The Power of Seasonal Marketing Trends
October is an exciting time because it’s the beginning of crunchy leaves, costumes, candy, and, of course, pumpkin-flavored everything. Before the clock even struck midnight on September 30th, brands already had their fall products on display. Starbucks and Dunkin’ have been selling pumpkin-spiced treats since the end of August (at least a month before brands started celebrating the hashtag “first day of fall”). And, soon after the Halloween period ends, the November cycle takes over and consumers start to see Christmas decorations in shopping aisles galore.
What effects do seasonality marketing trends have on consumer behavior?
Some people are usually ecstatic about the return of seasonal items because it brings a sense of familiarity and celebration. Shall we remind you of the pumpkin-spice craze that marketers have definitely embraced in every product (including spam)?
Others, however, feel bombarded by the overly seasonal activity especially when Valentine’s Day decorations are popping up as soon as the New Year celebrations end.
Marketers will embrace any trend if it means attention - this is why there are a number of unofficial holidays. To name a few:
Love Your Pet Day (Feb 20)
National Thrift Shop Day (Aug 17)
National Garage Sale Day (Aug 10)
National Beer Lover’s Day (Sep 7)
National Cat Day (Oct 29)
But…do consumers actually care about these holidays?
That answer is tricky. If it means interaction or receiving free food...then, maybe.
National holidays may be a marketing ploy to garner attention, but sometimes, they’re beneficial to the consumer and actually celebrate a core part of the company’s brand.
Where is the line?
Clearly, taking advantage of these days does have its perks and some companies find it successful - an increase in brand awareness and revenue isn’t necessarily bad. However, with all of these celebrations, are marketers losing sight of the true meaning behind the dedicated day?
A 2018 study showed that 80% of “U.S adults plan to spend an average of $486” on Memorial Day weekend. Obviously, every brand wants a cut of that spending.
On one hand, the holiday reminds people to appreciate what they have and spend time with their loved ones. On the other hand, Memorial Day is meant to commemorate fallen soldiers. In this marketing world full of insensitivity to certain topics - should buying a discounted pair of flip flops be a top priority?
Read Related - How to Avoid Insensitivity in Marketing
In other cases, some brands received backlash from the LGBTQ+ community during June for showing false “support” during Pride by changing their logo to rainbow colors. While it is nice to show support, some people found this act to be inauthentic. Since consumers care more about authenticity - if a company is going to participate in something as big as supporting the LGBTQ+ community, then the brand needs to actually support it instead of superficially posting about it. Multiple lists of companies who show support by donating were shared during the month to point out the difference between those who care and those who are just taking advantage of a situation. Sonia Thompson, CEO of Thompson Media Group, wrote a helpful piece for Inc. about how companies get best support this movement.
Read Related - Hashtag Hijacking: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Getting it Right - Keys to Seasonality Success
Marketing campaigns about a holiday are most commonly seen in ecommerce marketing campaigns or retail stores - places where discounts can be offered. However, in order to get the desired response from an audience, marketers must be cognizant of some key factors:
The campaign’s timing
Whether the campaign encourages user-generated content
The overall strategy and goals of the campaign
If it’s all about timing, when is the best time to start advertising seasonal products to consumers?
Since the market is divided between consumers who are excited and those who are irritated by early advertising, the best balance is to market items a month and a half in advance. That being said, every business and holiday is different.
Items sold only near the season have more buzz around them because the limited time offers create a sense of urgency because items are scarce. Restaurants like Chick-fil-A do an excellent job at releasing specific flavored milkshakes for a season so that there is consumer excitement whenever the drink returns to the market.
In the digital age, content is a two-way street. A brand can’t be the only voice in the room, an endless echo chamber advocating for itself. Brands who encourage user-generated content form a collaborative partnership with their fans and increase the overall reach of the campaigns.
Beyond that, the whole purpose of social media is to share life events with friends. DMNews reports that 70% of Millennials are already creating user-generated content - meaning people want to create and share content, so brands need to take advantage of that behavior. The brands behind these national holidays and hashtags need to be aligned with social media’s core purpose in order to be successful.
Though #ShowerWithAFriendDay may seem silly...if it inspires user generated content and similar brands hop on board, then it looks like the holiday may be here to stay.
Authenticity + Alignment
Since 90% of consumers say authenticity is crucial to a brand, the key to a brand successfully celebrating a “holiday” is all about what the brand is celebrating and why it is celebrating.
In order to remain authentic and honorable to both the cause the national holiday represents, as well as the consumer, establishing a clear intent behind the campaign is essential.
Evaluating the brand’s overall mission should inform marketers about what campaigns they should care about. Marketers need to ask themselves if a holiday makes sense to participate in or create content about a certain month or if they are just pandering.
Take how Dunkin’ celebrates National Donut Day, for example. The holiday was originally created in 1938 by the Chicago Salvation Army to honor women who served donuts to soldiers during World War I. So now Dunkin’ preserves that tradition by celebrating their customers who buy a drink.
Lindsey Unterberger, Glamour's executive online editor says, "Most of the days are celebrating fun things in life, so it's a good way to capitalize on stuff people genuinely enjoy." When a company celebrates a holiday that naturally aligns with its brand, it humanizes the brand.
Read Related - Injecting Humanity into a Brand
Strategy + Execution
The best strategy to determine which seasonal trends apply to a specific business and turn a profit is to perform thorough keyword research to find the best opportunities to advertise.
Social listening and search volume trends reflect consumer demand and provide key data points that inform marketing strategy based on the correlation of the keywords and season. Knowing which seasons resonate with your audience and, thus, which seasons to double down on is a financially proactive move. And this applies to different types of “seasons” - sport season, back to school shopping season, etc.
And then there’s execution. While it makes sense for Ben & Jerry’s to promote National Ice Cream Day… Does it make sense for Waffle House to celebrate National Pancake Day? Possibly… if it’s in an ironic way! It all comes down to how the brand approaches the execution.
What is your favorite season and which brand brings it to life the most?
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