If you watched any TV over the holiday season, then you’ve likely seen the same 1.5 billion ‘warm and fuzzy’ holiday ads that I saw. You know the ones: dimly lit fireplaces, perfectly set tables, matching holiday sweaters, overly staged kisses, gently falling snow and…well, you get it.
Now, I am not here to suggest that these idyllic representations of holiday bliss aren’t an inspirational way to envision the time of year. Nope, I am not going to be that Grinch. But, I am going to suggest that when it comes to advertising your brand to your ideal target, that you keep in mind the experience they are really having. You might be surprised by the different ways you’re able to connect with them when you listen to their real life experiences
Allow me to provide a few personal examples.
I am a working mom with grade school-aged kids. So, if you are targeting me, or parents like me, there are some things to keep in mind about the holiday season:
- Idyllic is great, but I need permission to be imperfect, too.
During the holidays, parents like me use every waking, breathing moment to plan and prepare. In my house (and in many houses) Mom is the keeper of traditions. It’s my job to ensure that our favorite cookies are baked with only the special cookie cutters used every year (if anyone knows where mine are let me know, I am still looking for them). That, the stockings are hung exactly the same way we hang them every year. That, the holiday meal includes that 56-step sweet potato casserole that “we” always make (even though no one eats more than 2 bites of it). I try to create the ideal, but it never, ever goes exactly according to plan. And I would like the brands that are interacting with me during the holidays to remind me that imperfect can be perfectly idyllic too.
- Consider what I really need most from you right now.
I can think of only a few examples of brands over the years that have showed me that they understood what I was going through in the moment. But I will share two examples that I will likely never forget. The first was at J. Crew, at least 5 years back I was shopping with a husband and two kids (so three kids) in tow. It was freezing out so we had a pile of coats, hats, gloves, that special “Lovey” and the must-have “All pink blanket.” Of course, I somehow ended up carrying all of these items and shopping bags while pushing a stroller as I descended upon J. Crew. Like any store in the mall, it was unbearably hot and crowded. Yet, I had items on my list that needed getting and I was determined to power through! I succeeded and made my way into the 25-person deep line when an employee came over. She asked me two simple questions: “Can I hold your coats at the register while you wait in line?” And “Would you like a bottle of water?” I nearly WEPT. I could still weep thinking about it. You saw me, J.Crew employee, and you understood what I was really experiencing in the moment, and you connected with me in a way your brand never has before. Needless to say, J. Crew is still on the top of my go-to list for shopping.
The second example is from a more recent New Year’s Eve. We, like all parents, generally spend NYE pretending we are going to play games with the kids, make popcorn, have a dance party and stay up and watch the ball drop. In reality, we fall asleep in a heap on the couch by 9:15. This particular year, we decided to make it more fun for the kids and bring them to Residence Inn, a hotel by the Marriot. After a late (aka 7pm) dinner, I was beginning to dread the idea of finding ways to entertain my kids in a hotel room while we forced ourselves to stay awake past our bedtimes, when a miracle happened! A hotel employee stopped me in the lobby and said: “We noticed we have a few families with young kids staying here tonight so we decided to throw a little party.” As I turned around I saw collection of board games, popcorn, candy, little hats and noise makers. Again, I nearly wept. This, THIS, was exactly what I needed from this hotel at this exact moment. And I will be forever grateful. This is truly how you create a brand loyalist.
- The best way to really connect with me may be not during the season at all.
Now that the holidays are behind us and we have begun a brand new year. We are accosted by ads are about resolutions, being refreshed, reinvigorated, regenerated and whatever other word that starts with “re.” Yet, all I can think is – I am EXHAUSTED. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time with my family over the holidays, but “refreshed” I am NOT. How can I be when I spent my days off doing things like waking up at 4am to wrap gifts, googling recipes in the middle of the night and making a grocery lists so I don’t forget in the morning, ordering from Amazon while commuting to work, and while shoveling down lunch or while running on the treadmill (I don’t advise that one)? Then cleaning, organizing, cleaning, playing with the kids and cleaning. Did I mention cleaning? The thought of resolving to do anything other than sleep and throw away the leftover holiday food is completely overwhelming to me. If a brand were to really connect with me right now it would be by patting me on the back for all the hard work and maybe offering me something to help that holiday stress finally start to dissipate.
In short, finding ways to really connect with your core target audience means acknowledging and appreciating their unique reality, finding simple ways to provide solutions to their challenges in the moment and thinking about what they really need to hear and WHEN they need to hear it most. So, if you are going to make resolutions for your brand this new year, maybe consider putting these three on your list.