Well, readers, we did it. We made it through another holiday season. We decked halls, lit candles, exchanged gifts, and worked our tails off on either end of that. Now that we’ve all had a chance to catch our post-holiday breath, I need to break some news to you. And that is: ‘tis the season!
No, not that season. But it’s a season. Really, it’s always a season somewhere, and there’s no need to restrict your seasonal marketing ideas to Christmas. And marketing is a year-round endeavor. Each season has its own unique “flavor,” and there’s no shortage of ways to make your marketing campaigns timely. To give you an idea of what we’re talking about, have a look at this list. Not every idea is suitable for all businesses, but they could at least spark an idea for you. And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can swap the seasons to match the holidays as you see fit.
- Spring Cleaning — The arrival of spring brings with it the return of warmth and the promise of renewal. And it’s often a time when people start cleaning their houses as part of that promise. Retail businesses can do “cleanings” of their own, by offering steep discounts on winter merchandise. On the hospitality side, coffee shops can market their products as “fuel” for the cleaning, selling hyper-caffeinated coffee drinks.
- Fool Me Once (a Year) — April 1 is the only day of the year when it’s socially acceptable to mess with people’s heads, and the e-commerce site ThinkGeek has been doing just that to its email subscribers since 2001. Disguised as their standard Product Highlight newsletter, they offered completely bogus items, like Caffeinated Meatloaf and a set of purposeless black boxes. Any business can riff on this idea, sending out fake newsletters to its customers for a laugh. Not every marketing idea needs to lead to a sale, and this is a great way show your business’s human side.
- Flowers are Blooming — Spring is all but synonymous with flowers, and nurseries and garden centers do big business during this time of seed sowing and starter plants. This is a good time to start content marketing on garden topics, for flower or veggie gardens. Or both—flowers make excellent companion plants to veggies for many reasons, something you should be writing about to demonstrate expertise (and drive sales).
- Easter — Easter, as everyone knows, is a day of observance, commemorating that time a bunny rose from the dead and invented egg-shaped chocolate. Billions of people celebrate it, so maybe don’t make offensive jokes about it in your marketing. Instead, host an easter egg hunt in your store. Or take that idea a step further, and let your customers know in advance you’ve hidden easter egg discounts in your website and app. Give them a clue to get started and then send them on their way
- Mother’s Day — This is another huge retail holiday, and you be sure that discounts and sales will be offered by everyone and, well, their mother. Don’t forget to honor the day, though. Take to your social media platforms, and showcase (willingly participating) mothers of your staff. Have them write something nice about them to accompany the photo, and encourage your followers to do the same.
- Earth Day Promotions — April 22nd is Earth Day, which is a nice time to try and market your way to doing some good in the world. If you’ve got earth friendly products, you should absolutely talk that up. But don’t just stop there: get involved in the cause by hosting a cleanup day and offer discounts to participants.
— IKEA USA (@IKEAUSA) April 22, 2015
A simple Earth Day Marketing Campaign from Ikea
- April Showers Bring April Shoppers — April is notorious for its rainfall, and you can play on this by offering rainy day promotions. That can be as simple as offering discounts on rain gear, but only on days that it’s raining. Or cafes and coffee shops can offer discounts on hot items for those cold, rainy days. E-commerce sites can just play off the idea in their emails, reminding people that they’ll stay dry when they shop online.
- Fire Up the Grill — When the weather gets warmer, people start cooking outside. If you’ve got the space outside your store, invite your customers to a barbecue. Feed them burgers and hot dogs and chicken, and then direct them to your store. Make sure to give them some napkins to wipe off their hands before the enter.
- Get Outside — Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the streets. If you’re too busy working to dance, just take to the sidewalk and bring your job outside. Retail shops can have sidewalk sales, cafes and coffee shops can set up outdoor seating, and literally anyone set up a lemonade stand. Even if it has nothing to do with your business, or maybe especially because, people will take notice—and if it’s hot enough they might stop for some lemonade.
- OK, Now Get Back Inside — Depending on where you live, or whether or not you’re a dog, summer weather can be unbearable. If your shop has air conditioning, let people know that with signs or sandwich boards. Offer some iced water. Help people stay cool without asking for anything in return and you’ve created a good experience for someone, which they’ll remember.
- Summer Means Vacation — You don’t have to spend the money to give one away, though. Bars and restaurants can market themselves as the place to “get away from it all,” offering summer drink specials and events. Just add beach music (but not Jimmy Buffet, trust us).
- Offer a Staycation — Again, you don’t have to give anything away here. Home and garden retailers can use their marketing to showcase products for creating home getaways. Think reading nooks, outdoor furniture, and perennial gardens. Takeaway restaurants can play off the same strategy.
- Have a Social Media Photo Contest — Playing up on the summer vacation vibe, businesses should fill their social feeds with photos that read like a summer holiday photo album: sunshine, bright colors, smiling faces, and outdoors if possible. Then invite followers to submit their photos for a contest. Offer a really good prize, encourage people to share with friends, and require non-followers to like your page to enter the contest. Consider the prize and all the new followers as seeds you plant in the summer, though you probably won’t have to wait till autumn for them to bear fruit.
- Independence Day — Sure, July 4 is strictly a US holiday. And true, it won’t be the same now that it’s been rebranded Donald J. Trump’s Live Freedom Extravaganza of Explosives Brought To You By Trump Steaks. But did you realize how many countries have their own nationalistic celebrations in July? Don’t tell the conspiracy folks, they’re bound to read into this. Just use the date for your locale, and have an Independence Day-themed sales event.
