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November 18, 2013Christmas is getting earlier. Here’s why.

They say Christmas gets earlier every year. Particularly if you’re a copywriter. I wrote my first “Merry Christmas” some time in late September. Sure enough, the badly-written spam started flooding in on the first of November.

“Hey, it’s [Brand you bought something from five years ago] here! Guess what? We’ve got Christmas all wrapped up! [or some other lame pun]”

Great. Another one. *Clicks unsubscribe*.

Now, I can forgive the lazy copy. I’m a copywriter, I understand. Christmas is a time for trotting out the same old tired cliches. There is nothing new in Christmas advertising. It’s a ho ho ho and a reindeer and a Santa and a turkey and a snowman, while, of course, studiously omitting anything about Jesus Christ.

But what I can’t forgive is bombarding me with this crap in the first week of November.

Why don’t you just put “BUY MORE SHIT” in your email subject header and have done with it?

The reason why “Christmas is getting earlier each year” is because brands have got it fundamentally wrong.

They think that in order to ensure your business, they have to “get in first”. That winning your business is a little bit like winning a horse race: it’s first past the post.

Of course in reality purchase decisions are much more complicated than that. Which is why you might get a chart that looks something like this:

Awareness -> Familiarity -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Loyalty

This is conventional wisdom, it’s tried and tested.

The trouble is that when it comes to Christmas, sanity goes out of the window. And brands scramble for your attention like they’re scrambling for the last turkey in the shop.

You can see how it happens.

“But if we send out our crummy email newsletter in the second week of November, it’ll be too late to generate maximum awareness! People will have already reached saturation point!”

Or:

“Ahh, well I suppose a few people might start Christmas shopping early, so we need to start sending out messages urging them to consider our products as soon as possible, so as not to miss out on a single sale.”

So what you end up with is a barrage of advertising that gets earlier and earlier every year. We’re talking about the John Lewis ad at the start of November, folks? Really? We’re asking each other if we’re getting into the “spirit” of things yet before it’s even Bonfire night?

Well here’s a much simpler model.

People see an ad -> They buy something.

Sometimes it takes months. I recently worked on an ATL campaign for a flat sharing service where our goal was to increase brand recognition and improve brand sentiment. Because who sees an ad and immediately says “yup, that’s it, I’ve gotta move house!”?

No-one, right?

Our aim was to get people to remember the brand in six months to a year when they’re ready to move.

And that’s what good advertising should be doing all year round. Putting the message in the back of your mind — this product, this brand, it’s good.

Yes, there’s a funnel — from consideration to purchase. But I prefer to think of them as two separate things. One is about awareness. It’s ambient. It’s brand building. It’s separating yourself from the background noise.

But the other thing is a targeted, timed call to action. See this ad, buy this product. Now.

Try to do both and you end up doing neither.

And that’s where Christmas marketing really falls down. It believes that to rise above the background noise, to make people make purchasing decisions, you have to get in earlier and earlier every year. Because it’s the start of a two month long funnel, from awareness to consideration.

It’s not.

Awareness is all year round. Consideration should come close to purchase.

So…

If you send me your Christmas mailer in the first week of November, chances are I’ll have forgotten all about your product by December.

Yet year on year we send out these messages earlier and earlier because we’re obsessed with being the first, not being the best, or even the most timely.

That John Lewis ad you were all going nuts about last week? Forgotten about by the time you actually get round to buying anything.

TL;DR?

Keep your f***ing Christmas ads in December.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 18th, 2013 at 3:43 pm and is filed under Advertising, Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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