Christmas Marketing 2023: Five Key Insights from a Senior Strategist

Christmas marketing 2023 is going to look and feel different. We’ve diving into 5 crucial insights from our Senior Strategist Celeste Houlker, and how you can create meaningful festive campaigns that drive ROI.
Christmas Marketing - 5 key insights from a senior strategist (2023)

In 30 seconds:

  • Celeste, a Senior Strategist at Fanbytes by Brainlabs, is taking you through some key game-changing insights for Christmas 2023.
  • A total of 40.6 million people in the UK will spend money on buying Christmas gifts. If you want to access them, you need to step it up this year.
  • With the current climate, your brand really needs to make it on the “nice” list. Sensitivity is key.

Your Christmas marketing needs a shake-up. With consumer spending down compared to last year, brands must craft compelling, data-driven content that resonates, engages, and converts. In 2023, that’s becoming harder than ever. 

The early bird definitely gets the worm here. Brands need to be planning their Christmas content well in advance – if you’re reading this in the last quarter of the year, you’re running late. 

But even latecomers can bring game-changing festivities to the last-minute table. It’s all about tapping into the right points and truly understanding your audience at the very core. 

We’re taking you through five key insights from Celeste Houlker, Senior Strategist at Fanbytes by Brainlabs, that you need to pay attention to if you want to build brand awareness and brand sentiment the right way this Christmas. 

How can brands get their Christmas marketing right?

This year, potential customers are feeling the pressure as inflation remains high at 7.9% in the UK. Thirty-eight per cent of consumers feel financially distressed, 28% are squeezed, 22% are being extra cautious, and only 12% are financially immune. Black Friday campaigns and Cyber Monday efforts will be a key driving point for sales as people look for the best deals this year. 

But, amidst those fears, people are still looking towards a Christmas season of celebration and togetherness. Your Christmas marketing strategies need to walk the line between both celebration and care in order to keep consumers on-side and business rolling. 

Celeste Houlker, Senior Strategist at Fanbytes by Brainlabs, says: “Brands need to understand the temperature. Content can’t be insensitive to their customer’s lived experience. You have to know your audience’s pain points and feelings first off.”

This year, more than most, people will be feeling the pinch, so being sensitive to their worlds should be the brand’s first priority. Then, you can focus on the content itself.

Where to focus your Christmas marketing ideas

The place to listen to what your audience is truly feeling is, of course, social media. Last year, 34% of shoppers planned to use social media platforms to search for or purchase holiday products, so accessing the right audiences on the right channels is key. 

Over Christmas, consumers’ social media feeds are flooded with new product lines, Christmas gift ideas and gift guides, e-commerce holiday marketing launches and online sales – and consumers are using their feeds to get inspiration. In fact, as TikTok becomes the “new search engine” for young shoppers and other platforms aren’t far behind in their SEO tech, it’s getting more important than ever to optimise your social presence. Your posts need to function as Christmas marketing campaigns but also tap into the wider topics your audience is looking for. 

Influencer marketing should already be a part of your strategy (if it isn’t, you’re one of only 7% of marketers). Ninety-three per cent of your peers believe that influencer marketing is effective. The conversation now is not whether you’re using it. It’s how to use it. 

This year, you can’t just send a creator a gift card and hope for the best. Brands and influencers alike need to be more wary of the optics of sending a free gift to creators to advertise. Although it’s been used as a short-term boost before, now brands who want to lead need to be thinking about the long game. How can they partner with influencers for the long-term and build those unbreakable relationships? And how can you create influencer campaigns that come across as truly authentic? As the cost of living crisis is still upon us, marketers will need to pay even more attention to how influencer gifting campaigns, shopping hauls and overly gratuitous content will look and feel. 

Partnering with the right influencer can still make brands more relatable. When you get collaborations right, they can provide in-depth information about specific products that customers need to make more confident purchase decisions, increasing your ROI and conversion rate two-fold. But before you get into the campaign itself, you need to know these key insights. 

