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Celebration Scarcity: Joy to the (Socially Distanced) World

When you think “holidays,” what images come to mind? For some, it’s Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want” depiction of the Thanksgiving feast; for others, the Leg Lamp from “A Christmas Story” or the “Santa Baby” scene from “Mean Girls.” While diverse and multi-generational, these memories have one characteristic in common: they’re full of joy. 

With stores stocking up on holiday decor, it’s clear that celebration is still a permanent fixture of our fall-to-winter culture. But, unlike in years past, 2020 simply hasn’t given us a ton to celebrate. So while the proud few continue their annual traditions, the reality is that most customers are really not rushing to buy advent calendars or Halloween costumes.

Because families seem to be lamenting more often than laughing, we expect that consumers will approach the holiday season this year with trepidation. In fact, our recent survey of over 1,000 U.S. consumers found that 63% of respondents said the pandemic has negatively affected their attitudes about holiday shopping itself.

How should brands react to this emotional downturn? How can companies succeed in a depressed economy?

In our three-part holiday shopping series, we’ve addressed product scarcity when supply chains are disrupted and attention scarcity when consumers are distracted. Now, in the final installment, we explore something that has seriously been plaguing our shoppers: celebration scarcity.

Read on to learn how to connect with your customers, bring them some much-needed joy to their world and save the holidays!

What Is Celebration Scarcity?

COVID-19 and the subsequent recession are dramatically reshaping the way Americans celebrate the holidays. 58% of consumers plan to spend less money during this holiday season than in years past.

These discouraging developments will have severe consequences for brands that do not navigate the evolving (and, let’s be real, pretty grim) landscape with customer empathy. But before you deploy your holiday marketing plans, let’s level set.

What’s really going on out there?

Customer Spirit Is Trending Negative

Do you remember the Will Ferrell movie, “Elf”? If you do, you may recall that Santa’s sleigh was powered by holiday cheer. Without spirit, the sleigh is grounded. We’re all running a little empty on cheer, joy and spirit this season.

And that’s not surprising, given the sobering facts:

As a result, public health scientists say it’s easier to forecast the weather on Thanksgiving Day than to predict how the coronavirus crisis will play out this autumn.

With this data in mind, you would think that all the joy in the world is lost. That the holidays are impossible to celebrate.

But fortunately, you would be wrong.

How to Bring Joy to This Socially-Distanced World

Despite all the challenges this year hath wrought, humanity is resilient, and now it is more important than ever to spread holiday cheer. Folks will still celebrate major holiday events, and much like diamonds are made under high temperature and pressure, we think 2020 has opened up an opportunity for brands to get creative.

We believe we can still find things to celebrate all around us, and we should invite others to do the same. After all, our mission at Iterable is to connect people with products that bring them joy. So let’s do that.

But first, we have to remind them that there is a joy to be had in the first place! Here’s how leading brands are combating celebration scarcity by getting the recipe for fun and festive holiday email campaigns right.

Celebrate the Little Things

Finding time for yourself to relax and recharge can be a hard balance, even during non-pandemic times. It’s easy to get over-scheduled, overspent, and overwhelmed, which is why we find that the smallest celebrations—like hot cocoa, pumpkin carving and leaf crunching—tend to bring the most joy.

This holiday season, your customers are going to be spending most of their time inside and isolated. Many won’t be trick-or-treating or hosting massive Thanksgiving dinners. This makes it the perfect time to remind your customers about the magic of intimate holiday memories. Help them find solace in the small things that can be done alone, like self-indulgence and pampering!

This LUSH email is perfectly themed to drive excitement around the holidays. What’s better than a warm, spooky bubble bath to help soothe our pandemic (and Zoom party planning) anxieties?

LUSH Spooky Slumbers Email combats celebration scarcity

Bath and body retailer LUSH celebrates Halloween with this subtly spooky theme. Source: Really Good Emails

We love so many elements of this email, from the alliterative “Spooky slumbers” title, to the copy for particularly frazzled parents that asks, “Little monsters won’t go to bed?” to the clear and compelling “Get sleepy” CTA button.

Ferment Your Marketing With Fun

If one industry is booming right now, it’s alcohol: online sales skyrocketed by 339%, becoming the fastest-growing e-commerce department among consumer packaged goods, according to Nielsen.

There’s no reason why you can’t toast during the holidays this year, and we appreciate Winc’s playful email below with its “Post-Thanksgiving Recovery Plan: Drink More Wine” message.

Winc Thanksgiving Email

Wine subscription service Winc shares fun info—and a tempting offer—for the holidays.

You will likely need to change the context around how your products are sold this season—for instance, enjoying a glass of wine with your just your immediate family rather than popping champagne at a large New Year’s Eve party—but that doesn’t mean you can’t put the happy back in happy hour.

That’s Amore

People around the world are craving human connection in lockdown, and dating apps experienced a boost that proves romance isn’t dead.

We’re not trying to tell brands to shift their business model to online dating, but there is something to be said for getting creative about marketing during this time, and Crate & Barrel does an excellent job of doubling down on date night with its “Gothic Romance” holiday decor email.

Crate & Barrel Halloween Email

Crate & Barrel’s Halloween email is boo-tiful (we’ll see ourselves out). Source: Mailcharts

There’s always been a little romance attributed to Halloween. From “Sleepy Hollow” to “Hocus Pocus,” there’s something haunting about being haunted. While your customers might not be able to make it outside to partake in haunted houses and hayrides, you can still sway shoppers with alluring imagery of stay-at-home Halloween ambiance.

Finding Joy in Tradition

No matter the holiday, there are always family traditions. Some are modern phenomena, like The Elf on the Shelf, while others, like giving cookies to Santa, are classics that go back ages!

Traditions nurture the bonds that we’ve made over time, give a sense of purpose, and serve as a testament to what we find important. And right now, finding ways to entertain ourselves has become especially important.

This reactivation email by Disney+ inspires churned subscribers to come back and enjoy the tradition of movie night with their holiday favorites.

Celebration Scarcity: Disney+ Reactivation Holiday Email

Disney and Christmas? A dynamic duo of holiday family traditions. Source: Really Good Emails

We’re all watching more TV than usual, so turn the mundane into magical with holiday-themed messaging that will inspire customers to make special memories.

Get Creative With Gift-Giving

With families and friends farther apart, the value of a gift may mean even more this year. And even if purse strings are tight, shoppers still want to find ways to celebrate their loved ones—and treat themselves in the process.

That’s why this holiday gift email from Taco Bell wins over hearts and stomachs. It drives excitement around gift-giving and incentivizes the purchase with an extra $5 e-gift card (that’s like, five Cheesy Roll Ups!)

Taco Bell Holiday Email

Taco Bell promoting gift-giving (and getting) with this $5 bonus. Source: Really Good Emails

Remind customers of the joy inherent in giving and getting gifts, especially during a pandemic. Whether it’s $5 tacos or a $500 PlayStation 5, your brand can bring holiday cheer in a time when we need it most.

Spark Joy in This Socially Distant World

This year, brands have the opportunity to impact the holiday season with more than just gifts. They can increase anticipation, inspire creativity and form some new traditions. But first, make sure you know your customers. Then you can connect them to the products that bring them the most joy.

Address celebration scarcity and make your customers feel special this holiday season by crafting personalized marketing messages.

Don’t know where to begin? Take our Personalization Maturity Model quiz to better understand where you stand with regard to the four core pillars of personalization, so you can act on steps to level-up your brand’s customer experience.

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