The Holidays Are Coming. Are We Pleased?

I’d like to say I was chatting to a friend of mine the other day. But I wasn’t. I was on the receiving end of a Rant. And yes, it was a Rant with a capital ‘R.’

The holidays are coming tra-la-la-la-la. Well as far as I’m concerned, Ed, they’re not coming until I’ve waded through six more weeks of &*%! in the NHS. Damn Christmas adverts before I’ve even picked up all the fireworks in the garden and the kids being driven ballistic and all this ‘how many sleeps until he comes’ nonsense well I can tell you if I ever come across anyone who wants to see a Christmas advert in November or even thinks about Christmas in November I’ve a good mind to…

At this point, I confessed it was my round and beat a hasty retreat to the bar. Because I was that person. In my previous life it was my job to think about Christmas in March and April.

As most of you know, I spent a lot of time with Diageo and Nestle – booze and chocolates, two items which are fairly high on the shopping list come December. At both companies sales in December were crucial: I won’t say they determined the success or failure of the whole year, but they weren’t far off. So we did a lot of planning and we started that planning early. I was thinking about one Christmas almost as soon as the last one had finished.

As a result, I’m almost expecting to see Christmas ads in November. Show them in September and I might mutter ‘bah, humbug’ – but early November is perfectly fine with me. Besides, I’ve two boys who do manage to drop the occasional hint that Christmas is on its way…

But I realise that I’m in an ever-decreasing minority. I realise that there’s a general feeling that the Christmas ads are appearing on our screens long before we want to see them.

…And the business coach in me wonders, ‘Are the Christmas ads now counter-productive?’ Are the companies that are really winning the Christmas war the ones that are simply carrying on as normal in November?

I just had a look at the Amazon site – which is, after all, where a great many of us will do our Christmas shopping. There’s a discreet message in the top right hand corner: Early Bird Christmas Offers. That’s it; the site is definitely not dripping in tinsel and fairy lights.

More pertinently, does all this have a marketing lesson for our businesses? Do we risk alienating our clients and customers by telling them what they already know?

Does [insert name of your preferred supermarket] really need to spend millions showing me yet another happy couple whose festive season – and possibly marriage – has only been saved by rushing out for some prawn vol-au-vents?

Does my local solicitor need to remind me that I’ll die and therefore need to make a will? Does my accountant need to spend money to tell people that they’ll pay tax?

I’m beginning to wonder if this type of advertising does boost sales – or whether it actually turns people off your brand? As the trend moves from traditional forms of ‘outbound’ marketing to engagement and ‘inbound’ marketing, should we risk telling people what they already know – but don’t want to be reminded of?

My answer is simple: I don’t know. More than ever, I’d be really interested to know what you think – because I’m beginning to wonder if my friend’s rant was indicative of a trend that has marketing implications for all of us…



  1. easistreetJOHN BARNETT · November 15, 2013

    Hi Ed. Great post which set off lots of thoughts, but I’ll mention just one.
    During my career in marketing I have been involved in organising 100s of “trade” exhibitions, some with budgets running to six figures. I always made a point of asking “why are we going to this event?”, then spent time trying to get beyond the stock answer …”because our competitors will be there.”
    Underneath all the supposed sophistication of the major supermarkets could this be the same basic thought process that drives the crazy Christmas hype?

    • edreidyork · November 15, 2013

      Hi John – I’m sure you’re right. The battle for market share at Christmas is always a titanic struggle for the brand owners and retailers, so not doing anything (advertising and/or promoting) is simply not an option, unless none of them chose to do it! Thanks for your comments

  2. Simon Hudson · November 15, 2013

    Christmas is coming?!
    Crikey! Damn! That’s the 47th year in a row I’d forgotten about it. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have no problem at all with birthdays and anniversaries, but those fixed date, happens every year, we get a free holiday events always take me by surprise. Thank heavens for advertisers who kindly remind me (at their cost) or I’d be in such trouble with my wife, daughter, staff etc. (none of whom will have mentioned in passing, at all).
    Without their kindness I would completely miss out. If only I could put it in my diary or something to remind me, but you know how hard those things are.