Five Christmas marketing insights from a Senior Strategist

1. Focus on the joy

Christmas is joyful. John Lewis has brought the feeling of Christmas into their Christmas TV ads every single year, so much so it has become a part of culture. But brands need to think about capturing that feeling on a smaller scale. Socials are about people (hence the name). During the festive season, it can be easy to fall into the sales pitch. We want conversions, after all. But this year, take the chance to tap into your buyer’s feelings. Think about their emotions and create magic. 

“Brands need to ask themselves – what is the moment here? You need to focus on the moment, on togetherness and on intimacy. Is there a different way of showing the family coming together rather than showing overflowing stocking fillers or a packed-out Christmas tree?” Celeste asks. 

This feeds into thoughtful buying. With a tighter wallet than usual this year, people will be looking into joyful, thoughtful gifts – not necessarily the usual gift cards.

It comes back to how people will be feeling over Christmas in 2023 again. We need to be sensitive to emotions now more than ever. And tapping into them rather than doing the traditional sales pitch may even win you more conversions than before. 

2. Instigate different buying habits

Christmas is full of indulgence, right? So it’s easy for brands to fall into the same old conversation of “overindulgence”. FMCG brands need to be especially careful of this. It’s easy to slip into “abundance” content, showing tables of rich food, crackers and tons of conversation. This year, it’s time to challenge that “same old conversation”. 

Celeste says, “If your brand wants to be disruptive, you need to instigate different buying habits. Don’t be afraid of leveraging smart indulgence instead of overindulgence.”

When working with influencers, you need to be looking at the smaller side of things rather than the overzealous enjoyment of the holiday season. Firstly, it’s more authentic and in touch with how your customers are feeling. Plus, using micro and mid-tier influencers to interact meaningfully with your target market will ensure more engagement. 

On this, Celeste mentions the idea of shopping hauls: “When your customers view a Christmas “haul” video with a huge amount of products, how do they feel? Do they care about the products? What if you leveraged smart indulgence with a micro-haul instead? It’s a different picture. It’s more careful – more sensitive to your audience.”

Challenge the status quo when it comes to Christmas content. Think about how different audiences buy into “indulgence” and utilise your data to make informed decisions on the type of content that will drive ROI

Celeste continues, “Instead of content showing one big shop all at once, you could show them what shopping small looks like across a number of influencer-led videos. It’s more achievable, more affordable and probably more in line with your audience’s needs.

3. Leverage adjacent interests

To really help customers feel the joy, you need to understand their other interests. 

“What are the other areas a brand can tap into?” Celeste asks. “What are the adjacent interests of your audience? If they like hot chocolate, maybe there are wider conversations to be had about food? If they are into beauty products, are they talking about anti-aging? Understanding their wider conversations will help you tap into them”, says Celeste.

To truly know the answer to these questions, you need some inside knowledge. Brands should be utilising social listening now more than ever. You need to be watching and hearing your customers in the comments, look out for the kind of content they are producing and keep an eye on trending conversations. 

Follow influencers within your niche and see what other conversations they are having. This will help you to build more intentional Christmas marketing campaign ideas around adjacent topics. Then, it’s all about initiating full-funnel influencer activations around those topics to boost brand awareness and conversions for the festive season.  

If you do it right, you’ll be able to push UGC (user-generated content), encouraging a feedback loop of social content where your customers become the creators

A social listening tool can definitely help you stay connected with their ongoing interests. 

Bytesights helps you listen up

Listening to your audience doesn’t just teach you what they’re talking about, it helps you adapt your strategies, understand your prospects, and even make decisions on your products. Despite this, only 51% of brands utilise social monitoring/listening in any capacity.

Bytesights is our social listening tool made for exactly this. When brands work with us, we use Bytesights to listen in on what truly makes their audience tick. Armed with this information, influencer campaigns can get to the heart of target market trends and ride the wave all the way to virality (and beyond). 

4. Start now for Xmas 2024

But we haven’t had Christmas 2023 yet (we hear you say). Brands are actually looking at their Christmas campaigns earlier and earlier every year. Routinely, July has been the set time to begin planning your Xmas marketing strategy, but now word is it’s June. 

