The festive season is almost upon us. In offices across South Africa, workers are already dreaming of the family vacations, tasty food and cool beers that will give them a welcome break from the daily grind. As a business, you’re probably wondering if this is the time of year where you, too, can kick back, relax and forget about your digital marketing content. Not so fast! Although the holiday season can seem like a slow time for business, some of your key marketing efforts hinge on the actions you take between now and the start of the New Year. Here’s Zebra 360 Online Marketing’s quick guide to what you need to know if you want to hit the ground running in January.

Does holiday marketing matter?

The world of digital marketing, powered as it is by algorithms and data that never need a break, can be an unforgiving one when you want to get into the silly spirit a little. It’s easy to fall behind at this time of year, but losing that hard-fought market share you’ve spent all year building in a few short weeks could be disastrous for your long-term marketing plan. By the time you’re in the mood to put your nose back on the grindstone, you’ll be a stranger to digital media platforms once again, recreating your analytics and visibility from scratch.

This is valid across industries, regardless of whether or not you’re in a ‘festive’ industry. For those of us who happen to have products, experiences or services that are in demand at this time of year, a sudden silence could be positively suicidal for your marketing efforts. This is a period where almost every industry can leverage the seasonal spirit to drive higher profits, especially as the holidays fall over the peak of summer in South Africa, too. Smart content marketing means better SEO, and better reach within your demographic. And right now, that’s exactly what you want- all eyes on you, and not your competitor.

Holiday marketing isn’t just about good deals, however

Of course, you’re probably feeling very confident about now. Surely all those juicy posts detailing your fabulous year-end deals will get the job done, right?

Not quite. Remember that the modern consumer isn’t exactly attracted to the hard sell, preferring to feel like a meaningful contributor to their consumption habits and not a hapless pawn pushed into things. Engagement and intriguing, eye-catching experiential marketing is still the name of the game. While you’ll certainly use the time of year to showcase hot deals you have afoot, it’s still important that customers sense an active, engaged and interested presence across your social media platforms.

Getting holiday content marketing right

We’ve spoken in great detail this year about the importance of a brand personality to your marketing. While that cornerstone of your brand will stay fairly consistent year-round, it’s important to realise that the holiday season is a slightly different beast. People change, as both the greater potential (Fun! Sun! Vacation! No school/work! Parties!) and greater stress (financial, and in planning and executing the ‘perfect’ experience) of the party season catches up with them. Consumer shopping habits change, and so does their mood.

This means you may need to give a tweak or two to the way you’re presenting your brand’s face to the world, to better fall in line with current consumer mood. Failing to engage with the changed mood and experience of your key demographics could lead to lost conversions and lowered profits.

This even translates into speech and the way we think- and so also into keyword and SEO trends, which change drastically at year-end. Obviously it’s to be expected that ‘gifts for mom’, ‘Cyber Monday’, ‘Black Friday’, or ‘Christmas dinners’ might make an appearance here, but there’s also other, more subtle niche trends that can help grab that critical market share, especially in the rejuvenation, aesthetic, travel and ‘destination’ industries. A little market research can pay big dividends.

Don’t grasp for ‘lazy’ content….

While the time of year is a little different, your buyer’s journey isn’t. Content like direct adverts and ‘gift guides’ won’t generate much traffic down your sales funnel for the effort they take. You already have the data about what stages your consumers move through before making their purchases- instead, use that to help you craft a viable ‘holiday’ marketing funnel. Subtle, relevant content creation that guides them through those stages (and is backed by hard data) will drive better results than a lazy attempt at attention-grabbing.

For travel businesses, this can mean crafting a smart campaign that showcases why even a quick, budget-friendly holiday break can be beneficial. You might then hone in on how your destination would be a great backdrop for an early (or late) unplanned getaway, and what makes your corner of the world so special. Only THEN bring out content that directly references your packages and how they out-compete your competitor- and do it over many eye-catching pieces of content for a cohesive, relationship-developing whole.

…Nor let the season go to your head (too much)

For most of us, the holidays are a wonderful time of year. Optimism rises, more fun is had, and it’s hard not to feel a little warmth or nostalgia around everything that’s going on. Using this festive atmosphere to strengthen (and make new) connections with clients can only be a good thing, right?

Right…as long as you don’t take it too far. You already have a carefully honed brand identity. Now’s not the time to overwrite it and splash red and green, snow and Santa Claus all over maniacally, especially as temperatures soar in the traditional South African holiday heatwave, and if your industry’s direct connection to the holidays is a little tenuous. It’s pretty much the same as the holiday party dress code- getting a little festive will win you friends and plenty of warm-hearted admiration for being in the spirit, but going overboard can make people avoid you as the weirdo!

In short, it’s time to get a little festive, but not lose sight of your end advertising goals. Share some less formal pictures of the office Christmas party. Embrace some of the optimism and good cheer around. Let the relaxed vibe of the end of the year bolster everyone’s spirits and humanise your brand. But don’t lose sight of that end goal and brand identity you’ve carefully crafted for yourself, and don’t give up that hard-fought space you’ve won in the digital marketing sphere. Don’t let the ‘silly season’ replace meaningful content that drives your advertising goals forward into a fresh New Year.

At a loss as to how to embrace the holiday spirit in your own marketing campaigns without losing sight of your goals? The digital whizzes at Zebra 360 Online Marketing are always around to help you make the very best of your brand identity right now.