Holiday Hootenanny: Win the Ad WAR

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tugofwar_small.jpgADOTAS — The holidays have arrived! There’s that crisp chill in the air, the fresh smell of Christmas trees, the burning candles of the menorah, and of course the snowmen and hot cocoa. Even in a recession, the holidays are something that Americans can count on, though it will likely look a little different this year. By all predictions, this will be a slim year for retail, and the deep discounts that are typically reserved for the final days of the shopping season are abound already. So in this sea of “red line clearance” promotions, how can advertisers set themselves apart? Hard times always breed creativity, and this holiday season will be no different. Here are a couple of ideas to help you maximize your advertising this holiday season.

Win customers with convenience
You can’t turn on the news without hearing the newest poll numbers on the mental stress that Americans are enduring. Between working second and third jobs, and all the time it takes to worry about your financial future, consumers will be looking for convenience this holiday season. While everyone in the marketplace is offering lower prices, advertisers should get noticed by offering shoppers a way to avoid high gas prices, long lines, and the other headaches that usually accompany the holidays. Offers of free gift wrap and free shipping for online purchases are likely to attract time and cash starved consumers. Hotels should increase offerings for free shuttles and discounted tickets for local attractions to lure hesitant holiday travelers.

Win customers with “real” value
A great way to differentiate yourself during this tough season would be to offer customers something of perceived value. Rather than advertise that third price cut, why not offer a buy one, get one free on a popular item? Shoppers will see this as a way to get that hot new gadget for “Uncle Bob,” and keep one for themselves, too. Throwing in smaller, “stocking stuffer” type items with larger purchases are another way to draw in customers. These items are often the ones left in the clearance bin for after-holidays sales, so why not use them to entice more buyers now? And, rather than dropping fares, airlines could offer to waive the fee for extra baggage to customers who book flights early. The elimination of that $20 will cost airlines less than a substantial drop in fare would and have more perceived value to consumers.

Nostalgia is always a winner
The holidays are a time filled with reminiscing of years past, and this is never more true than in difficult times. Families are likely to go through this holiday season wishing for the carefree feeling of Christmas past, so a sense of nostalgia will really resonate with consumers. This could create a strong market for toys and games that parents remember from childhood. Classic board games, Cabbage Patch dolls, and Rock ’em Sock ’em robots are great lower cost alternatives to today’s highly computerized toys, and kids love them just as much today as they did 30 years ago. We have already seen one use of nostalgia in marketing with the holiday campaign for Macy’s department stores featuring images of Macy’s in the media throughout its 150 year history. The great thing about nostalgia is that it’s easy to infuse into most any industry. It could be as simple as playing classic recordings of Christmas carols on your website (think “White Christmas” by legend Frank Sinatra), airlines serving milk and cookies to kids on holiday flights, or a hotel having Santa come visit the kids on Christmas Eve. These are all pretty simple steps that you can take to ensure your promotion gets noticed in this sea of sales.

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