These Brands Don’t Add to the Holiday Marketing Drivel

6 minute read

Upland Admin

why holiday marketing sucks

Holiday marketing. Gross.

As consumers, we’re pretty skeptical of brands around this time of year. We all know they’re trying to get us in their stores and onto their websites with wallets open and credit cards out. We know they’re trying to capitalize on all the mixed up emotions that come with the holidays. Damn them.

Holiday marketing. Gross.

Often, holiday marketing efforts are easy to ignore; they’re cliche and uninteresting. The message doesn’t connect with us. It’s not funny. It doesn’t make us think—at least about something other than the fear of choosing gifts that prompt an awkward “Ooooh. I love it. No really. And what do I use this for?”

But there are some brands out there getting holiday marketing right. They’re finding ways to stand out, either because they surprise us and hit the funny nail on the head, or because their messages are rooted in something deeper than your wallet. Here are a few.

Patagonia Tells You Not to Buy New Stuff

patagonia does holiday marketing right

Last year’s Worn Wear campaign encouraged buyers to think twice before purchasing something new. It was a celebration of fixing the items we already own, as opposed to buying something new. And this year, Patagonia is taking a step further.

Patagonia partnered with an app called yerdle. Yerdle allows users to give and receive items for free or for store credit. The two companies are joining forces for the holidays to encourage people to, as yerdle puts it, “either love what you own, or pass it along to someone who will.” Basically, you can either join in the traditional Worn Wear Swap, where you bring in used Patagonia clothing and exchange it for something off the Worn Wear Rack, or if you don’t like the selection, you can exchange your used item for yerdle credits which you can then use on their site/app to buy the things you need by searching through things posted by other yerdle users.

A call-out on consumerism, and an assertion of values: this is why fans of Patagonia are brand-loyal.

Brands Close Their Doors on Thanksgiving

And when it comes to retailers, there’s a push to remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. Why? Like Patagonia, a few companies are connecting with buyers over shared values.

I’m not naive. I know companies expect some returns on these warm fuzzies. There’s certainly a marketing and revenue benefit here.

64% of people who say they have a relationship with a brand cite “shared values” as the primary reason. And the impact of emotional connection on purchase spans both B2C and B2B companies.

These companies are playing the long game, using this Thanksgiving holiday to market their values instead of their products.

McSweeney’s Drops the F-Bomb, Many Times

mcsweeney's drops the f-word in holiday marketing

*Note: If swear-word explosions shock your system, don’t click on the links in this next paragraph. This is your warning. I don’t want to be responsible, and also, I’ll feel bad about it. My holiday spirit is at stake here, people.  

In one of my favorite emails of fall, McSweeney’s marketed a mug. But this isn’t any mug. It celebrates two things that—you would think—go together like nuts and gum, but are actually a perfect match: gourds and the f-bomb.

Once the initial shock of seeing a brand market to me with expletives wore off, it was replaced by gleeful giggles. And not only did I immediately click-through to the purchase page, but I clicked on the link in the mug’s description. It took me to “I f***ing love fall.” And I was rewarded with an even more irreverent post about fall, gourds, and a glorious weaving together of words brands normally avoid.

I forwarded the email to my friends. I also sent them the link to the article. And as I write this, the $12 mugs are completely sold out.

This can be a risky play for some brands. McSweeney’s, though, knows its audience. And the risk paid off. They captured attention and hearts with a little shock and a lot of swearing, and I, for one, now open every email they send me with hopeful anticipation.

Moosejaw Tweets Something Very Random and Very Hilarious

moosejaw's one holiday marketing tweet

This, to our knowledge, is the only Thanksgiving marketing we could find from the clothing company Moosejaw. And we think it’s hilarious.

Moosejaw understands that they don’t necessarily need to market their products over Thanksgiving, but if you give buyers a taste of your humor and personality (and also the opportunity to ponder a very deep question), you’re going to stick in their brains when they do think about where they’re going to shop over the holidays.

We applaud this tactic—and appreciate the unforgettable picture of 10 turkey-sized horses now burned into our imaginations.

Disigual Gets Folks Naked

Desigual gets people naked this holiday season

Photo credit: Desigual

This season, Disigual is marketing to the outrageous. They tapped into a powerful concept, something many people connect with. They gave buyers the opportunity to do something a little crazy and exciting: get naked.

The pitch is, first 100 people to show up at their store naked, get completely outfitted for free.

People like to tell stories. Their own stories. And showing up half-naked (or fully nude) in public could certainly elicit a story or two: a status update on Facebook, an Instagram post, and probably lots of local news stories. How many people are actually doing this for the clothes? I’m gonna say the free outfit is an incentive that’s about half as exciting as telling your friends you showed up cold and in your skivvies with other wild and crazy folks.

They gave people a chance to do something outside most of our comfort zones, and they gave them an incentive and a community to do it with. 

Holidays Schmolidays

As marketers, we notice these kinds of campaigns—because they’re different, and sometimes powerful. They make us laugh and raise our eyebrows. They connect. And no, they aren’t for everyone, and I’m sure a few of them get some flack from folks. But even if you hate the f-word and gourds, there are a lot of people buying that mug.

So happy f***ing holidays. And keep your eyes open for the good, the bad, and the ugly marketing this season. ‘Tis all around.

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