- Attend Summer Events — Festivals, concerts, farmers’ markets, parades—the summer is awash with outdoor sales opportunities. If you can mobilize any part of your business, then there’s no reason not to take advantage of these events.
- Back to School — As the summer winds to a close, Back to School sales are everywhere. If you think that’s got nothing to do with your business, think again. Rather than focus on the children—with all the supplies and new clothes they’ll need—target parents who are thrilled their kids will once again be gone all day. Spas can offer relaxation packages, while restaurants and cafes can create lunch specials specifically for adults who show up without children. To round out the celebration, any bar worth its liquor license should create an early afternoon happy hour.
‘Mommy Page’ take a unique approach to ‘Back to School’ marketing with an Instagram Contest
- 9/11 Remembrance — This is not a holiday. Don’t market anything in observance/honor/tribute/whatever. Go about your business and whatever you do: don’t be these people.
- Only 90 Shopping Days Till Christmas — In the months leading up to the holiday season, people aren’t as inclined to buy stuff. Give your customers incentive by creating a short-term Loyalty Rewards campaign that lasts from the first day of autumn until just before Black Friday. The total amount spent in that time determines a discount redeemable between Black Friday and Christmas.
- Put a Pumpkin On It — What is “it,” you ask? Pretty much anything. Pumpkin spice makes its way into lattes, muffins, pancakes, or beer—if you can ingest it, restaurants and cafes will pumpkin-spice it. Businesses that aren’t hospitality can’t do any of this, but they can poke fun at the trend. Find anything orange and rebrand it: pumpkin spice three-ring binders, pumpkin spice power drills, even pumpkin spice underwear. Then have some fun promoting these products to your email subscribers and web & app users.
- Halloween — Celebrated by billions worldwide in some form or another, Halloween’s many rituals all add up to a staggering amount of money spent on the holiday. Join up with local, non-competing businesses to organize trick-or-treating events to get customers (existing and potential) to make the rounds in your downtown or shopping district, hand out candy to kids and maybe get their parents to buy something.
— Frappuccino (@frappuccino) October 28, 2015
Starbucks Launch a special edition Frappuccino for Halloween
- Daylight Savings Time — For countries that observe Daylight Savings Time, autumn is that time of year when we’ve arbitrarily do away with all the life-affirming properties of prolonged exposure to sunlight. But on that day when the clocks change, we all get an extra hour in the day—the perfect hook to encourage people to venture out into the darkness and spend some time shopping with you. Turn your lights up extra bright and invite customers to enjoy one last extra hour of light.
- Oktoberfest — The official fest is held in Munich, Germany, starts in mid-September, and ends on the first Sunday in October. Unofficially, Oktoberfest is celebrated all over the world because everyone loves beer. Bars and restaurants have it easy building a marketing campaign around it, while retailers have to get creative. Partnering with a local bar for a celebration is one way to hitch a ride—purchases at a retail shop can earn a thank-you beer from the bar, which might be happy to have you marketing on their behalf.
- Black Friday — People spend a lot of money on this day. Do something about that.
- Help Customers With Their New Year’s Resolutions — Everyone makes them, and sooner or later everyone breaks them, too. So January is a good time to appeal to your customers as they try to improve themselves. Restaurants can highlight their more healthful meals in campaigns, bookstores can focus on self-help or inspirational reading, and clothing stores can push clothes good for wearing while exercising.
- Valentine’s Day — These days, it’s impossible to forget about Valentine’s day, unless you’re a hapless boyfriend/husband character on a bad TV show. Theming your marketing around the day is a no-brainer for chocolatiers, florists, pajama purveyors, and restaurants, but there’s no reason why everyone can’t get in on the fun. Offer unique gift ideas tailored directly to your customers—even a quick Valentine’s Day themed re-design of your website or app can help to drive some of those holiday dollars your way.
‘Love is in the air’ Geddit?
- Winter-themed Menus — Higher end restaurants tend to change their menus seasonally so that they can make use of local and seasonally appropriate produce. You don’t have to change your whole menu, though—you could offer seasonal specials, one or two things that reflect winter. Think squash soups, hearty root vegetables, and hot chocolate. You can also go ahead and repeat this idea for Spring, Summer, and Autumn.
- Remind People it’s Cold — Rather, show people how you will warm them up. Hot coffee, winter jackets, wool socks, and spicy peppers: these are a few of our favorite things. Use images in email newsletters and in-store to showcase your business as the fix for cold weather.
- Validate Your Parking — Keeping with the cold weather theme: if your business offers convenient parking in a town or city where such a thing is hard to come by, then share that information. Especially in the colder winter climates, people like to stay indoors as much as possible. Speaking of which:
- Tell Them To Stay Home — Use your email newsletters to commiserate with your customers over how cold it is. Tell them how much you’d rather not venture out on a frigid winter day to be at your store. Then direct them to your website or app and offer them a discount, as a thank you for keeping you warm.
- The Marketing O’ the Green — Another holiday with religious significance that’s been westernized, St. Patrick’s Day is an obvious marketing target for pubs and restaurants. But the tradition of wearing green on the day lends itself to all sorts of other promotions that apparel retailers can get in on.
- Gather Your Data — For many businesses, winter is a slow time of year. That’s a good time to start working out your marketing ideas for all the other seasons. Comb through your sales data to see what sold well the year before, and come up with ideas to build on that success. Look at your customer data to identify seasonal trends. Who tends to shop more in the summer that you can try and get back in the spring?