Holiday Marketing with a Mission

With the holiday season upon us, consumers are out in full force - shopping, participating in events, shopping, spending time with friends and!! Who can ignore it? It’s hard not to shop when your nation dedicates itself to, and encourages, shopping during a few special weeks of the year (Black Friday, etc.). But just how much are we talking about? Well… 

  • Last year between Thanksgiving and New Years, the average spending per person was over $800 for the second year in a row – with more than half of shoppers splurging on non-gift items for themselves.1
  • In 2015 holiday sales increased 3% to $626.1 billion – with non-store holiday sales growing 9% to $105 billion.2

Those numbers are huge! And slightly alarming, when I think about the many unnecessary purchases I probably made last year… However, what’s interesting to ponder is how brands stand out from the pack during this crazy time, and why they are the ones you actually choose to engage with and/or buy from.

From a brand perspective, one way to capture this kind of attention, consideration, and action is through mission-driven marketing. This focuses on the importance of brands building personal value for their buyers through branded connections and experiences – not just driving awareness. (Read more about mission-driven marketing here.) Brands that understand their audience and the need to provide this level of personal value vs. brand recognition will be more successful in gaining holiday revenue this year. With that said, now is also one of the best times of the year to push the envelope in marketing efforts and engaging buyers, as the holiday season often evokes greater levels of emotion, sharing, and communication between people.

Here are a few examples of mission-driven brand campaigns that stand above the noise this holiday season.

Allegro – English

 "English" is about more than the role language plays in unifying cultures. It also demonstrates the difficulties language barriers can pose as disparate generations try to connect with one another. Today in Poland many young people are leaving their homes in search of better jobs – a harsh reality that strains family ties. The question at the end of Allegro’s spot, "And you? What are you looking for?" (shown in Polish) resonates beyond Allegro’s services, as it puts the material goal in the context of a more emotional (and intangible) goal: forging connections and spending time with those you love, without losing too much in translation.  

H&M - Come Together

In H&M’s “Come Together,” viewers observe a train ride that’s experiencing severe weather delays – something we have all been through while traveling over the holidays. In order to pass the time and keep riders happy, the conductor asks for an emergency supply of holiday materials and requests passengers, who coincidentally are all wearing the latest H&M apparel, to head to the cafeteria car that has been converted into a winter wonderland. Although a simple concept and somewhat sappy, it reminds viewers of what the holidays are all about while also creating a fun, memorable impression of the brand. Most importantly, H&M remains subtle in their product marketing as they focus on building a personal connection with viewers and not selling the apparel.

Samsung VR – Unwrap the Feels

Although Samsung had somewhat of a rough year with their Galaxy phone batteries, this holiday spot highlights some of the (possibly forgotten) more positive brand attributes. In “Unwrap the Feels,” Samsung shows a family opening gifts together and using Gear VR for the first time. The message is about the experiences Samsung can create through virtual reality, and the freedom that comes with doing it from the comfort of home. It also showcases Gear VR as a valuable product in everyday life with its ability to transport users to new realities through non-intrusive means that may not be financially or physically possible otherwise.  

Spotify ad in the UK

Last example – Spotify’s year end message, “Thanks 2016. It’s been weird.” Pulling from their enormous collection of listener data, the brand highlights some of its most interesting, playful, and somewhat embarrassing user habits in an eye-catching out-of-home campaign to connect with listeners on a very real level. The example seen in the UK perfectly captured the brand’s role in users' everyday lives as it speaks to the type of need it can fill during moments such as the historical UK “Brexit” vote. Without getting into politics, Spotify showcased its relevance in users’ everyday lives by poking fun at their reactions with its playful data points. The campaign succeeded at extending its brand mission that music is for everyone, while also providing an interesting window into the experience it can provide prospective users.


1. Average spending per person during the holiday season was over $800 for the second year in a row, with more than half of shoppers splurging on non-gift items for themselves. (SOURCE: NRF)

2. Holiday sales in 2015 increased 3 percent to $626.1 billion — solid growth considering the unforeseen weather events across the country and an extreme deflationary retail environment. NRF forecasted total growth, including online sales, of 3.7 percent. Non-store holiday sales grew 9 percent to $105 billion. (SOURCE: NRF)