We actually have a different opinion. Your Christmas 2024 should start now. In fact, there really shouldn’t be a “start” date. Christmas is all about togetherness, so to gain better insights than ever before, you need to start thinking about your brand community

“For 2024, brands need to be focused on community over specific influencer activations. You need to think about how you can use influencers to help create a community around your specific product. How do you create that brand love? It’s about tapping into the whole lifestyle of your customer, not just their shopping basket”

A great example of this is how PepsiCo collaborated with Megan Thee Stallion to create the “Flamin Hot University” where people could “attend” the FU (Flaming Hot University). This activation was created to promote university scholarships. Of course, it’s themed “hot” because of the direct correlation between Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl Summer” trending topic and “hot” Cheetos. 

How does this fit into brand community? 

Celeste talks about it, “So here’s a brand who have acknowledged where they sit in their customer’s life, which is all around casual snacking, enjoying the Cheeto dust and loving their flavours. They then identified areas where “hot” fits into their customer and found the right influencer partnership to portray that. With all of this, they’re buying into their customer’s culture.

It’s not just a simple campaign here. PepsiCo is getting to the core culture of their demographic – students. Plus, they’re being seriously playful with it. 

Community marketing works

If you have a community on social media, nurture it. If you don’t have one – build it. On platforms, niche communities of fans and consumers band together to create their own inside jokes, memes, and trends – and getting involved with these is a good way for a brand to show authenticity, listen to brand sentiment and understand buyers’ actions.

Work with influencers to bring together niche communities and think about our previous point on adjacent interests. If you can find out where your audience is hanging out, you’re one step closer to discovering their interests and what influencer partnerships you could bring to the table. 

If you want to find out more about how to ace your community marketing strategy, we’ve put together a full report on the brands doing community marketing right. 

5. Last-minute Christmas campaign? We’ve got you.

Maybe you’re leaving things a little late, or perhaps you just want some extra sales before the end of the season. Here’s what you need to do. 

On last-minute activations, Celeste states, “Trying to jump on a trend or leverage a trend is the best way to gain traction before Christmas. One way of doing that is by working with an influencer and then making that asset work hard post-creation. Swipe the asset across paid social ads to ensure traction”. 

Looking out for the right trends is key, too. “Product-specific campaigns or targeted collections can be a great way to attract conversions if you’re strapped for time. Find conversations that these products could be involved in and leverage those,” she adds.

Understanding when trends are on the rise is key here. Insight tools like Bytesights can help you predict trends before they go viral, allowing you to collaborate with the right influencer at the right time. 

“Using micro-influencers at mass could be a way to shoot your holiday marketing campaign numbers up. This still needs to be quality content, though. Micro-influencers tend to be closer to their community. But in terms of conversions, if you’re pressed for time, it’s best to lean on paid ads with these influencers leading the fray”. 

One of the most important things to note is everything is reactive at this late stage. Remember Stanley Cups? That trend lived and died fast, so finding the right trends and getting on them super quick is essential.

Make sure your campaign is mobile-friendly and that any landing page to your online store that you link to on socials is also optimised for mobile devices. Align your email marketing to this specific product to generate further traction too. 

Tapping into the Christmas spirit of 2023

As we deck the halls for another festive season, we ask you to think differently this year. It’s not just about painting a festive image but about tuning into the heartbeat of an audience that’s cautious yet hopeful, financially stressed yet yearning for joy. 

Brands need to listen to and understand their audience more than ever before. With the right approach, there’s potential for brands to create a festive campaign that resonates deeply.

“It goes back to adding the joy”, Celeste says. “What is this season truly about? It’s about taking that time to be reflective, to relax and to have fun with the people who matter to you. So, it needs to come away from the product itself. Are brands doing this? Not enough. And the ones that do will lead this Christmas

Even if you focus on a specific product, it’s less about the product itself and more about the people having conversations around it

It’s about making an impact, even in the smallest way. Move away from the old-hat tried and tested methods. Take risks. Work with the best creators for your holiday marketing campaigns and try and test again. You might find the results rather magical. 

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