Happy Between and BetwiXmas!
Before you scrunch your forehead wondering what the heck this holiday is, I just invented it.
Table of Contents | Volume 11, Issue 34
One of the author newsletters I get suggested creating a new holiday as a writing exercise. The reality is that all holidays that we currently celebrate started as nascent ideas and grew into time honored occasions.
For example, many cultures and religions marked different forms of harvest celebrations before the Pilgrims gave thanks for surviving their first year in the new world. It evolved over time. Leaders such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt used the holiday to rally public support to overcome adversities.
Between and BetwiXmas encompasses the period starting the Friday before American Thanksgiving extending through to the Sunday after New Year’s Day. It covers the entire end of year period marked by high purchasing related to the celebrations of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
Depending on how the calendar falls in any given year, the period can last from 61 to 75 days, averaging 68 days. It includes the following celebrations and sales:
- American Thanksgiving, an official national holiday. Over the years, it has become the family holiday and creates a terrible day of travel the Wednesday before since most people don’t want to use their vacation time for this type of family travel.
- Black Friday (including Color Days in Europe), marks the official beginning to the Christmas shopping madness. Over the years, retailers have extended their hours and promotional creativity to entice more shoppers.
- Small Business Saturday, a holiday created to focus on local businesses by American Express that no longer receives the marketing and financial incentives it originally had,
- Cyber Monday, a sales day that emerged with the growth of the Internet to spotlight online sales. Businesses that blur the line between consumer and business-to-business use this all-encompassing holiday to boost end of year sales with targeted specials.
- Giving Tuesday allows NFPs to promote their need for support after consumers have depleted their bank accounts and charged up their credit cards.
- Christmas the global holiday. Having started as a religious holiday, Christmas’s symbols have extended to the general public. For businesses, it provides a major reason for buying and gift giving as well as public outings. It is the biggest generator of revenue across most consumer businesses.
- After Christmas Sales. Consumer-oriented businesses use this period, generally a week, to clear out existing inventory. In addition to exchanges of unwanted gifts, these sales yank out the miserly among your customers.
- New Year’s Eve gets the partiers among your customers out of their homes to celebrate. This can be a high dollar night for restaurants and other forms of entertainment. It helps to offer your audience special deals to increase their overall spend.
Living in New York City, I feel the increased number of people who slowly trickle and then flood into Manhattan to see the cultural feast that the city becomes during this period. Among the highlights are:
- Thanksgiving Day Parade,
- Fifth Avenue’s Holiday Windows,
- Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, and the
- Times Square Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve.
The net result: Crowds everywhere so that nothing moves.
From a marketing perspective:
This is the period that makes or breaks your annual success. You spend days planning and perfecting your plans for this period. Once it starts, there’s little wiggle room to make many changes or improvements.
If your boss wasn’t watching, it’d be a good time to leave town. Unfortunately, someone needs to stay to keep these plans on track.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Create marketing promotions for each of the key celebrations. This provides the maximum marketing power to get your sales on track to excel.
- Use your prior year sales as a guide for creating new promotions. Measure your results over time to determine which ones yield the greatest sales and profitability. Realize that they might not be the same.
- Monitor your competitors. Remember that competitors can change and evolve over time. Once you or they find a new product or promotion, you’ll need to keep it going to maintain the same level of sales next year.
► How To Create Your End Of Year Content Marketing Without Really Working
The Economist perfected “End of the Year Content” before content marketing became a thing. Being British, they believed in celebrating Christmas fully. This meant closing the business for the last 2 weeks of the year.
To make up for the last week of the year’s missing print issue, the editorial staff developed a list of esoteric topics and developed long pieces around them. These gems were often the work of more than one editorial team. These articles were gussied up with charts and images consistent with The Economist’s guidelines.
Bundling this content in a special double issue created special benefits:
- The content was created and typeset during non-busy periods.
- The special pieces could be promoted in advance to create additional interest and sales.
- Buy additional outlets for this premium content.
- Create special offers to attract new subscribers.
The London-based team believed in releasing all the articles at once like the print edition. At the time, I ran marketing for the online division and wanted to stagger the release online to give visitors a reason to return to the site and increase traffic and related advertising sales. While I had a New York based technology resource who could handle this, the Editorial team’s decision was final.
The glimmer of marketing light was the fact that the additional promotion for this issue drove on-going traffic to the site and the content kept people there longer than average.
