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150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns

Did Coca-Cola create the modern day Santa Claus?

Is Mr. Potato Head responsible for reshaping holiday TV advertising?

How did a single advertising campaign raise over $40 million to fund children’s vaccines?

It’s that time of year — the holiday season is approaching us, and fast! It’s the time for making your holiday email lists and checking them twice.

For those in the retail, ecommerce and marketing world, we have already begun strategizing and executing our holiday marketing campaigns.

In fact, this year, 37.52% of online brands reported that they began holiday planning 1-4 months earlier than last year.  

Of course, as you might expect, the holidays feel a little different this year. In 2017, social commerce and true omnichannel expansion began to drive 3x in revenue for brands taking advantage of it.

Top Ecommerce Sales Channels for 2017 Holidays

Here’s the breakdown of where brands expect to make their sales this holiday season:

  • Branded website: 64.66%
  • Owned retail store: 24.7%
  • Amazon: 24.5%
  • Facebook: 17.47%
  • Wholesale + Distributors: 17.07%
  • Other: 10.84%
  • Etsy: 7.23%
  • Instagram: 6.22%
  • Pinterest: 2.21%
  • Walmart.com: 1.61%

And here is a breakdown of the advertising channels brands expect to make them the most money:

  • Facebook: 51.61%
  • Email campaigns: 51.2%
  • Instagram: 29.32%
  • SEO: 24.9%
  • Google Shopping: 25.3%
  • Google Retargeting: 13.25%
  • Other: 9.64%
  • Pinterest: 9.44%
  • Trade shows: 8.84%
  • Influencers: 8.03%
  • Twitter: 6.83%
  • Print: 6.22%
  • SEM: 3.82%
  • Affiliates: 3.21%
  • Radio: 2.61%
  • TV: 2.01%
  • Podcasts: 0.6%

No matter which channels you use, for many brands (and likely even you), the holiday season (specifically Cyber Five, Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) is a make or break time.

The promotions you use, the speed your site loads, which payment options customers use the most: all of this will help you understand exactly what to do more of (or not ever again!) in 2018.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a single season!

Whenever I am looking for inspiration during a stressful time, I always dive deep into the fundamentals and see what the most successful brands have done in the past.

This is exactly what we have done at BigCommerce with our partner, PayPal: researched the most iconic holiday marketing campaigns, so you can create a legacy holiday tradition that brings you customers beyond 2017.

In the infographic below, you’ll get a snapshot of the last 150 years of these memorable holiday retail marketing campaigns from some of the world’s most well-known brands.

Top Holiday Marketing Campaigns in History

  1. Macy’s Holiday Window Campaign
  2. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  3. Coca-Cola Invents the Father of Christmas
  4. Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
  5. Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  6. Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
  7. Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
  8. NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
  9. Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
  10. Kentucky for Christmas! Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
  11. Folgers Advertises the Intangible
  12. Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy Ad Agency of Record
  13. Coca-Cola’s Sledding Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
  14. Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
  15. M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
  16. Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
  17. Target’s Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
  18. Pampers’ “Silent Night” Raises $40 Million
  19. Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
  20. John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
  21. Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
  22. American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
  23. Apple Makes Technology and Family a Priority
  24. REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition

From here, we’ll take you on a journey through time, where you’ll learn more about the backstory — and actionable learnings — behind each of these brand-building initiatives.

 

Did Modern Holiday Shopping Begin in the 1800s?

Before we dig into the most memorable campaigns in holiday retail history, let’s briefly review where we started.

The popularity and commercialization of Christmas is often depicted as a recent phenomenon, but it actually began in the 1800s:

  • In the 1840s, Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s German husband) popularized the Christmas tree in England, when he put one up Windsor Castle.
  • In 1843, Charles Dickens published the now classic book “The Christmas Carol,” in which he encouraged rich Victorians to redistribute their wealth by giving money and gifts to the poor.
  • By 1870, Macy’s hired their first Santa Claus to bring the newfound Christmas cheer across the pond, followed closely by the first electrically illuminated Christmas trees arriving in 1882.
  • In 1879, British stores began dedicating areas to ‘Santa Land’ where customers could wander around immersed in Christmas scenery.

Fast-forward to the 1900s and we discover that retail brands intelligently and very purposefully created some of the most unforgettable characters and imagery of the holiday season.

Some of the questions we were confronted with along the way include:

  • Did a department store really invent Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
  • Why is an American fast food chain the go-to destination for Japanese Christmas dinner?
  • Is nostalgia the most persuasive emotion over the holidays?

You can explore each stop on our time machine through our chaptered guide. Let’s dive in! 

Ecommerce Marketing &holiday &marketing strategies admin 05 Dec 2017 Comments Off on 150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns

The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays

The holiday season in major cities around the world is typically heralded by seasonal window retail displays put up by department stores and retailers large and small.

We can trace their beginnings back to the industrial revolution.

The widespread availability of plate glass in the late 1800s allowed shop owners to build large windows spanning the full lengths of their shops for the display of merchandise.

This is when the notion of window-shopping was born.

holiday retail display

Photo: Library of Congress

One of the first major holiday window displays was put up by Macy’s New York store in 1874. It featured a collection of porcelain dolls and scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

It was not until the early 1900s that competition for grabbing the attention of customers intensified among the largest retailers in three major cities in the United States –– New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Store owners and managers used window displays to lure window shoppers into their stores; and over the holidays the display were a lot more colorful and creative.

