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Christmas marketing during a downturn: battle for festive top spots

Christmas is a hugely competitive time for brands, and after a year of constant economic strain, the fight for a limited consumer budget is hotter than ever.

So how do you bid for seasonal success in a downturn? In the fight for festive attention, how do you come out on top?

Well, first things first, the worst thing you can do is switch off your marketing in a downturn. There are often ways to streamline spending, but as we discussed previously, an economic recession is seldom the time to stop everything and admit defeat.

Naturally, the festive season’s arrival means brands will have to work harder to be the chosen one amongst a swell of festive campaigns, as consumers seek the very most for their money.

This Christmas, big brands and supermarkets are staking their claim to your budget by splashing £9.5bn on advertising — an increase of 4.8% on an already record breaking spend set last year!

You can see our take on some of the best Christmas marketing campaigns of all time in our rundown. So, what can your brand do to capture attention, secure sales and retain loyalty in a sea of offers?

A person completing a shopping list with a table containing festive trinkets, a cup of coffee and a laptop.

Brits are still watching the pursestrings

Marketing is always about being attuned to your audiences. This looks different depending on the type of business you are, but it means considering factors that may impact their decision-making process and path to purchase.

This could be something such as the frequency with which they may or may not need your product, external pressures such as the economy and waiting for payday.

With the economy as it is, and everyday items becoming increasingly expensive, it’s likely that for a lot of people, the list of festive extras and indulgences may be under a little more scrutiny. In fact, the British Retail Consortium has reported a decline in expected sales for October as shoppers delay their festive spending owing to mortgage and rising costs.

It’s clear then that consumers are feeling the pressure, so their choices will be more selective. Let’s examine some of the ways you can garner that loyalty this festive season and show them your brand not only recognises the pressure they could be under, but is willing to help in some way.

Add value for your customers this Christmas

Value-added options for the consumer don’t need to be at huge cost to you, but they can generate plenty of repeat spend and continued loyalty — as well as evoking those warm, fuzzy, festive feelings. There are a few ways to do it.

Offer increased delivery flexibility

Offering click and collect, multiple delivery options and even payment plans can make your customers’ lives that bit easier, potentially even saving them money — a great way to make them feel valued, understood and accommodated.

Make returns convenient

If you’re a fashion or FMCG retailer, for example, why not stress the ease of return or the simplicity and speed of your refund process? It’s all about the user experience — if there’s a way to improve your process at a busy and expensive time of year, do it. Easy parcel drop off for returns is a great example. Save them time, not just money.

Guarantee satisfaction — or their money back

Offering things like money-back guarantees reduces perceived risk. It shows you have confidence in your brand and products. You doubt they’ll need it, but if for any reason they do, customers can rest assured there’ll be no qualms or quibbles about getting their money back.

Launch a loyalty scheme

Naturally, loyalty programs should be ongoing, allowing them to build towards benefits at the festive season (or any other peak point of consumer importance), when savings and benefits can have maximum impact.

Make the most of multi-buy

A popular festive offering, and one which remains popular with shoppers as they seek out the very best deals, is the classic ‘cheapest item free’. Another twist on this is a free gift worth a certain amount for purchases over a threshold.

Offer advice, insights and expertise

If you want something with less impact on your bottom line, you can help in other ways.

Whilst no one’s in the market for digital marketing services for Christmas, do what we’re doing here — provide advice, expertise and tips relating to your products or services to ensure everyone is as informed as possible. It’s a great way to humanise your brand.

Be useful and show how you’re solving a problem. Tell your customers about your USPs, share knowledge on the solution your products can provide and to what; help them understand how to get the most from your product. All of this is little to no cost and can be instrumental in awareness and helping them to make a decision on which product they need.

Communicate all of these offerings clearly and often through social media, email marketing and paid media. Be present and consistent.

Does your brand have seasonal shelf appeal?

You may be selling through e-commerce, at a bricks-and-mortar store — perhaps both. Whatever is true for your brand, the visual noise of the Christmas period makes shelf appeal and standing out a bigger challenge than ever. As ever, there are a few things to keep those festive eyes firmly fixed on you.

Limited edition packaging

A festive spin on your packaging can be attractive, build up your brand with loyal followers and entice new ones. It is important, however, to consider remaining as close to your brand as possible — you want to be the obvious choice to those who already recognise you and retain that instant familiarity and recognition.

Value-added packs

The Christmas period is a great chance to add value, as we’ve discussed, but it is important that your brand is not considered wasteful. Many festive packaging styles will be limited run; this approach is great as it creates a buy-now mentality and sense of scarcity, but on the other hand can be seen as lacking in thought in relation to sustainability and the environment.

One way to maximise the value-add in packaging without waste is to create something limited with further use — tins, boxes and such that can live on with other purposes, or pose some sense of collectability. Or, if you have truly excellent sustainability practices and packaging, shout about it.

These things all work digitally and in store — as well as know, the alignment of on and offline strategies is always a winner.

When considering your e-commerce store, featuring your festive packaging prominently in your e-commerce offerings. Consider offering extras such as messages included with orders or other options for personalisation.

Christmas downturn marketing: competition is high, but the custom is there

Consumers may be wary of spending during times of economic turbulence, but that doesn’t mean they are cutting spending all together. They might just be decking the halls on a budget, and need a little coercion and love along the way.

The elements we’ve covered here are just some of the ways you can continue to draw attention to your offering and compete, despite everything.

And it would be remiss of us not to talk about the importance of a strong and considered festive strategy needing long-term planning in an ideal world — for many brands, this starts as early as June!

If you have a product that you want to push into the festive season, assigning a budget is a good idea because your competitors will be doing it, despite the downturn.

If you’re looking to plan for the year ahead — Christmas included — our award-winning team would be delighted to catch up. Head over to our contact page to drop us a message, email or phone call.

Looking to stand out in the crowded Christmas climate?

Get in touch

Post by

Team Amy K


Head of Brand & Content

Amy joined in 2014 to set up our Content department. She now heads up a growing Brand and Content team, utilising over 13 years’ experience to deliver brand awareness through targeted, multi-channel copy. As well as engaging content for websites and blogs, Amy delivers PR strategies and tone of voice exploration, helping clients to communicate the purpose and values of their brand with maximum impact.

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