Small Business Holiday Marketing: 3 Campaigns You Must See

3 Ways To Get Attention During The Holidays

dec-12-santa-flashmob-gctThe holidays are a particularly challenging time to get your message through.

People take advantage of the holidays to reach out and connect with family, friends and colleagues via a variety of platforms.

As a result there’s more communication than usual making it tough to attract attention for small business holiday marketing.

From a street’s eye view, retail isn’t going ka-ching this year. While I haven’t seen the data, my conclusions are based on the dressed up New York City stores where no one is buying. In the suburban malls, I saw stores posting up to 75% off signs yet only the kiddie rides and Santa have lines!!!

What’s a small business marketer to do to breakthrough???

Take a page from Apple: Think Different

Small business holiday marketing: 3 campaigns

This season there were 3  holiday marketing campaigns that small businesses can take inspiration from and adapt to attract attention and customers.

1. Amex’s Small Business Saturday

American Express (aka Amex) has focused on small businesses for a number of years. They’ve created an amazing content hub at Open.

To support their small business customers, Amex created Small Business Saturday. This is the day after Black Friday when the big retailers have their major holiday sales. American Express runs advertising and promotions to support shopping in local neighborhood shops. Small Business Saturday - American Express OPEN

To incent buyers, Amex has offered a cash rebate for shopping small making it one of my personal favorite promotions. I think it’s important to support local merchants.

This year Amex removed the shopper incentive. Instead they put their investment in helping stores to do their own traffic drivers. My favorite shops used sales and donations to entice shoppers.

Actionable Small Business Marketing Lesson:

  • Teach your customers well. Help your customers to use your products better. Giving them support in terms of content and people to enable them use your products better.


  • Mode Fabrics. It’s gained recognition from its work with Project Runway, does a great example of this. They offer sewing newbies free classes. The hook: You need to purchase your materials at Mode.

    Mood U Offers Free Classes To Teach Sewers

    Mood U Offers Free Classes To Teach Sewers


2. Miller Lite’s Bad Christmas Sweater

Who says out-of-home advertising doesn’t still get attention? It does if you’re in NYC or LA?

Miller Lite’s advertising agency, TBWA went old school to drive new school WOM. They dressed a Times Square billboard in a bad Christmas sweater. Who can’t relate to that?

Even better, they tapped a local yarn artist London Kaye from Brooklyn, the cool area of New York City. She’s known for her crocheted yarn bombing (Translation: You’re wrapping some public item with yarn, often knitted or crocheted.)

Yes, I liked this promotion not only because it was in my hometown but also because it involved yarn (in case you didn’t know, I’m an avid knitter). You got me!!!

Okay—most small businesses can’t afford out-of-home advertising.

But you can still think old school marketing such as shop windows, flyers and hand written notes.

Actionable Marketing Lesson:

  • Stand out by going low tech. Connect on an emotional level like the awful holiday sweater. If you can’t afford Times Square advertising, you can creatively entice your core shoppers.


  • Recently, a local drugstore had a party in Soho complete with champagne, a DJ and an area for photographs.
  • Once a year, the New York City yarn stores work together to create a yarn crawl on a designated weekend. This is a grown up version of a scavenger hunt to encourage buying with prizes awarded based on finding a knitted object in each store. It encourages shoppers from outside of the city and gets knitters to try new options.Small Business Example: NYC Yarn Crawl Map
  • Trader Joe’s always has an area where they give shoppers coffee and snacks. In addition to giving an energy boost to shoppers, it encourages people to try new products that aren’t on their list.

3. Hootsuite turns the Grinch into a social media troll

Hootsuite did a spin on Dr. Seuss. (Check out our spin on the Grinch and social media!)

Hootsuite’s email stood out in my inbox. It was a great example of small business holiday marketing and spoke to people familiar with the Grinch. Its subject line was a play on the story.

Hootsuite: Example of Small Business Holiday Marketing

Hootsuite: Example of Small Business Holiday Marketing

Even better, scroll down and the content imitates Dr. Seuss’s style. It’s fun.

They didn’t use the content to sell me. They were talking to social media marketers that have problems with trolls. (BTW, if you’re having trouble with ratings, check out ManipuRATED.)

They went a step further and included a shareable Slideshare.

If you’re looking to try this type of work, run it by your legal department or lawyer. You don’t want to infringe on someone’s intellectual property.

Actionable Marketing Lesson:

  • Entertain your customers with relevant content. Don’t sell. Have fun and help them to have fun.



To win at small business holiday marketing, add joy to your target audience’s life in addition to your promotions.

When it comes to small business holiday marketing, it’s not just about the sales enticement. It’s about something bigger. It’s about building a relationship with your customer by being human. This works no matter what size your business is.

What was your favorite holiday promotion this year and what marketing tips can small businesses get from it?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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