What the lead up to Christmas can tell you about the health of your brand’s marketing efforts

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The countdown is on until the fat guy in the red suit comes to town, but it’s too late now to be coming up with a marketing strategy for the festive season, says Spinach’s Ben Wilson.

In case you missed the onslaught of Christmas TVCs and the shocking sight of festive decorations piled high in the aisles of your local supermarket, Christmas is coming.

As I write this, it’s still more than a month away so you might think you’re off the hook but if you’re a marketer and you’re talking about your holiday strategy right now instead of executing it, putting it politely, you’re kind of screwed.

If you’ve heard these words in the last month: “Shit, how do we generate more cut through at Christmas than last year?” then it’s too late for you buddy.

The reality is that these conversations will always take place and usually they do too late in the planning cycle. If you’re having them now, it’s because you’ve failed in building a true relationship with customers for another year.

The much-touted findings of Peter Field and Les Binet on building brand by focusing on the long-term instead of just results for the next quarter apply here. With that in mind, questions about delivering dollars over the festive season need to be asked earlier. And they should be evenly distributed between driving sales and building or protecting the brand.

So why aren’t they?

One theory is that in today’s corporate retail world, the marketing function carries less weight and gets less face time than it once did with the C-suite. And short term, quarter by quarter reporting of results provides little focus on long term brand health and relationship trends.

Perhaps this has shifted power in the age-old battle between marketing and merchandising.

Supporting that is anecdotal evidence throughout the industry that it’s uncommon for marketing teams to push back on merchandising; whether that be to refuse to cram more offers or products into a catalogue spread or to hold firm when an attempt to hijack a brand-focused outdoor campaign is underway.

This moment in time – the blink-and-you-might-miss-it window between Melbourne Cup and December 25 – can tell you more about the health of your marketing approach than the sales result for the quarter.

Take this opportunity to have a good hard look at where you’ve landed in the lead-up to Santa’s appearance. Have you used all the tools in your arsenal from data to digital and everything in between, or are you desperately throwing shit at a wall hoping it will stick?

If you’re working for a brand that is currently discussing the merits of adopting aggressive art direction, harder hitting headlines and screaming value at the audience for the next six weeks, don’t despair. It’s clearly too late to turn this around in time for Christmas this year, but there’s hope for next year.

Building a real and ongoing relationship with customers is like any relationship: it takes time, with each positive step you build on the last. Leaving things to the last minute and then shouting at them might get people to do something, but it’s not going to lead to a lasting love affair.

Ben Wilson

Ben brings over 10 years of account service experience across many categories. A stickler for detail, he’s committed to ensuring the agency delivers positive commercial outcomes for our clients.