    I love Christmas, I like the sense of family and friendship, the goodwill to all, the excuse to relax a little at work and home, the pleasure of thinking of others and reflecting this thought in deed and gift. And if not for early advertising I could miss it all, so Merry Christmas and good tidings to proactive marketing – even if it is still months away.

    • edreidyork · November 15, 2013

      I think the only possible response to that is Ho Ho Ho!! Brilliant response thanks, Simon

  3. Justin Hyam · November 15, 2013

    Craking blog as always Ed, and one that definately rings true for me.
    Working in an industry that thrives on Christmas, Christmas has a “Jekyll & Hyde” relationship with me.
    Let me answer first with the negatives, and then finish we the positives.

    From a personal point of view I don’t like Christmas. Gone are the days in my opinion where it is celebrated as a religious festival, it now joins the ranks with Valentines Day, St Patricks Day, Easter, Mothers Day, Fathers day etc….it’s just a marketing persons dream, an opportunity to increase spend on various products and hit their respective sales targets, and to a certain degree, the general public will be foolish enough to fall for it! I was actually quite suprised this year to only see Christmas ads starting in November, as I’m used to them starting in October (I may be wrong, as I haven’t watched much TV!) A Lot of my locals whinge about Christmas ads so early, as it puts them under pressure from their kids to spend on this and that, and times are already hard enough for them, with money in short supply. The advantage of being a batchelor, is that I don’t have that problem. At least it does mean I can share some fun with my locals by donning my “Bah Humbug” Santa hat!!LOL For me, Christmas is just another working day!
    Doom & Gloom aside, lets look at the flip side of the coin.
    My business thrives on the Christmas season, and with the added benefit of some snow, the pub tends to fill up over December which can only be a good thing for me. I’m fully booked for Christmas Day, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day are nearly booked up, and I’ve quadrupled my Christmas bookings compared to last year. I’m looking at taking the equivalent of 3 weeks worth of sales in 3 days. Yes it might be hard work, and yes it’s very stressful, but the rewards are there and it’s definitely a sacrifice I am prepared to make, even if that means I have to put a Christmas CD on!
    When I worked Town Centre Pubs and Clubs, Christmas was just an excuse for a piss up or for office parties, and everything died down in the last few days leading up to Christmas. Now I’m based in a semi rural location, Christmas has a much bigger meaning. Christmas unites the community, and brings neighbours who don’t get on together for a few weeks, and life in the hub of the village (The Pub) is fantastic.
    Christmas is also the best day for anyone in the licensed trade to work. For every round bought, you are always offered one for yourself! (Bar Staff/Landlord), so I’m either going to get very drunk or have lots of tips, so it’s definitely a win/win situation!
    My Christmas message/Wishlist is as follows:-
    I’m more than dreaming of a white Christmas, I’m praying for it
    Don’t worry about the early Christmas ads, just think, in January Cadbury’s Creme Eggs will be on the counters in their various guises!
    Will I wear my Bah Humbug Hat – YES Except on 24th/25th/26th!
    Support your local pub! They need your support at Christmas more than ever!

  4. Charlotte Sansome · November 15, 2013

    Great blog, as ever!
    So I should probably come out and say it straight away – I LOVE Christmas, possibly an unhealthy amount. But for me it’s not just about Christmas day, but the whole season. Everywhere looks nicer, everyone seems to be in a better mood. We see more of our family in December than any other month by far, and all ‘just because it’s Christmas’. Not to mention the copious amounts of good food and it being socially acceptable to drink before midday…

    In our household, the adverts are the first indication of Christmas. Seeing the first coca-cola advert is exciting! The much-awaited John Lewis Christmas advert this year was fantastic – a brilliant piece of marketing. And so magical! Perhaps this is too much enthusiasm for a Friday morning in mid-November, but the point stands. I think if adverts are correctly executed and built on year after year, they can become part of the Christmas season themselves, and that really is clever advertising – when the advert becomes more than an advert, but part of a social tradition, embraced by people watching.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s