A Look at 3 Show-Stopping Holiday Campaigns

What do marketers have in common with the heroes of “Game of Thrones?” Here’s one thing: The knowledge that, no matter how warm it is right now, winter is coming.

For Jon Snow and company that means planning to endure a decade of cold (winter is very long in Westeros) while also fending off a zombie apocalypse. For email marketers, that means planning holiday campaigns should already be underway (which should be a little less terrifying). Here’s some inspiration for you: Profiles of three holiday campaigns that successfully use storytelling, emotion, humor, providing value, or user-generated content (UGC) – or a combination of those techniques – to engage customers.

Storytelling and emotion: H&M
H&M made a splash last year with a heartwarming and funny short film called “A Magical Holiday” featuring Jesse Williams, Nicki Minaj, John Turturro, and, of course, spectacular fashion choices showcasing the H&M line. If your budget doesn’t allow for producing your own movie with big-name talent, never fear. “A Magical Christmas” works not because of its production value but primarily because it makes wonderful use two techniques that don’t require much budget at all – storytelling and creating an emotional connection.

“Our brains are insanely greedy for stories,” writes Rachel Gillette in Fast Company. “We spend about a third of our lives daydreaming – our minds are constantly looking for distraction – and the only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us.” For more on storytelling, check out our deep dive into the topic.

As for emotion: “Research on advertising shows that the emotional response to an ad influences consumers’ intention to buy much greater than the ad’s content itself,” writes Shayna Smilovitz at Instapage. A powerful story that creates an emotional connection – as H&M does with this short film — is an unstoppable marketing force.

This short film H&M produced uses storytelling (and top talent) to create an emotional connection with viewers.

UGC: Starbucks
The coffee giant leveraged the artistic talents of its customers with its 2016 “Red Cup” campaign – a powerful example of putting UGC to work. Although the company had been using holiday-themed red cups since 1977, 2016 was the first year it featured customer designs on them. More than 1200 individuals from 13 countries submitted designs and 13 designs were selected  for the holiday cups.

But that wasn’t all. The company chose one day to sell coffee only in undecorated red cups, and invited customers to use them “as a canvas to create their own unique designs, snap a photo, and share through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #RedCupArt.”

UGC is one of the most powerful engagement tools for marketers. Consumers actively seek UGC before they make product decisions, and they actively sign up to receive updates from their favorite brands via email.


A Starbucks customer designed this cup as part of the company’s
2016 “Red Cup” campaign that used content created by customers.

Humor and value: Bonobos
Bonobos clearly knows its customers. The online clothing retailer understands that for many men (the people who wear the clothes the company sells) holiday preparation is often, shall we say, a last-minute undertaking. They recognized that a little help would probably be welcomed by these fellows. And they knew that if they sprinkled that assistance with a little humor, it might be very well-received indeed.

And thus, “Everything You Have to Do Before Thanksgiving Comes” was created. The message does three things well. It provides genuine value (useful holiday-related tips), it entertains with humor (who knows all their cousin’s kids names?), and it expedites purchases (the links to “something nice,” “new jeans,” “pants with elastic,” and “a sweater” indeed go to those products).

“This email clearly stands out,” writes Michal Leszczynski on the GetResponse blog. “The humor’s spot on. The copy looks like it was written by someone who understands the target audience very well.”

The lesson for marketers, Leszczynski writes: “Stand out, be creative, engage your audience, and show them that you understand them well.”

These techniques can help ensure you have your most successful holiday season ever. And – good news – we guarantee that winter will only last three months. (And we have our fingers crossed that no zombies are coming.)


This message from Bonobos does a great job of mixing genuine
holiday tips with humor (and links to actual products)