Fire Starters: How COVID-19 is Transforming Holiday Marketing in 2020

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In the ever-changing world of marketing and technology, Fire Starters are team discussions designed to spark innovation and conversation at Blue Flame Thinking.

Members of our team shared their thoughts during a company roundtable about how the COVID-19 pandemic is transforming holiday marketing campaigns for brands in 2020. We’re sharing an excerpt here to continue this important conversation.

Private: Eryn Leedy
Eryn Leedy, Social Media Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

During the holiday season, most stores are trying to bring people into their physical locations to shop in-store. However, this year there are limits on how many people can be in a store, and many companies want to encourage six feet of distance to keep their employees safe. So, are we still going to see companies encourage people to shop in-store? Or, will everything transition to promoting online shopping? Can brands keep up with the influx of online shopping orders?

Josh Stauffer
Josh Stauffer, CEO and President of Blue Flame Thinking - Bio Image

Most smaller places can’t, but companies like Walmart are going to have a great holiday shopping season this year.

Private: Eryn Leedy
Eryn Leedy, Social Media Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

What about small, local businesses? Will they see any benefits or boosts in sales this year? A lot of people will feel safer in the smaller, quieter locations, and many want to support small businesses through this tough time. Maybe more people will be shopping small this year.

Laurie Moran
Bio Headshot of Laurie Moran- Director of New Business Development

There has been a big push to support local businesses, the ones that are still open. It will be interesting to see their holiday campaigns this year and how they promote their businesses differently than in the past.

Josh Stauffer
Josh Stauffer, CEO and President of Blue Flame Thinking - Bio Image

We also have to keep in mind that people’s schedules are very different this year. With so many people being remote, they have more flexibility to shop at different times than they used to. What’s stopping any of us from being at the outlet mall right now? Other than a meeting?

Rob Christensen
Rob Christensen is a Senior Developer at Blue Flame Thinking.

This extends to local restaurants too, not just retail shops. Many of them are pushing take-out and offering family-style meals. I wonder if there is an opportunity for them to provide this service over the holidays this year since family gatherings will be much smaller. Nobody wants to cook at 20-lb. turkey at home for three people, especially if they’ve never done it before. Maybe we will be seeing more of a push to offer prepackaged, cook-at-home meals for Thanksgiving or Christmas from local restaurants.

Ruth Rich

Thinking ahead to holiday giving campaigns, how will companies promote giving this holiday season? Will it look different then previous years? Many people might not have the extra budget or income to be able to donate this year. Could that constant reminder be a turn off?

Josh Stauffer
Josh Stauffer, CEO and President of Blue Flame Thinking - Bio Image

I wonder if you will start to see big tech companies step in to fill some of the gaps in giving. Maybe they will donate more than in the past, or maybe Google will set up easy digital donation options for charities. You might see companies, such as Shipt, set it up so that you can add a toy for Toys for Tots to your order.

Private: Eryn Leedy
Eryn Leedy, Social Media Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

Thinking about Black Friday, we are definitely going to be seeing changes this year. Will Cyber Monday become the new Black Friday? It will be interesting to see how sales shift and differ from previous years as well on Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday. Maybe they will actually do better with online shopping than promoting one big shopping day.

Rachel Barnes
Rachel Barnes, Web Analytics and SEO Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

We are also seeing a lot of brands going back to giving their workers Thanksgiving day off due to the drop in brick-and-mortar sales. This is a really nice change that I hope sticks around.

Chris Beaudoin
Bio shot of Chris Beaudoin, Senior Content Creator with Blue Flame Thinking.

I think there are a lot of experimental things that marketers are going to try. At the beginning of COVID, everyone kind of stopped what they were doing, but now we have seemed to learn what to do in a way that’s still effective, just different from before. However, it’s a fine line with making your messaging feel really genuine. As soon as you start to attach sales messages to your content, especially around the holidays, that could potentially backfire very quickly. So, what kinds of things can we do that help to reinforce human connections from a distance? Are there ways for companies to help people be in touch with their loved ones from a distance?

Josh Stauffer
Josh Stauffer, CEO and President of Blue Flame Thinking - Bio Image

There is definitely opportunity there, especially around direct mail. As people work from home longer, they are becoming more okay with business-type mailings being sent to their houses. However, the expectation is that it has to be better than the stuff you normally get. Make it meaningful and valuable to your audiences.

Private: Eryn Leedy
Eryn Leedy, Social Media Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

Yeah, messaging is absolutely going to have to change for many brands this year. They can’t really promote getting together with family or large holiday events, so how do they position their holiday messaging this year in a way that is safe but still beneficial to their business?

Josh Stauffer
Josh Stauffer, CEO and President of Blue Flame Thinking - Bio Image

I bet our “friends” at Facebook are going to try to capitalize on everyone staying home as a way to promote their Portal product. They will position themselves as “bringing people together no matter where they are,” and now they have the hardware to make it even easier.

Daniel Gallegos
Headshot of Blue Flame Thinking Designer Daniel Gallegos, Grand Rapids MI

What about smaller businesses that aren’t set up for online shopping or ordering food online? How do they still drive sales during the holidays when they rely so heavily on foot traffic?

Rachel Barnes
Rachel Barnes, Web Analytics and SEO Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

Back in April/May, I was noticing a lot of small businesses utilizing social media platforms as a way to continue to sell their products without bringing people in physically. I bet we will see more of that in the holiday season.

Private: Eryn Leedy
Eryn Leedy, Social Media Strategist at Blue Flame Thinking, bio Picture

Speaking of social media, let’s talk about email marketing. Companies are going to have to be very careful about how many emails they send this holiday season. It might seem like a great idea to send more emails than normal to drive online sales, but I think people will get sick of that very quickly. They aren’t afraid to opt out.

Josh Stauffer
Josh Stauffer, CEO and President of Blue Flame Thinking - Bio Image

Great point. I’ve written a whole blog on that in the past but I think it will be even more relevant this year. As a final thought, I can’t wait to see the holiday-themed masks this year!

Are you still thinking through how to run your holiday marketing campaigns?

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