Charlotte Beech
Charlotte Beech 15 November 2021
Categories Search Marketing

Why Traditional Christmas Marketing Plans Have Been Ripped up for Good

There’s always been that sense that you shouldn’t start Christmas adverting too early; that there’s a time and a place when it’s ok to utter the c-word for the first time each year. It’s traditionally been when John Lewis releases its TV ad with a memorable song or lovable character towards the end of the second week of November.

However, this year it feels as if the rulebook has been torn up by most - with Christmas adverts being released earlier than ever before; but rightly so as research shows Christmas was already front and centre in many consumers’ minds, long before a pumpkin had been carved.  

And it’s likely that this year marks the start of a trend that’s here to stay, forcing marketers to rip up the rule book for good. 

Our research into consumer trends, while planning the #TeamEarly Christmas campaign for online retailer, confirmed what we already suspected – that people were starting their 2021Christmas preparations further ahead than ever before and – not just that – but would also be making this Christmas their biggest yet.

When we delved into the figures back in September, we found that almost half (48 per cent) of consumers had already started their Christmas shopping with only a quarter saying they would be leaving it until the last minute. 

Meanwhile, online searches for “Christmas” were higher in September 2021 than in the same period in the past 10 years, indicating that shoppers were already more active than previously. 

The lingering disappointment of last year’s ‘cancelled’ Christmas has no doubt played a contributing factor in persuading consumers to start the festive planning sooner. However, this ‘shop early’ trend is also no doubt being fuelled by headlines that have screamed of stock shortages and delivery delays for weeks now.

Almost 60% of consumers noted that they are expecting stock shortages to get worse in the run up to Christmas and a Mintel study hinted that uncertainty from the fuel crisis may also encourage early Christmas shopping.  

While multiple ongoing factors may have turbo-charged this change in consumer behaviour, it’s a trend that’s arguably been developing for quite some time now. The reality is that many consumers have been abandoning the more traditional ye olde Christmas shopping schedules for years and embracing initiatives that mean the season starts long before the elf is on the shelf.

While last minute Christmas shopping and the Boxing Day sales remain staples as unlikely to fall out of favour as turkey and stuffing, what we’ve seen over recent years is the Christmas marketing model adapting alongside changing consumer habits. 

Black Friday – once an exclusively US tradition – has been growing in popularity ever seen online US retail brands introduced it to the UK in the 2010s and has been increasingly embraced by British brands as its popularity snowballed.

Once again it was the dotcom brands upending the industry with an initiative that is now just as commonplace on the high street as it is on the internet. The Black Friday sales have also crept earlier each year with the traditional one day of sales now extending to over a week of deals and its success has seen it joined by similar days including Cyber Monday.

These shopping events have not just incentivised people to start shopping earlier but have also contributed to people spending bigger too.

In one study nearly a quarter of people (23%) said that they will spend more money this Christmas than they normally do; a similar poll found this was more than half, as 55% said they will make Christmas 2021 the biggest celebration yet.  

With so many cultural elements at play – from post-Covid mindsets that want to make up for the loss of family time due to restrictions, to spreading the cost because they’re worried about domestic heating costs rising – it’s essential that research drives decision-making and brands act quickly to make sure they stay relevant. 

While there is always much debate over whether displaying Christmas products on shelves in the summer months is just annoying, especially to those who don’t want to think ‘festive thoughts’ until after Bonfire night at least, the number of people who are planning ahead is increasing every year – to the point that this is where the smart money is!

For us, getting in early would be a good move for many brands who can deliver a campaign with the right sentiment and in the right channels. This Christmas more than ever will see people making the most of their freedom to spend time with loved ones and celebrate longer and it is the brands who tap into this mood in an authentic way who will get ahead.

For going early made sense because the whole brand ethos is about helping people to spread the cost of Christmas and shop wisely. So what if some people said ‘This is too early’? Talkability, in itself, helps to boost campaign awareness, especially in social channels.  

Bah humbugs, take note. This is one trend that isn’t going anywhere. In fact, if anything the festive season is likely to continue to creep earlier each year. Are we heading to a place where Christmas planning and shopping is – whisper it – an all-year-round activity? We may need a considerably bigger advent calendar…

Charlotte Beach is head of Creative Systems at MediaCom North.

Please login or register to add a comment.

Contribute Now!

Loving our articles? Do you have an insightful post that you want to shout about? Well, you've come to the right place! We are always looking for fresh Doughnuts to be a part of our community.

Popular Articles

See all
Five Ways to Gain Maximum Return on Your Videos

Five Ways to Gain Maximum Return on Your Videos

Without question, our collective appetite for video is fuelling more video-centric experiences online. Video’s ability to impart both emotional and practical information makes it a win-win for brands and consumers...

Juli Greenwood
Juli Greenwood 2 July 2024
Read more
Set Your Data Free With Web3

Set Your Data Free With Web3

In the first of our series of pieces looking at the top digital trends of 2023, lead web developer, Craig Wheatley, discusses what the current state of owning our own data is and how Web3 is revolutionising how it can...

Candyspace Media
Candyspace Media 1 February 2023
Read more
Get Your Ad Strategy in Shape For a Summer of Sport

Get Your Ad Strategy in Shape For a Summer of Sport

From the UEFA European Football Championship to the Paris Olympics, UK media companies and advertisers are limbering up for a super summer of sport. Below, we share three tips to get both on the podium this season...

Sarah Whitfield
Sarah Whitfield 13 June 2024
Read more
How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

How to Review a Website — A Guide for Beginners

A company website is crucial for any business's digital marketing strategy. To keep up with the changing trends and customer buying behaviors, it's important to review and make necessary changes regularly...

Digital Doughnut Contributor
Digital Doughnut Contributor 25 March 2024
Read more
7 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing is Important For Your Business

7 Reasons Why Social Media Marketing is Important For Your Business

In the past two decades social media has become a crucial tool for marketers, enabling businesses to connect with potential customers. If your business has yet to embrace social media and you want to know why it is...

Sharron Nelson
Sharron Nelson 29 February 2024
Read more