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The 31 Best Online Holiday Marketing Campaigns Ever

October 22, 2013 - Posted by Angela von Weber-Hahnsberg

Holiday ShoppingWith the holiday shopping season right around the corner, most businesses are already thinking about how to convince customers to buy. Of course, with online marketing exerting one of the greatest influences on consumers when it comes to where they shop and what they buy, companies are spending a lot of their time – and money – crafting online campaigns to entice shoppers to their stores.

One of the keys to making an online holiday marketing campaign successful is originality – so patterning your company’s campaign after someone else’s amazing idea is usually a mistake.

But there’s no harm in taking a look at what others have done in order to get your creative juices flowing. We’ve assembled a list of the 31 best online holiday marketing campaigns from the past few years to help you brainstorm.

1. Target: Of course you remember “The Christmas Champ” – Target’s commercials featuring that crazy lady who was a little too pumped about Christmas shopping were ubiquitous in 2011. But they weren’t just on TV – Target used the same theme in their online marketing as well. Poking gentle fun at enthusiastic shoppers, while also subtly implying that they are heroes for going the extra mile to get everyone on their list the perfect gift – and that heroes shop at Target – was an ingenious approach to take.

2. eBay: A couple of years ago, eBay went all out to promote the fact that their website solved the eternal holiday problem – what to get for everyone on your list, and where to find it at the cheapest price. Focusing on the differences your company brings to the table can help steer customers your way.

3. Best Buy: Best Buy harnessed the power of the competitive spirit in their online holiday marketing campaign “Game On, Santa.” When Mom came home from Best Buy with a cooler gift than the one Santa brought, the race was on. Activating that competitive streak in your customers can be a great way to garner sales.

4. OfficeMax: Everybody has played around with the “Elf Yourself” promotion from OfficeMax at least once – it’s been around since 2006! The brilliance of this online campaign is the fact that it’s customizable, personalized, and shareable – and funny, to boot.

5. Macy’s: Macy’s “Believe” campaign combined two approaches in its online marketing. It appealed to people’s natural urge to give during the holidays, by donating to the Make-A-Wish Foundation each time a child dropped off a letter to Santa in one of their special mailboxes. And it also appealed to the nostalgia of childhood Christmases, with an interactive online experience based on Christmas traditions.

6. Kmart: Kmart also combined two approaches in its Halloween costume marketing campaign last year – but theirs was a combination of a live event and social media. Staging a live dance performance with enough costume changes to earn them a Guinness World Record, and then streaming it live, while also covering it live on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, was a great way to integrate a unique event and online media. Kmart even invited mommy bloggers to the performance! Talk about covering all your bases.

7. American Express: Small Business Saturday was the brainchild of American Express – on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, usually dedicated to shopping at larger stores, AmEx encouraged people to patronize small businesses instead. They provided small businesses with free Facebook ad templates and scripts for tweets and Facebook posts to spread the word, helping others and themselves in one fell swoop.

8. Starbucks: Apps are always fun, especially when they deliver savings and deals along with a new game to play. Starbucks developed an app that did just that. Customers who bought coffee could use it to animate the pictures on their cups, and send egifts to friends. But it also gave them coupons they could use to get yet another caffeine rush.

9. Kohl’s: Remember that annoyingly catchy song recorded by Rebecca Black? The one everyone loved to hate? It was called “Friday” – and Kohl’s was brilliant to parody it in their Black Friday campaign. They took advantage of something that had already gone viral once, packaging it in a format sure to send it circling the globe virally again, and this time, to their advantage.

10. Rue La La: Rue La La is an online store that sells luxury items at a discount. Last year, they created a game that worked sort of like an Advent calendar – customers got to open a new gift every day via Facebook, and those gifts could then be used to buy items from their store. Capitalizing on everyone’s love of opening presents? Genius.

11. Zynga: Another company making use of its online marketing campaign for good, Zynga allowed users to purchase cute holiday gifts in-app, which then translate into donations to Toys for Tots.

12. Norton: Norton Antivirus is not exactly a company people would usually associate with the holidays – which is why their campaign was so clever. By creating holiday-themed commercials which directed people to a landing page with a memorable holiday-themed url, they were able to cash in on the holiday shopping frenzy.

