“Non-traditional” Holiday Marketing

A few years back we began an initiative to maintain awareness of a brand using “non-traditional” holidays as the impetus for this outreach to their audience. To this day, the program continues with much success for our client—to the point that their clients wonder what we’ll do next.


It began with a traditional holiday card, singing the same ol’ sentiments, wishing their audience well for the holiday season and the new year. No sales pitch. No call to action, website or phone numbers.

It was expected. Probably hung in the doorway with all the others.

While fruit baskets, cookies, chocolate and other goodies took center stage. In all their holiday glory. Disappearing faster than your decision to re-gift that sleeveless holiday sweater, while the awareness lasted long enough to realize you wouldn’t get a second shot at that Harry & David gift basket.

Well, we couldn’t compete with such lavish gifts of well-wishery. We had a budget for a card. And direction from the client: “We’re doing a card.”

My problem is that we were just going along with what everyone else was doing. Getting lost in the surplus of snowmen, stars, holly and glitter. Taped to a doorway until our client’s sentiment was sent the way of file 13.


What I appreciated about the holiday card was that it wasn’t (directly) going after the sale. What if we just did it for another holiday? That alone would cut through the clutter. After all, who gets a card for Groundhog Day?

Basically our pitch to the client was pretty much as outlined above. Let’s pick another secular/unofficial holiday and execute on it. No hard sell. No call-to-action. But maybe a website [landing page].

So our little card for Groundhog Day was well received. A few “thank you” emails led to a series of cards produced that year, which translated to a bump in RFP submissions to the client. Nice. They noticed.

Now the client direction was “how can we take this to the next level.”

Yup. Music to my ears.

Push Play

Proposing another set of holidays, we prepared the client to take this initiative online. Now we could really implement a tracking mechanism, and offer more interaction with the brand. A veritable mix-tape of traditional printed cards driving traffic to a landing page, some e-cards to fill in and a dimensional mailing or two.

Here are some examples:

Labor Day
This execution was created within a series of traditional “pop-up” printed cards. User opens the card and the interior comes to life, much like a children’s book. Dad is golfing in the backyard, Junior is jumping in the pool, Mom is getting burgers ready for the grill. A quick message from our client wishing them a relaxing long weekend and driving them to a landing page. The landing page mirrors the card, but plays on interaction. Click on Dad and get a mini-golf game, click on Junior for a swan dive or cannonball into the pool. All branded, and without any sales messaging. (We did provide a link to the client website)

halloweenpromoA dimensional piece was mailed about three weeks prior to the “holiday.” It consisted of an inflatable pumpkin and a sticker sheet with Jack O’Lantern eyes, noses and mouths. On the back of the pumpkin was our client’s logo and website link. Essentially, the audience had a few minutes of fun creating the custom pumpkin, then decorated their office with it (pumpkin facing “out” to show off their work) and ultimately stared at our client’s logo and website for about two weeks. (We even donated the overruns of stickers with some paper plates to a local school to do a fun Halloween craft)

Fourth of July
This execution was solely electronic, and featured an “asteroids”-style game where Uncle Sam shot down floating hot dogs. It kept high scores, and encouraged some friendly competition when emailed to a friend—and further developing our client’s email database.


The response was overwhelming by any effort. In reviewing analytics, some of the online “cards” resulted in engaging viewers with the brand for over 15 minutes. We heard some of the dimensional pieces had a shelf life of over two weeks—staying put on desks and shelves as conversation starters with associates of the addressee.The tracking mechanisms for each “mailing” were somewhat elementary (defined by budget and agency recommendation). We did see measurable results, to the tune of:

  • Increased inquiries about service offerings
  • More RFP submissions
  • Growth of indirect contacts within the vertical channel

Even a bump in correspondence with their audience, even if it’s only a “what am I getting for Arbor Day?”-type questions. I am comfortable saying we raised some awareness.

So we turned the ubiquitous holiday card into a program that returns more and more each time our client invests in it.

Here are some things to consider if you’d like to try something similar:

  • Skip the usual. Don’t do a postcard because that’s what you’d normally do
  • Timing is everything. Pick an unusual time of the year, a holiday, birthday, astrological division
  • What’s in it for them? Notice this doesn’t say “what’s in it for you?”—play down your product/service and turn up the volume on just saying “hi” or giving your audience something that is unrelated to your product/service
  • Theme. a common thread tying your efforts together help to build awareness from your audience. And this doesn’t mean because you put your widget on a “baseball card” that someone will want to collect them all. Perhaps each execution is pink, or square, electronic or dimensional…
  • Commit to the whole program. You may need to gain some momentum before you see results, so create a plan and stick to it. The first isn’t any good without the second and third.

Here’s some holidays we haven’t been able to work into our program, but sound like there’s a lot to work with:

  • No Pants Day – First Friday of May
  • International Talk Like a Pirate Day – September 19
  • National Ammo Day – November 19
  • Monkey Day – December 14

I love to hear your efforts, especially if it’s on one of the above!

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