Fast forward —When Vox decided to update and sex up their existing content to supplement the work of their skeleton writing staff. During the last quarter of the year, they tracked the results of the new articles as well as the updated articles. They discovered that when they updated strong content, it brought in another round of readers and related traffic.
As soon as they saw this, they started reviewing existing content for update potential. Where possible, they added more red meat content. This included highly visual and/or video objects to attract non-readers.
- Plan your content marketing to include room for updated articles and pieces.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Create a set of “Best Posts of The Year”. Use your analytics to develop this content.
- Extract blog posts from every piece of long content. Then link to the full download. (BTW: It helps to make it free to download or share!)
- Collect insights from thought leaders in your niche during the year. Then spotlight these pieces of brilliance in a single blog post. When you publish the piece let other people know about it to help share the knowledge.
► How To Price Your Offering To Win And Keep Customers
Did reading this title about pricing make you want to hit the “Delete” button?
Don’t!!!!! (Okay—I like to use explanation points wherever and whenever I can! See I even did it there and here!)
Instead — just keep reading this article to help your bottom line. As a fellow marketer, I feel your pain. Pricing is by far the most difficult aspect of marketing. It makes or breaks your business.
As the Biden Administration has learned the hard way, just relatively good prices isn’t enough to persuade consumers that they’re doing better. The US economy has improved every month that Biden has been in office and the revised results show even better performance. US consumers have more actual dollars in their wallets and spending ability overall but the reality is that they don’t feel better off.
It’s perception. Many people get their pay and other income directly deposited into their bank or other financial accounts. They see it in an online website, email or text notice so they don’t experience the increase in a way that makes them realize that they have more money.
Similarly, consumers are used to using their credit cards or phones to pay for their everyday needs and use a form of online transaction for larger or ongoing expenses like rent and utilities. Again, they experience the same process.
But these consumers realize that prices have increased when it’s a purchase that they monitor such as filling your car with gas since you wait for the pump to work and check the receipt when you leave. While fuel costs have declined, this hasn’t registered yet with consumers since it takes time to become part of their weekly payments.
Another area where this appears is with special treat products such as cigarettes or ice cream. When I was at The Economist, they started the Big Mac Indicator to track the difference in the spending power of your money. (For more information on the Big Mac Indicator, click here: https://heidicohen.com/newsletters/oscar-and-the-seismic-marketing-shift/ )
Since we don’t eat Big Macs, we’re a Hagen Daaz indicator family. My husband and I indulged in high quality (or least relatively high priced commercially manufactured) ice cream. There are several retailers who offer our favorite brands and flavors within a few blocks of our apartment, and we’d choose our pints based on availability and price.
Hagen Daaz dove into the pricing fray first. Instead of increasing their price, they reduced the size of their container by an eighth thinking that people wouldn’t notice. While they still stated that the container provided 4 servings, they were much smaller (and better for your waistline.) As a result, the change translated to the need to frequently discount their product to encourage sales and reduce brand switching.
Then their competitors increased their prices allowing Hagen Daaz to increase theirs. Like their peers, their consumers became more price sensitive. They’d check the price by ounce and were willing to make subtle trade-offs based on price. Instead of looking at the retailer’s pricing tags, consumers started doing the math on their own using their smartphones.
These select ice cream brands realized that they could all increase their prices at the same time allowing them to increase profitability without losing customers. This approach worked until it didn’t.
At some point, consumers, like my husband and I, realize that the price for this indulgence has skyrocketed out of a reasonable range. Then we’re faced with a different set of decisions:
- Do we really need the ice cream in our regular diet? In this case, we stop buying any type of ice cream. At some point the retailer will start to use this valuable space for another product. If we want ice cream, we’ll get it as a treat from another source on special occasions.
- If we want it, can we reduce the number of servings we consume per week or can we switch to a more pocketbook friendly brand? In this case, overall ice cream spend goes down. It may result in higher purchasing of budget brands. Again, this is difficult for the premium products to rebound from.
The pricing challenge is that the consumer doesn’t realize that they have more money at their disposal and the increase in the cost of ice cream is relative. This is the problem that the Biden administration is dealing with.
Actionable Marketing Tips
- Test pricing changes in select markets whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, test prices using promotions that require your customer to show a coupon or code. This can reduce the number of people who actually use the price reduction.
- Check your pricing relative to competitors and close substitutes. I experienced this problem when I was at Bertelsmann since the senior management never allowed us to show the full range of competitive and substitute products. This is a form of marketing myopia that is prevalent across product types.
- Build community around your offering. This strengthens your audience’s association with you and allows you to charge a premium.
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