By 1914 Saks was stirring public intrigue at their flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York with the emergence of ‘unveiling events’ for their display window.

Hydraulic lifts beneath the windows allowed teams of artisans to work on new designs out of public view.

But it was Lord & Taylor that really pioneered this effort when, in 1938, the owners eschewed the traditional method of presenting store merchandise in favor of a purely decorative display of gilded bells that swung in sync with the sounds of recorded bells.

holiday window display

Photo: Ricky Zehavi, Architectural Digest

This represents the full transition from windows being used to display products to those intended solely as a marvel to draw people to the store and generate interest and discussion. It was a physical version of what John Lewis and others would later do, using advertisements as an anticipated event in themselves without including products.

Competition for shopper attention has continuously intensified, and retailers have correspondingly adapted. Window displays appeal to consumers on a number of more unique levels in comparison to TV or online advertisements.

Being physical, a grand display is much more of a marvel than something viewed through another medium. Further, by requiring customers to visit the store to view the window, these displays actively engage the audience.

Over the decades department stores have teamed up with designers, artists and other companies such as for Bergdorf’s 2015 display created with Swarovski. With the capacity for grandiosity and innovation driven by competition, grand window displays can be repeated annually without losing their impact.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Create something spectacular that your customers have to enjoy by coming to your store in person.

Ecommerce Marketing &holiday &marketing strategies David Venne 25 Nov 2017 Comments Off on The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays

Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife

Campbell's soup holiday campaign

Photo: Bamboo Trading

Campbell’s 1948 magazine campaign clearly has one audience in mind: wives and mothers, or female homemakers.

The advertisement shows a typical holiday scene, with mother and children carrying bundles of wrapped presents while father is almost unnoticeable in the background.

In 1948, it was the woman of a household who would invariably do much of the cooking, childcare and indeed Christmas shopping.

This advertisement draws on the pressures and time-constraints placed on the mother (and all such women) as she prepares for the holiday season. It offers her a solution to find more time during the Christmas-rushed days.

Although the advertisement provides pictures and descriptions of several available soups, it focuses on value over product placement. The primary aim is to show women how Campbell’s Soup can save them time, offering a product which is not only tasty but, more importantly, fast and easy to prepare.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Don’t just show your customers your product; tell them how it will benefit their lives over the holidays.

Ecommerce Marketing &holiday &marketing strategies admin 24 Nov 2017 Comments Off on Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife

Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation

When Norelco started using animated advertisements to market their electric razors along with other personal grooming products within the 1960s, animation like a media form was neither particularly advanced, nor made an appearance regularly on tv.

In to the 1970s, however, Norelco’s Christmas spots grew to become among the indications that christmas had truly showed up.

Famously featuring Father Christmas sledding with an upturned razor attachment, Norelco not just created an advert which may be acquainted for many years in the future, but pioneered among the earliest purposes of animation to promote to adults.

They accomplished it partially by using probably the most advanced animation at that time.

Actually, the ads were so effective that, once they aired during animated Rankin/Bass programs, viewers were frequently unsure in regards to what would be a created area of the show and just what was just advertising.

norelco holiday campaign shaving advertisement

Photo Source

Once established, later versions from the ad focused less on Santa’s journey and spent additional time displaying products to customers. At that time, obviously, the format from the advertisement was instantly recognizable and connected using the Norelco brand.

Over the last years, the ad continues to be designed to incorporate newer animation technologies for example CGI, retaining its familiar structure and dedication to quality animation.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Be the first one to create quality content using technology and new media. Today, augmented reality. Tomorrow…?

Ecommerce Marketing &holiday &marketing strategies David Venne 23 Nov 2017 Comments Off on Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation

Folgers Advertises the Intangible

The biggest challenge with advertising drink and food is actually conveying its essential features for an audience –– taste.

Earlier ads from Folgers required devote exclusive restaurants in which the coffee was secretly switched with Folgers’ product.

However, within their 1986 commercial, the narrative of the relative coming back for Christmas is eminently more relatable for many consumers than likely to an costly restaurant.

The ad’s recognizable figures also respond in familiar methods to the coffee product. The kids smell the coffee because they allow it to be, so that as each member of the family wakes they take deep inhalations from the aroma wafting with the house.

Everyone notices the merchandise, even when they can’t view it. The round of satisfied sighs as everyone enjoys that coffee further reinforces the taste that the audience aren’t able to take part in.

The campaign isn’t just good at conveying the essential features and value of the merchandise. It’s also selling an idealistic Christmas scene, connecting quaint and happy family existence using the product within the audience’s mind. The commercial ran until 1998 as well as in edited form until 2005, transforming Folgers in to the U.S.’s leading coffee brand.

Folgers was subsequently offered for $3 billion in 2008, as well as in 2009 the most popular ad was somewhat less effectively reimagined.

Indeed, the follow up is responsible for debate, with viewers suggesting the brother-sister relationship is under innocent. The point is, the campaign’s success is shown by both its durability and Forgers’ resulting market dominance.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Turn your brand right into a household name by it into a relatable story.

Ecommerce Marketing &holiday &marketing strategies David Venne 23 Nov 2017 Comments Off on Folgers Advertises the Intangible

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