Holiday Marketing Planning In An Uncertain World

What’s Coming Next has never been certain, but now more than ever we have to prepare for a wide variety of potential circumstances that will determine how a holiday marketing campaign might contextually succeed or fall flat. As we’ve started to plan holiday campaigns, we’re making contingencies for….


Shopping, travel, and online usage behavior in the US (as well as the rest of the world) continues to shift around new Covid-19 news. The validity of any data is in question, which makes it hard to predict what will happen as summer ends, but looking at the 2020 marketing landscape it’s a safe bet that because of Covid:

We’re keeping an eye on whether there will be another stimulus to boost holiday shopping and watching for early indicators of shopping trends. Until then, we’re making a wide set of contingencies for our holiday planning.

The Election

We’re still months away from November’s election cycle but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of ads and headlines already hitting our pixels. The 2020 elections, both local and federal will involve a record setting amount of money being spent on campaigns and creating more noise than ever on our online (and traditional) media outlets.

Who will win? We don’t know, but we do know we have to consider our customer’s potential joy, frustration, fear, relief, or any other emotions tied up in the upcoming local and federal elections when planning appropriate ad, sale, and landing page copy.

South Park famously released an episode the night of the 2008 election. They had an alternate version ready had the votes rolled in differently. If you have the capacity now, have your campaigns ready for any scenario.

Embracing the Gray Area Between Online + In-Store

In the same way that “digital marketing” has morphed into just marketing, “online shopping” is a term not used often. When people talk about buying or shopping, the need to make distinctions of how have become irrelevant. Nimble businesses have not only pivoted to having an online store and media presence, but have focused on unboxing experiences, personalized delivery, curbside pick-up, and set salespeople up with teleconference scheduling plugins to make online shopping as personal as possible. This year more than ever, brands don’t need to worry about the exact revenue mix between different channels, but do need to prepare to meet customers with world-class experience no matter where the customer wants to engage and shop.

Conditional Forecasting

Thinking about the unpredictable range of possibilities for this holiday season, we’re here to help you prepare for multiple outcomes so you’re ready to quickly make decisions and have your marketing assets ready. Getting your ads live before your competitors will give you a first mover advantage on each micro opportunity (IE- the first to boost a social post about your company’s climate initiative to progressives after their candidate has either won or lost, or having a winter version of your website ready to go in case you have to change hours and push normally in store business online.) To forecast appropriately you have to keep an eye on:


Buys and Bids each have pros and cons for online media placements and those attributes are exacerbated by our landscape of uncertainty. Facebook and Google ads keep you nimble, but as political and holiday advertisers start spending more, you should be ready for higher CPMs and fewer clicks. Increased demand will increase costs. Locking into a media buy with guaranteed inventory might get you more impressions at a lower cost, but you then need to be ready to deliver a timely message no matter the contextual environment.

Cross-network plans will give you the most flexibility to weather the coming turbulence. You should NOT be locked into one vendor (and their algorithm), strategy, or targeting group without understanding the risk that comes with it.

Personalizing Digital- With Heart and at Scale

Online might be your only interaction with customers this year. You need to create a digital experience as close to your in-store as possible.

The need for digital connections rises with the cost of your products. If you’re selling gluten free snack bars, an Instagram Live and weekly email content might be enough. If you’re selling high priced products or experiences you should be automating Zoom meeting requests to have your sales team or owner talk customers through their concerns.

Your fulfillment process should look different this year. Make sure you wow your early holiday shoppers with the experience they receive so they can become advocates for your brand. Beyond having a loyalty program, you should have a way to connect your mission with your customers so they can help you cut through the noise.

Understanding Risk Tolerance and Setting Appropriate Goals

Do you need Q4 to save the year? Get ready to swing big and create buzz.
Have you grown during Covid? Be ready to look for new avenues to stand out when opportunities present themselves.
Are channels that used to be generating revenue for you dipping? Be prepared to increase frequency or take new risks.
With so much uncertainty, you shouldn’t be waiting until the holidays to test big ideas or take new risks. Now is the best time to start trying something new.

Automate: Do the Work Now

If it has an API, you can automate it. Be ready to have ads that deploy based on weather (It’s snowing, make a reservation to ski!) the stock market (record S+P=sale pricing turns off), or anything else you can think of as an input. You can program your hotel ads to stop running if the California wildfires get too close, or your car ads to only advertise 4WD when there’s heavy rain incoming.

Game Theory

We’re happy to hop on a strategic holiday planning call with you to assess the likelihood of different events that will present challenges and opportunities to your holiday promotions. Once you’ve estimated the chance of both good and bad circumstances coming to be, we can prepare campaigns that help you thrive, keep your brand safe, and a backup evergreen ad that can run either way.

We want to hear from you! Let us know your holiday predictions, or brainstorm with us how your holiday ideas might play out over the next few months.