‘Tis the Season for Holiday Branding: How to Maximize Visibility During the Busiest Online Shopping Season of the Year

With most of us avoiding crowded malls and indoor shopping venues due to Covid-19, 2020 is already the biggest year on record for e-commerce, with experts forecasting a 40% increase in shipping activity compared to 2019. And according to a recent study by InMoment, nearly 8 in 10 US consumers will shop online this holiday season.

For consumer retail businesses, that means the busiest time of the year is about to get even more hectic — and competitive, given your customers are probably already receiving multiple deliveries a day. Now is definitely the time to take your packaging game to the next level and to play up your festive seasonal branding to set the stage for a positive customer experience to last into 2021.

Here are a few tips for getting the holiday branding game right:

  • Start now: People are likely to start shopping even earlier this year, not constrained by the traditional post-Thanksgiving in-store rush. When it comes to materials that require printing and production, now is the time to order special festive boxes and packaging. In order to save time and money, there are services from companies such as Packlane that offer a selection of free template designs for holiday boxes to make the process much simpler.
  • Consider more evergreen “winter” branding: Keep in mind that while eye-catching holiday packaging is nice, it does have a shelf life. Consider packaging that evokes winter tones with the use of color or images of snow, pine cones and wintery skies to use it all season long. Some alcohol brands do a great job of this – including Jagermeister, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and Beefeater Gin.
  • Be inclusive: Christmas may be king in the eyes of many brands, but the reality is nearly 10 percent of Americans don’t celebrate it, according to Pew Research. Keep religion out of your marketing campaigns to ensure you’re appealing to everyone. Think about leveraging imagery that evokes the spirit of the season (and is faith-agnostic). Despite the red cup controversy, Starbucks has been really successful in executing a really recognisable and long lasting seasonal campaign with its holiday packaging that resonates with consumers every year.
  • Stay true to your core brand: Companies that stray from their core mission just to tap into the season will find they lose customers instead of gaining them. Make sure your holiday campaign is authentic to your overall brand voice. If the brand is based on humor, a sentimental theme may seem awkward to your audience. Everlane is a brand that focuses on standing up for the ethics and fair treatment of factory workers. They ran a holiday campaign around a “Black Friday Fund” that donated profits from the holidays to its factory workers around the world. While it may not have been immediately lucrative, it was inline with who they are as a company and as a result, won them positive media coverage and support from customers throughout the year.
  • Avoid going overboard: While it’s a great time to show your customers love and share your excitement for the season, don’t overdo it. Holiday burnout does exist, especially when it relates to how brands communicate. Don’t devalue your campaign by annoying customers with too many holiday touchpoints. Think about partnering with another brand to team up for giveaways, discounts, etc. In addition to sharing the creative load, you can share outreach to different groups of followers online – that way, you don’t have to be the one pinging everybody, every time.
  • Remember the cards: Whether you’re sending out a package or simply recognizing your best customers after what’s been a tough year for everyone, holiday-themed cards provide an opportunity to transcend the transactional and add a genuinely personal touch. It’s also a great chance to set your brand apart from the mass retailers with a printed message or personalized holiday greeting. For professional services businesses, this is one year that sending a basket of goodies to your clients’ office is impossible, so why not invest in high-quality, well-designed and personalized holiday cards to send to the whole team?

Sure, the holidays are a frenzied time of year for everyone, especially for most small businesses. But they are also a great time to embrace the warm spirit of the season and reinforce goodwill among your customers. Taking a bit of care to get this opportunity right can ensure success for your brand well into the new year.

Shayne Tilley is Head of Marketing at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love.

Packaging for the season stock photo by Chaosamran_Studio/Shutterstock