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Holiday Marketing in the COVID-19 Era

Halloween decorations disappear overnight, replaced by evergreen garlands and wreaths. My mother-in-law is known for her “Thanksgiving Tree,” decorated with red, orange and yellow ornaments until the day after Thanksgiving, when it finally becomes a Christmas tree.

The marketing industry seems to follow the same logic as my relatives. Holiday advertising was already in full swing as retailers prepared for the shopping season. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work and buy. Communicators must adapt to these changes and implement innovative strategies to make the most of their seasonal marketing efforts.

Paid Media in a Pandemic
The use of the internet has steadily increased over the last decade. The pandemic only cemented this fact, generating a 215% increase in the amount of time Americans spent online accessing current events and global news. A similar trend is being observed in American purchasing behavior, with 71% of adults reportedly planning on doing their holiday shopping digitally this year. This shift has led experts to expect a 35% growth in 2020 holiday eCommerce sales, more than doubling the 15% gain in 2019.

From a marketing perspective, this means reaching an engaged target audience is easier than ever before. Increasing your digital advertising presence and developing a diverse portfolio of ad buys will be crucial throughout the pandemic and beyond. Social media and podcasts/digital radio are growing mediums to invest your ad dollars in. The number of users for both has been steadily climbing, leading experts to predict that social and podcast ad spending will continue to increase through 2024.

During an economic downturn, it’s common to reduce paid media spending in an effort to cut down on costs. However, this decision can have an enduring negative impact. According to Centro, 80% of companies that reduced ad spending had not regained their pre-recession growth rates three years after the downturn. This one-pager outlines other costs of “going dark” during a recession, including the weakening of brand loyalty and loss of market share.

Earned Media as a Budget-Friendly Option
If you have to cut back on ad spending, consider increasing your earned media efforts to mitigate loss. The increase in news consumption during the pandemic has elevated earned media as a cost-effective option for you to continue to reach your target audience.

Tried-and-true pitching tactics remain effective, even during these unprecedented times. Keep your message brief and concise, make sure it is newsworthy and timely, and provide visual elements whenever possible. Broaden your reach by pitching to a variety of mediums in your efforts, from established news outlets to bloggers and social media influencers. Don’t try too hard to tie your product or services to the coronavirus, as this can come across as distasteful.

Focusing on your owned media is another budget-friendly way to reach your community and elevate your brand. Check out this previous Hirons’ blog post by Olivia Barickman for more information on how to optimize your owned media channels.

Survival of the fittest has always ruled the marketing and advertising industries, but COVID-19 has pushed these stakes are even higher. As we approach the busiest and most wonderful time of the marketing year, adjust your company’s marketing strategies to not only ensure you survive the pandemic but also set you up for success in the years to come.

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