15 Tips on Holiday Marketing From an Award-winning Creative Director

You’ve probably heard the famous quote, “Most people don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan”. The quote from John L. Beckley is more than 200 years old and still rings true today, especially around the holidays. Too often creative teams are left scrambling to develop holiday related branded content at the last minute.

15 Tips on Holiday Marketing From an Award-winning Creative Director

Wishing everyone a ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or to play it safe and not offend, a generic ‘Happy Holiday’ feels like an obligation. The haphazard manner in which it is often done, typically takes up time, resources and doesn’t necessarily resonate with audiences in any meaningful way. With a bit of advanced planning, brands can be more efficient, relevant and creative.

Even if you just started thinking about your holiday game plan, it’s not too late! Here’s 15 holiday marketing tips to create killer campaigns.

1. Use the Calendar for More Than Scheduling Publishing Dates

Block time at the start of the year to identify all the holidays you want to acknowledge or associate with. If you have diverse faiths and celebrations in your target demographics, capture those holidays as well. Don’t just mark the dates for your holiday social media posting schedule, create a workback schedule to outline when you will start the creative and media plan. Make sure to include time for revisions and approvals and notify the team in advance so resource planning is not last minute. Or look to have it outsourced if it is going to interfere with client work.

2. Create a Style Guide for Holiday Messaging

This adds a bit more effort in the beginning, but it can really pay off and save time when you are at the execution stage. Create an expanded component of your brand guidelines to identify how holiday creative will look, sound and feel. This provides consistency for any team working on it and lessens the risk of creative that is off brand.

3. Build a Library

Too often creative assets stay on the hard drives of whoever created them. By building a cloud-based library you will have assets ready to go. If you have established creative templates for holiday messages, then it will be much faster to build multiple pieces of content for all of your social media channels.

4. Holiday Brand All of Your Channels

Look at giving all of your channels and webpages a holiday look. Be consistent, to look integrated.

5. Maximize Production Opportunities to Create Additional Video and Photography

When there is a video or photography shoot, schedule extra time to get content that can be used for holiday specific messaging. If there is a video or photography shoot, you can try to take advantage of the lighting set-ups and to get quality material for your holiday content. 

6. Use Influencers

Consider working with a social media influencer to provide brand related holiday messaging if their audience fits your target. Or have the influencer share a promo code that you can track customer purchases later. Give the influencer the creative freedom to come up with fun holiday ways to share your brand as it fits with their brand, so it doesn’t feel forced.

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7. Be Useful and Entertaining

Think through what is useful or entertaining for your audience – do they need self-defense tactics to deal with Black Friday shopping mobs? Perhaps a series of funny illustrations for ridiculous ways to protect yourself while trying to get to the front of the line. Recipes and decorating tips are typical, but can often see great traction if you provide relevant information.

8. Localize Content

Look at creating content from events occurring in specific regions and promote those posts to those targets. If there are special events you can connect your brand to, take advantage of that built in audience opportunity. Sharing photos and tagging communities will show you are locally plugged in.

9. Be on Brand, but Have Fun

If your communication is to clients or within your industry, and there is familiarity with your company culture and brand, don’t be afraid to have some fun. I was a Creative Director for a digital agency and we had a very active Foosball Culture (as in everyone played foosball… all the time!). I decided to make a funny video on how to decorate X-Mas cookies using a foosball table, complete with containers of sprinkles strapped to the players. When flicked the right way, the sprinkles were distributed on the iced cookies. Completely silly, but a fun piece that aligned with our company culture. We also sent our clients a card and boxes of sugar cookies with sprinkles, along with an email email driving them to the video link; (Note: we sent them nice cookies – not the ones made on the foosball table). 

10. Is It Worth It?

There are always new tools and gimmicks on social media. Your client may think that a new holiday related lens for Snapchat or Facebook may be novel – but it may not be the best way to have impact. First, it is always good to look at past campaign data to see what generated brand lift, engagement and sales. Experimenting is key, if you have the budget bandwidth to add something new to your marketing mix to see how it performs. Work closely with your social media reps (Facebook, Snapchat) to set realistic KPI’s and look at what has succeeded. Make sure you think about the best way to spend those dollars with anticipated ROI.

11. Keep it Spontaneous

Besides all the planning, remembering that Facebook Stories or Instagram Stories, and Facebook Live broadcasts can sometimes draw more attention than anything. Production expectations are not as high so there is room to just go ahead and do it.

12. Make it Interactive 

When it comes to Instagram marketing, try to use questions, polls and clear calls to action to keep the conversation going. If your brand qualifies for tagging products for shopping in your instagram posts (Tap to Shop), you might be able to add this feature to your stories which can drive more sales. Tap to Shop icons appear on the image or within the story. Users then tap on it to get direct information on the product, and price within the image, and then can click again to go directly to a purchase page of the brand.


13. Connect All Channels 

Holiday messaging should be treated like all fully integrated campaigns with careful thought to how each channel can drive traffic to each other. Make sure you don’t miss out on offline opportunities promoting holidays to drive people to your online properties. This campaign by Cesar (Dog Food) used dogs themselves to design holiday themed twin sweaters for dogs and owners that can be won via an online contest.

A creative use of driving awareness for a brand (pet food) that does not normally get much focus during Christmas, had people getting a good laugh with this campaign. Perhaps adding a call to action like a promo could encourage in-store traffic. TK Maxx has hidden a dozen “neverending” stockings throughout their store and online. If found, winners will receive presents for a year.


14. Seize the Day 

As long as it aligns with your brand values, look at creating content tailored to niche interests (Pride Day, World Vegan Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month).

15. Inspiration for Content 

Every single day someone is celebrating something! No kidding, really, you’ve all seen things like World Juggling Day, Men Make Dinner Day or Pretend to Be A Time Traveler Day. You just need look to certain sites to see what has been declared for each day. As I write these words, it was actually Bologna (the thin sliced mystery meat) Day! The content possibilities are endless!

The Takeaway

Holidays are great, predictable annual events that already have like-minded people engaged in similar behavior and conversations. With advanced planning, you can create useful and fun ways to bring your brand to the forefront, grow loyalty, retain and build new audiences, and encourage action.


Jill Rosenberg is the Co-Founder, Creative Director and Strategist at Toronto based consulting firm, Idea Central. She specializes in content driven experiences that tap into human insight and behavior across all media.

Co-Founder & Creative Director for Idea Central

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