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4 Ways to Customize Your Holiday Advertising for the Anomaly That Is 2020

The holiday advertising season has always been a pivotal time of year for brand marketers and ad agencies, and the 2020 holiday season is no exception. What it takes to produce a successful ad campaign in 2020, however, has changed dramatically since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know you’re looking for ways to ditch outmoded strategies and update your holiday advertising to reflect ‘the new normal.’ Read on to discover how to authentically connect with your audience during this atypical holiday season.

Creating a customized holiday ad campaign is an annual tradition for anyone in the world of marketing, but if the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the traditions we believe to be ineradicable can actually be upended with little warning. But even if the practice of holiday gift-giving may look a lot different this year, that doesn’t mean that holiday shopping isn’t still going to happen—it will just take on a new shape. 

This year’s holiday season gives your brand a unique opportunity to reach your customers in a meaningful way. You can gain an enhanced sense of trust by showing your audience that you understand that this holiday season is unimaginably different for them, but that you’ve customized your messaging and what you’re offering to fit the specific circumstances of the moment. 

At the same time, your holiday ad campaign doesn’t need to dwell on the pandemic. Your advertising will actually prove far more effective if you can strike that fine balance between empathizing with your audience and providing some holiday spirit. 

Plus, by detailing BOPIS (buy online/pickup in store) purchase options, you can emphasize how your consumers’ health and safety are a top priority during this crisis. 

Let’s explore four ways that brand marketers and agencies can customize their advertising efforts to tackle the anomalous holiday season that is 2020. 

1. Create Digital Ads

Holiday shopping is moving online, so ads should too. 

A poll by Morning Consult found that “nearly half (47 percent) of Americans plan to do most of their holiday shopping online” this year. Stats like these are directly reflected in the fact that “59 percent of Americans indicate they’re uncomfortable going to a shopping mall this holiday season.” 

All signs point to a sharp drop in the amount of in-store shoppers perusing the mall this holiday season. Beyond the health and safety concerns that come with venturing into public, it is apparent that many consumers have grown accustomed to online shopping. In a survey conducted by Salesforce, they found that “58% of consumers said they expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than they did before it.” 

Due to the rise in consumers opting to do most (or all) of their holiday shopping online, it only makes sense that businesses should correspondingly pivot their advertising efforts to digital channels. One of the greatest benefits of disseminating your holiday ad campaign through these channels—which include paid search, ecommerce, digital video, and paid social media—is that they all allow for real-time changes. 

For holiday ad campaigns launched in years past, your team may have completed all the planning and production well ahead of the pre-planned rollout period. But this year, you’ve got to be nimble. The ability to make last-minute changes, pauses, or reallocations across various digital channels, depending on real-world developments and how your campaign is being received, is of premium importance.

Circumstances that may impact your holiday ad campaign can turn on a dime, so by going digital, you’ll be prepared to update your strategy with just the click of a button. 

2. Get to Know How Your Consumers’ Priorities Have Changed

I get it. If you work in advertising, the line ‘know your audience’ is one of the oldest in the book. You’ve already heard this innumerable times, so you certainly don’t need me to remind you. Or do you?

See, that’s what makes this holiday advertising season so different. Even if you priorly believed that you had a firm grasp on exactly who your target demographic is, where they spend all of their time, what their priorities are, and what kind of messaging they most respond to, it’s high time to do a reevaluation. So many individuals’ daily lives have changed this year that it would be naive to simply presume that the same old marketing message will work on them in a year marked by uncertainty and flux. 

Start by familiarizing yourself with the headspace that your consumers are in as we head toward the 2020 holiday season. It has been reported that “90 percent of Americans aren’t looking forward to this year’s holiday season.” And “while 86 percent of shoppers believe they will appreciate advertising this holiday season,” less than half of shoppers “will only do so if the information is personalized to their needs,” write Adobe. 

This means that you need to begin investigating how your target demographic has responded to the events of 2020. If you’re marketing to an audience that you know has been working remotely, then you’ll be more successful by advertising products or services that can be enjoyed from the comfort of home. 

For many consumers this year, the ease of free shipping or a good deal can have a major influence on buying decisions. 51 percent of consumers plan to explore new brands this holiday season, and seven in ten consumers are saving more than they were pre-pandemic, so you may have a greater opportunity to win over new and valuable customers even if you weren’t initially on their radar. 