13. Gilt Groupe: Another online retailer of discount luxury goods, Gilt Groupe partnered with RED, a charitable nonprofit, for the holidays. When customers dialed **RED on their cell phones, they received a text message with links to discounted RED products on gilt.com.

14. Red Cross: Normally, people just think of donating money to charities. But the Red Cross took advantage of people’s desire to donate tangible things, especially around the holidays. They developed a digital catalog of items people could pay to “donate.”

15. Coca-Cola: Coke does a great job of promoting a consistent holiday campaign across all their online and social media channels each year. In 2012, their theme was spending the holidays together – and everything, from website images to YouTube videos to Facebook updates to tweets, was perfectly coordinated to fit that theme.

16. Cisco: Another company using the holidays to give back, Cisco ran a campaign on its Facebook page where they donated four meals to the World Food Programme every time a fan commented on their page, telling them how they give back to their own community.

17. FedEx: In their online holiday campaign, FedEx poked fun at the diehard shoppers who camp out in front of stores on Thanksgiving night in order to remind customers that the services they provide are actually available year-round, not just at the holidays.

18. Zales: Most holiday campaigns use humor to get people’s attention. Zales went for emotion with their “You Make Me Melt” campaign in 2011.  From their commercials to their site and social media, they conveyed the feel of romantic snowy evenings to induce people to buy.

19. Walmart: Building funny stories around their products is one of Walmart’s fortes. In their commercials and online in 2011, Walmart focused on these stories – like playing “Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer” on a smart phone – with poor, trampled grandma right nearby.

20. Coca-Cola, again: Coke’s 2011 campaign, “Shake Up Christmas,” involved a video of Santa shaking up a snow globe, which apparently contained the real world, because people start sliding all over the place! Coke’s unified online approach to conveying their holiday message each year hits a home run again.

21. Macy’s, again: Teaming up with a star is another great idea for extra holiday leverage. Macy’s paired up with Justin Bieber in 2011, but instead of the expected screaming girls, introduced us to burly, grown men just as enthused about meeting him. Instantly viral.

22. Petco: To remind customers that pets deserve holiday gifts, too, Petco created a spokesdog named Buster to share with everyone what it is that dogs and cats want for Christmas. And as everyone knows, talking dogs are pure gold online.

23. Toys ‘R’ Us: The biggest toy store there is used nostalgia to get parents to buy in 2011. Promoting retro videos of their old commercials made parents want to share the excitement of their own childhoods with their kiddos today.

24. Cardstore.com: Promoting the ease of using their site to send out holiday cards by contrasting it with a crazed mom trying to actually enclose her family in a giant living Christmas card was pretty unique.

25. JC Penney: The “Who’s Your Santa” campaign JC Penney created in 2011 paired images of happy family members and friends spending time together for a heart-warming feel to their online marketing.

26. Victoria’s Secret: Well, you can guess what types of images this store uses in its marketing campaigns…but during the holidays, their aim is to attract men to buy for their wives. Focusing a campaign tightly on the audience you want to reach is a good idea for any business.

27. Garmin: In 2011, Garmin introduced a campaign making use of a good old-fashioned jingle – The Carol of the Bells, rewritten to focus on giving a Garmin for the holidays. Parodying an old holiday favorite is always a fun idea, sure to get shares and likes.

28. Kohl’s, again: Kohl’s 2011 campaign “Expect Great Things” focused not on the products they sell, but on the benefits of buying from Kohl’s. The holidays can be a good time to do this type of branding work.

29. Amazon: During Amazon’s Holiday Flurry Deals Week, this retail giant sends out emails detailing the chosen category for the day, such as toys or books, and then offers incredible deals to encourage people to buy.

30. Best Buy, again: In 2012, Best Buy decided to try something new. They hosted hour-long Twitter parties for moms and other demographic groups to share gift ideas. They also encouraged customers waiting in line for Black Friday to tweet pictures of something blue for a chance to win a gift card.

31. Radio Shack: Radio Shack went the Twitter route as well last year, giving customers riddles via Twitter, which they could then solve for a chance to win gift cards.

Got any plans in the works for your own company’s online holiday marketing campaign? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!

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