership over something — in this case, our entitlement to a sale — we feel disenfranchised when it is taken away. Because we tend to avoid losing it in the first place, we will likely engage in a campaign that is positioned as finite. By showing the number of days, minutes or even seconds before a campaign ends, it encourages a call to action. Customers don’t want to miss the opportunity for a holiday only deal. So in order to assuage their psychological fear of missing out, they take action. Kogan, an Australian e-commerce platform, integrates this with a real-time countdown for its deals. When there are consequences for not buying, it creates an urgency to buy.

Coca-Cola Christmas inspired “Share A Coke” campaign.

(Photo credit from Tim Nudd/Adweek.com)

4. Personalize Products And Messages. It’s a season for sharing. Not only gifts but content as well. People want to share things that they think will add value to their network. We place a greater sense of value on things that are personalized. The personal relevance appeals to our sense of self-identity and increases our emotional bond with the product. Enabling customers to customize a message or product to send to their loved ones will increase their emotional response to the brand. The brand becomes personal and relevant to a customer. Two great examples are Coke’s Share A Coke campaign and Oreo’s Design A Pack campaign in 2015. Both of these exemplify an appeal to personalization and they give customers a reason to share the brand.

Scoopon’s 12 Days of Christmas giveaway campaign.

(Credit from Scoopon/Scoopon.com.au)

5. Appeal To Reciprocity. Holidays come with the tradition of presents. But behind these gestures of generosity and affection, there is a psychological principle at work. It’s called reciprocity. And it suggests that when we receive a gift we feel compelled to return the gesture in some form. Customers return this gesture through making a purchase from a brand that has given them value. Successful marketing campaigns will offer their customers a gift.This gift could be a discount, an additional product or free content. By offering value to customers first it demonstrates that reciprocation isn’t expected and is therefore authentic. A daily deals platform from Australia, Scoopon, show this through their 12 Days Of Christmas campaign. This appeals to the psychology of reciprocity and encourages customers to return the generosity often by purchasing from the brand.

 

Customers are spoilt for choice during the holidays. They are also overwhelmed by fuzzy feelings of festive excitement. But brands shouldn’t be intimidated by emotional behaviors, they should seek to understand it. Customers are people. And people behave in similar psychological ways. By creating campaigns that appeal to the cognitive tendencies of a consumer, brands are able to stay top mind.
Apply the five principles above and create a festive campaign that will last all the way until next holiday season.