Christmas is an expensive time of year for everybody – particularly retail businesses as competition intensifies around the seasonal period. In fact, brands spent a record £6bn on Christmas advertising alone last year. That’s not to mention the cost of Christmas-themed point-of-sale materials, seasonal collateral, digital elements, visual merchandising and reindeer antlers for sales associates.
Short term brand change programmes can also place considerable pressure on a company’s people, budgets and organisation, which is made worse when the process is managed inefficiently. The importance of efficient management of seasonal brand change is also highlighted by the fact that, on average, every 1 Euro spent on creative will be matched by 20 Euros spent on implementation.
In my experience with leading brands, improving the structure, control and efficiency of investment in brand implementation can result in an average cost saving of 25%. Based on that experience, here are three key questions for retail marketers to consider before undertaking the investment.
What’s the process behind the ‘big idea’?
The run-up to Christmas Day seems to start sooner than ever, and recent imports like Black Friday have added more key dates to the calendar. With retailers jostling for position, it’s tempting to end up with a cluttered and unfocused calendar of activity by jumping headfirst into a ‘big idea’ without considering the process behind the brand campaign.
Successful seasonal campaigns tend to take a long-term view and adhere to a core brand promise that reflects their activity throughout the year. Focusing on the process rather than the big idea can help to clarify and refine the campaign message for consumers during a hectic period – which may also boost sales.
To achieve a coherent seasonal change, we recommend running all activity through a central planning office that sets the brand strategy and buying principles. This means regional offices will make orders centrally and implement them locally, which will reduce waste and support corporate sustainability goals.
Does the campaign ‘promise and prove’?
Brands love to play on our strong emotions and memories around Christmas when rolling out their biggest campaign spend of the year.
But their investment is not just about sending a message of festive cheer: it’s also an opportunity for the brand to ‘promise and prove’ as part of a long-term brand building exercise. In that sense, the Christmas campaign should not be developed and managed in isolation – instead it should be rooted in a year-round brand strategy and considered a long term brand-building exercise.
Managed effectively, a Christmas campaign can have a considerable long term impact. John Lewis is the perfect example: their remarkable ad campaigns work in concert with the in-store and digital buying experiences to make an enticing brand promise and deliver it emphatically. By tugging on our heartstrings, their Christmas campaign lingers long in the memory.
However, a word of warning: brands that stray too far from their core values at Christmas can also negatively impact brand perception among consumers.
What are the key people, processes and tools?
Even if a retailer’s ‘big idea’ around Christmas is emotive and compelling, inefficient management of the brand change risks scuppering some of that magic by giving customers a glimpse ‘behind the curtain’ of how the business works. In turn, this can drain value from a retailer’s Christmas activity.
To reduce potential waste, we recommend running a full audit on all ‘people, processes and tools’. ‘People’ are the employees who represent the brand, ‘processes’ refer to the nitty gritty of applying the brand consistently across all touch points and ‘tools’ are the resources that provide employees with the opportunity to apply the brand consistently. This will give you a complete picture of every brand touch point that will be impacted, helping you manage how the change is costed and implemented.
Auditing and carefully managing the impact on these three areas will help to create a seasonal brand strategy that is cost-effective and impactful while also staying true to the brand’s year-round promise.
By Jo Davies, managing director, VIM Group