The holidays are a festive yet stressful time for most Americans. However, they are even more so for small business owners who are trying to get a larger share of the rampant spending that defines the season. How does your business handle the holidays? This is a question that few small business owners contemplate, but it truly has a huge effect on your branding. Here are the three most common approaches to the holidays along with their pros and cons.
Embrace the season. This strategy is perhaps the most common, especially among retail stores. However, going all out on the holidays can be both expensive and nonproductive, especially if you are not trying to promote a fun and festive brand image. One pro of this strategy is that many customers enjoy the holidays and thus will enjoy their customer experience all the more. The main drawback, outside of the expense and potential interference with branding, is that the many people who do not celebrate the holidays may be offended by the general mirth.
Hold back a little. A good example of this strategy can be seen in retail behemoth Macy’s. They retain their color palette and signature font while offering special holiday deals and decorating their stores modestly. This is a good intermediate plan that offends neither holiday lovers nor Scrooges. However, even this can backfire. Several years ago, the department store giant suffered a backlash when word got out that its employees were instructed to use the generic and politically correct ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than the Christian-specific ‘Merry Christmas’. Apparently holiday lovers are a force to be reckoned with, because Macy’s immediately changed their policy. One of the pros of this strategy is that it allows retailers to embrace the holidays with minimally potential for offense on either side. Also, by maintaining signature parts of your brand, you will not be acting in a way that confuses the public. However, the key drawback is that middle roads hold the potential for offending just about everyone.
Holiday? What holiday? Some businesses avoid the question altogether by changing nothing during the holidays, basically ignoring these huge cultural celebrations. This can be a good strategy for companies catering to niche markets that are not as involved in the winter holidays as well as those who want to promote a serious and stark image. However, this strategy cuts you off at least partially from the boon of the holiday spending frenzy. This is a risky route, so consult a brand consultant if you are thinking of going this way.
The holidays are not just about fun and gift giving; for many people, they have intense positive or negative emotional value. It’s important to examine what these times mean for you as well as for your target customer base. Any holiday strategy will have to be well thought out and sensitively implemented. There is a lot of money and goodwill to be made in the dark winter months, so acting carefully can pay off in huge ways.