The holidays are here. Is your brand celebrating? Creating engaging seasonal content can help your business connect with your audience and drive up engagement. Here’s a little expertise on making the most of the season.

Couple outside with Christmas bags after shopping

What is seasonal marketing?

Seasonal marketing means focusing your marketing efforts around a specific time of year or event. It can be anything from a single tweet to a full campaign. There are summer TV spots, Valentine’s Day posts, and Halloween content. But the biggest season of them all arrives during the last two months of the year: the winter holidays.

And for good reason. The National Retail Federation predicts this year, American retailers may bring in up to 960 BILLION dollars in November and December. With almost a trillion dollars on the line, it makes sense that brands are getting festive.

The cost of cheer

Consumers around this time are primed to discover. They’re driving to stores, they’re browsing the web, and they’re out on the town. Engagement increases, and because of that, so do costs.

Hands typing on a laptop keyboard

MKR Media Supervisor Jason Brewer has the numbers; “From October to Black Friday, Facebook expected as much as a 20% increase in cost-per-click (CPC). And that number grows to 40% from Black Friday to Christmas.” And when looking at low-funnel, high-intent searches like “shopping near me,” that price is going to increase even more.

This is why it’s so important to make sure that you’re doing seasonal marketing right. “Not every brand is going to benefit from seasonal marketing in the same way,” Jason explains. “If you’re a B2B business or a B2C business like healthcare with a more complex product, you won’t necessarily see the same results.”

“Knowing your audience and knowing your product is obviously important year-round,” says Jason. “But during the holidays, it can make or break your budget.”

Here’s a hypothetical. A health system is now offering yoga as part of its physical therapy product line and wants to advertise. They’re now in direct competition with the gym offering holiday membership deals on yoga classes, the sporting goods store having a sale on yoga mats, and the clothing store doing two-for-one yoga pants. The difference is that the gym, the sporting goods store, and the clothing store are all going to see a much higher return on their advertising investment. Where the health system is probably just going to see a higher CPC.

But with the right agency on your side, you can find the seasonal marketing solution that works for you, no matter what industry you’re in. According to Jason, “It takes experience. The right marketing team can make a relevant campaign. Increased relevancy will lower costs. Great copy, great search, and great relevancy will always equal lower costs.”

Christmas in July

When should you start thinking about seasonal marketing? As soon as you’ve heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on the radio, it’s probably too late. And unfortunately, a Chicagoland radio station switched to 24/7 Christmas music at 4:00 PM on November 1 this year.

But with the inflated advertising costs, planning ahead and working the holidays into your annual marketing strategy can save your business some money. “There are things like early awareness campaigns that can tease your seasonal marketing,” Jason explains. Early awareness will be less affected by increased prices and can bolster results when the holidays arrive.

Festive creative

“Call us romantics, but we think that the holidays aren’t only about clicks and eyeballs,” says MKR Chief Creative Officer Peter Kim. “The levity of the season gives you permission to have fun, speak with sincerity, and be merry.”

"Ugly" Christmas Sweater

An “ugly” sweater MKR created for Anheuser-Busch

A TV spot MKR created for Hoosier Lottery

Peter echoes Jason’s mantra, “It all comes back to knowing your audience. And genuinely connecting with them.”


But how much holiday cheer is too much holiday cheer? If you’ve ever worked in retail, you know that holiday playlists can get old fast. And not to be a Grinch, but Mariah’s earlier and earlier appearances cannot be sustainable.

Not even our festive drinks are safe from backlash. According to some brand research by Fire Dept. Coffee, more than one in three Americans surveyed were already experiencing pumpkin spice burnout. And that was in August.

Jumping on a holiday trend can be an easy way to find success. But it can also feel worn out or uninspired. While many brands are zigging, some are zagging.

Famously, REI opted out of Black Friday marketing with their #OptOutside campaign that began in 2015. The campaign saw REI stores closed on the biggest retail day of the year, and encouraged folks to spend time outside instead. It was a hit. To the tune of 6.7 billion impressions in that first year alone. And only one year later, over 500 organizations joined REI in opting outside on Black Friday.

And it all started because they knew their audience.

If you’re looking for a marketing partner to help define your audience and make seasonal marketing that works for your brand, we’re always keen to talk.