Really, by the time it’s the last 4 weeks of the year – it’s too late.
No quarky messaging or clever image is going to have the persuasion needed to steal other brand loyalists. So why do we keep sinking unprecedented efforts and stress onto end of year holiday campaigns?
Yes, it’s that time again and you find your self wrapped in the holiday marketing rush with lofty new customer acquisition goals and stretch goals that would make even Santa flinch.
How has it come to this?
Don’t kid yourself. Just because you did it last year doesn’t make it right.
So what is? Whether you’re an agile startup or a marketer in the midst of planning your media mix, let see if we can learn from what some other brands are doing.
Bing – they launched their new rewards program. Yes, you might snicker and think that they need to pay people to use their browser…. But, just maybe, they are on to something. All year long they give you gift cards – not just when they want something from you. It’s like a real friend instead of a fake one. It doesn’t seem like the best business model giving away free money – but when you stand back and realize the keeping customers loyal can be a lot more cost efficient that trying to steal new ones. And as I said in the beginning, people aren’t stupid. It takes more than 4 weeks to win over a loyal brand advocate.
Hilton HHonors – The hotel industry has helped pioneer the concept of the modern loyalty program. I have a lot of experience working with Hilton Worldwide and their brands like Hampton, Homewood and DoubleTree. Most of the projects have been around rewards to their current members and taking care of new franchisees. That’s smart. Hilton also partners with Visa, American Express, and Citi Bank to give program participants the chance to earn points for every dollar spent. Another rare gem this program offers is earning points for hotel stay and airline travel in the same day.
Unnamed nonprofit Organization X – they don’t do any online marketing. All new customers come from word of mouth and developing trust and strong personal relationships. It also a bit of realism knowing that in philanthropy, people are ready when they are ready. You can’t engineer ‘a moment’ you just want to stay top of mind all year long. They throw one big, memorable, fancy party thanking all their partners and customers. No asks for anything during the party and primary goal and objective is to increase party response and enjoyment by 10% YOY.
What can we learn from this?
Should Apple throw a big party in every major city for all their customers and pull all advertising in December? I vote yes!
The costs just may balance out. Think about it. When you come to that decision point this holiday to buy a gift and you have a choice, will you:
- buy from a brand that had a cool ad (or worse, a banner ad that followed you around the Internet for weeks)
- a brand that allowed you to accrue enough reward points to buy that christmas gift for freeWho would you choose to buy from?
And where does that money go? (That’s a whole other post.)
Consumers are getting smarter and looking to brands that make their life easier. The holiday time is stressful enough – why not give your customers some time off from the pressure of buying. You know they probably already maxed out the budget they had set for the season.
And, if you’re a startup with no ad budget this year, consider yourself lucky. You can genuinely roll out with a thank you message to your customers, reward them with a free product (yes you can, see how) and then give them 50% off coupons to give to their 3 best friends which intern, if used, will give them double reward points back.
Could it be that simple?
Tips to leave with (for next year since its probably too late to trash your traditional marketing plan)
1) never do something just because you did it last year
2) start your rewards program in January
3) stop working so hard and leverage this network
4) don’t use elves and christmas ornaments in another ad
Big is not always better.
An ounce of loyalty could be with more than a pound a good products someone can’t afford.
Happy holiday shopping!