Can holiday marketers learn from this year’s presidential campaign? Compared to past years, this year we seem to be witnessing an election spectacle – not just because of the campaign’s tenor, but also because of the sea-change that is occurring in the media strategies pursued.

This year has truly ushered in a new era of political campaign media strategies as in many instances earned media bested paid media, mobile became essential to reach various constituencies, and programmatic buying allowed for efficient, scalable audience targeting. These new realities of political campaigning are also the new realities for holiday marketing.

In a presidential election a lot is at stake for those in and outside the US. In the Q4 holiday season what is at stake for marketers and their brands, according to The National Retail Federation, is $655.8 billion of consumer spending. That is a lot of dollars up for grabs. So the question becomes – what media strategies are going to be most effective in earning a piece of that holiday spending pie?  With the election campaign as our teacher, here are some lessons learned:

  • Earned media has been advertising currency usually minted through PR, but today’s reality is that influencer marketing drives as much, if not more, return on investment. Case in-point, the combined estimate of earned media value for the two presidential candidates (both influencers) is over $5 billion. For holiday marketers achieving that scale of “free” advertising is not realistic, but what is realistic is implementing an influencer marketing program that amplifies their presence beyond their paid media placements.
          The beauty of influencer marketing is that it does not require a single partner (a presidential candidate) with an extremely large following. In fact, for many holiday marketers it can be much more effective to work with a group of smaller reach influencers who have organically grown passionate loyal audiences. To leverage the power of these niche influencers it is important to work with an experienced partner who can help with program ideation, influencer recruitment and management, as well as program implementation. Be forewarned, the most successful brand/influencer relationships are honest, organic and authentic and have a common ground that simply makes sense. Download our latest Influencer Guide to learn more about how you can ensure whatever influencer program you put in place hits all these pillars.
  • Little needs to be said about the shift that has occurred amongst consumers and the devices and platforms they use to access content. The demise of daily/weekly print media is well documented and the supremacy of TV is being challenged if not replaced by mobile devices. Smartphone usage was at 42% during the presidential election in 2012 and is projected to grow to 70% this year. The most present effect of this shift on the presidential election is the rapid adoption of mobile technologies by campaigns to solicit donations, reach and engage with key voter groups, and distribute campaign videos and content.
          Making mobile all the more relevant for holiday marketers is the fact that the NRF is forecasting mobile sales to increase between 7-10% to as much as $117 billion.  With consumers placing greater importance on quick access to information, branded apps and mobile advertising are just the places to find success. Mobile advertising – video and rich media – create a streamlined consumer experience that’s ripe for interaction. Mobile also allows for more personalized advertising, tailored specifically to where a consumer is and what they’re interested in. Geotargeting can be used to engage with people in a unique way while near or in a physical store location (encourage store visit with a coupon code). In order to win over consumers this holiday season – and particularly millennial and GenX consumers, holiday marketers must leverage mobile.
  • eMarketer projects that programmatic’s share of all digital display ad spending will grow from 45% in 2014 to 63% in 2016. That massive growth is testament to programmatic buying’s effectiveness as a digital marketing tool for commercial brands. The presidential campaign’s media strategists have recognized this success and have used programmatic channels throughout the campaign cycle to hyper-target the modern, multi-platform using, “always on” voters – at scale. Sound familiar – a holiday marketer must hyper-target the modern, multi-platform using, “always on” consumer – at scale.
          There are a number of considerations for holiday marketers to keep in-mind as they pursue a programmatic strategy:

    • Since most modern consumers live and engage with media across devices, it is essential that a programmatic holiday campaign works the same way.

    • Data is what makes programmatic buying so smart and effective. Whether it is proprietary data available from a programmatic platform, a brand’s 1st party customer data, or 3rd party data segments – use them, alone or in combination, to enhance the effectiveness of a campaign.

    • Focusing on specific geographical areas and tailoring creative messages offers a unique opportunity to reach consumers with a heightened interest in certain products.

    • Private Marketplaces (PMPs) afford holiday advertisers the opportunity to create pockets of inventory targeting specific audience segments, content type or creative formats. PMPs give holiday marketers greater pricing predictability for acquiring supply, as well as greater control over placement.

    • Creative still reigns king. Programmatic has improved the ability of holiday marketers to reach consumers, but this means creative needs to reflect this enhanced ability. Explore using high-impact formats such as interactive in-stream, and mobile or desktop rich media in the programmatic portion of your holiday marketing program.

Unlike a presidential campaign, the holiday selling season provides marketers with a short window to gain consumer awareness, consideration and finally get them to act and make a purchase. Using a combination of tactics that includes influencer marketing, mobile advertising, and programmatic buying can help ensure moving consumers through this funnel. As important as these media tactics, holiday marketers must also be thinking about deploying campaigns that work flawlessly across devices, use data effectively and employ engaging creative.