However, while deals are a key selling point for some buyers, “71% of consumers said they pay closer attention to companies’ ethics than they did a year ago and 61% said they stopped buying from a company because its values did not align with theirs.” 

It’s worth recognizing that how a company responds to a crisis is more important for consumers today than it was in the past. There’s also an age divide at play here, where younger consumers are generally more attuned to vendors’ ethics than older ones. 

Another trend that we’re expected to witness this holiday season is the success of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands like BarkBox or Casper. “Younger consumers have readily adopted D2C brands,” writes Shakr, “while older consumers have remained reluctant to patronize D2C brands.” 

3. Run Local Campaigns

Targeting a sprawling, global audience has long appeared to be a winning strategy for many companies. However, while we remain in the thick of the pandemic, it may actually be a lot more meaningful to focus your holiday ad campaign on an audience contained within a specific locale. This way, in the midst of a crisis, you can zero in on your consumers’ precise circumstances and what their day-to-day reality looks like in a given period. 

But why can’t your team devote all of your efforts into crafting one single holiday ad campaign to launch far and wide? Well, as Adobe illustrates, “what might be right for consumers in New York may not be suitable for those in Miami.” Virus rates and state restrictions are changing on a daily basis, so nationwide or one-size-fits-all campaigns simply won’t work this year. An image or message that may strike a deep chord with one audience could be perceived as alienating to another. 

When you localize your ad campaign, you have the opportunity to connect with a specified audience by producing ads spoken in their language, even using their regional accent. You can also tap into other regional nuances so that your ad more precisely engages and resonates with the consumers who you’re striving to reach. 

In their roundup of trends for marketers to watch out for this holiday season, Shakr writes that “focusing on audience segmentation by targeting the right consumers at the right location will be crucial to determine the success of this year’s holiday campaigns.”

4. Don’t Dwell Too Much on the Current State of the World

While you definitely don’t want to outright ignore the fact that we’re about to enter an entirely unfamiliar holiday season—with 47 percent of people reporting that their family’s usual get-togethers will be canceled altogether—as a marketer or advertising professional, you should refrain from dwelling too much on the pandemic. 

“Almost 40 percent of consumers are looking for messages that take them away from the ongoing issues this holiday season, compared with the ‘we’re with you’ style of COVID-19 response ads,” explains Adobe. 

This style of messaging, dubbed ‘distraction advertising,’ has been shown to appeal most to Gen Z and Millennial audiences. However, on a whole, “Americans are more likely to buy from companies whose ads either explain how they’re keeping shoppers safe or provide gift ideas, or those with realistic or optimistic ads.” Importantly, it is noted that “serious or somber ads will most likely lead to net decreases in purchasing.” 

The likelihood that shoppers won’t respond positively to negative advertising is crucial to keep in mind when you’re crafting your holiday ad campaign. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that you should pretend that COVID-19 doesn’t exist. There are numerous alternatives that will enable your ad campaign to seize the moment without depressing prospective customers, like showcasing the value of quality time spent together with family and housemates indoors, or using nostalgia to elicit an emotional response to your campaign. By presenting optimistic imagery, you can establish yourself as “a friendly face against the bitter truth.” 

This holiday advertising season is the perfect occasion for your brand to show up in your consumers’ lives in a way that helps build long-term relationships, especially during trying times. “Simple perks like doubling the rewards points and exclusive offers, such as free samples and gifts upon purchase, will certainly benefit the company in the long run,” explains Shakr.

Form a Meaningful Connection With Your Consumers By Tailoring Your Holiday Ad Campaign for 2020

As we head into this year’s holiday season, the truth is that there’s no rulebook for the right or wrong way to craft a holiday campaign. You’ll have to continue to think on your feet, and like everybody else in the world is doing right now, you will have to embrace an element of making things up as you go. 

The good news is that by following our four directions for customizing your holiday ad campaign, you’ll be able to strike a chord with your audience and strengthen your business-buyer relationship. 

Producing internet video commercials or audio ads is an optimal way for vendors to connect with their target demographic, who are perpetually plugged in and consuming multimedia content all throughout the day. Telling your story and disseminating your seasonal ad campaign by way of advertisements featuring voice over is a winning strategy. 

Without further ado, join Voices and find the voice for your holiday ad campaign. You’ll have the opportunity to post job listings, receive custom auditions, and instantly hire the right voice actor for the part. 

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