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The Influencers

Dear Brands, Please Stay Home for the Holidays

’Tis the season to stop adding to the noise, the clutter and the materialism of the holidays, says Arnold Worldwide ECD James Bray

Dear Brands, Please Stay Home for the Holidays

Unless you’re an eight-year-old boy, you know it’s better to give than to receive. And why is that? Well, it’s simple really. We love surprising people with something thoughtful, and seeing the delight it brings them. So, just for argument’s sake, what if brands behaved more appropriately around the holidays? More like, us. More like, humans. 

Maybe, around this time of the year, brands should instead take a cue from what the holidays are actually intended to be about, and dial back the whoredom. Maybe, just maybe, turning their undivided attention back to the thing that matters most – family (i.e., their fans, followers, and loyalists) is the way to go. 

You see, I could argue, and will do so later, that those brands that are “givers,” those that are more generous with those already in their family, that don’t ask for anything in return, will ultimately be more successful than brands that are desperately trying to attract new customers. 

Obviously, most brands will have a strategy for how to engage their loyalists during the holidays. But, unfortunately, these strategies often mean tossing rebates, discounts, and deals at their valued customers with as much care and thought as handing someone a gift card. Just as it’s not a time for shotgunning or speed dating for new acquisitions, it’s also not one for incentivising your old loyalists. 

It’s a time for getting personal.

It’s a time for brands to be more meaningful in the way they give back. It’s a time to show your family and friends that you do truly value them. So, does 10% off show that? No. They want music, entertainment, or a philanthropic gesture. They want to be surprised, delighted, and appreciated. So, do that. Prove to them that you’re not just about making another friggin’ sale. Prove to them that you care more about them than impressing and tantalising someone new. 

’Tis the season to prove to those who have chosen you over Burger King, you over Chevrolet, you over H&M, you over Jim Beam, that you love them more than sending them a meaningless email blast. 

In my past, for Epson, we went onto individual followers’ Instagrams, selected a handful of photos, printed them out on thick archival paper, packaged them up and shipped the small-format, tangible prints to them. Epson surprised and delighted them with their thoughtfulness. And then, get this… they didn’t ask for more. They absolutely refused to be greedy. 

This is an important point. Some of the most valuable brands are the most generous ones. Think about it. When was the last time Red Bull asked for something in return for the millions of hours of content they share with us? They’ve built an entire library the size of Netflix, and never once asked us to pound more of their energy drink, or charged us for a subscription.

Whatever strategy a brand employs during the holidays, it should not be of the if-this-then-that variety. It should just be… here’s this.

WestJet did this. They caught passengers completely unaware with a personalised holiday gift upon arrival at their destination. The gift wasn’t contingent on anything. Yes, the passengers had previously bought a ticket on the airline, but they did so of their own volition. They did not buy it for a chance to get a gift. There was no if-you-buy-this-then-we’ll-give-you-that. 

And listen, I know many companies are making a desperate fourth-quarter push. This is, for many, the time when they make their numbers. But let’s be honest… most brands can’t compete with the cacophony of messages and sales events during this time. Heck, my inbox alone has seen hundreds of “Holidazzle Deals” since Black Friday and I’ve swiped left to all of them – unwilling to open even my most beloved brands, sites or feeds because they’re just fishing for a sale. 

So, before you waste millions of media dollars adding more discounts and cheer to the world, consider this: according to Gartner Group, 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. And the Harvard Business Review agrees, “Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. You don’t have to spend time and resources going out and finding a new customer – you just have to keep the one you have happy.”

This holiday season, staying close to home and showing your family how truly happy they make you is one helluva strategy.



James Bray is Executive Creative Director at Arnold Worldwide

Genre: Strategy/Insight