The holiday season is a time for togetherness – between you and your friends, you and your family, but also between you and brands. During the winter months, companies often change their approach to public relations in order to capitalize on Americans’ increased media consumption and shopping habits during the most wonderful time of the year. Brands achieve this by launching charitable campaigns, investing in holiday packaging and featuring special holiday giveaways.

1. CHARITABLE CAMPAIGNS Charitable giving in America reaches its peak between October and December – a trend that is used by businesses and nonprofits alike to make use of the increased goodwill and empathy of consumers. The Cone Cause Evolution Study found that 85% of consumers claimed to have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a charity they care about. American consumers have high standards for the brands at which they shop, and establishing a relationship with a charity is an easy way for companies to meet those standards while also making the consumers feel good about their own choice to donate.

In 2012, “Giving Tuesday” was created to further philanthropic efforts. The goal of this day is to counteract the consumerism that defines the holiday shopping season on Black Friday in order to reinstate focus on the giving spirit of the holiday season. For example, this year, Amazon used Giving Tuesday to promote Amazon Smile, a program that connects consumers to a charity of their choice and ensures that 0.5% of their purchases will go to benefit that cause.

2. HOLIDAY PACKAGING Starbucks is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in holiday-related PR strategies. The classic red Starbucks cup is regarded by many Americans as a symbol of the beginning of the holiday season each year. One way that Starbucks has expanded on this successful staple is through its annual “Red Cup Day,” on which any Starbucks customer who purchases a holiday drink receives a free, reusable red holiday cup. Starbucks is not alone in giving its packaging a spruce during the winter months. In 2009, Coca-Cola designed Christmas ornament-shaped bottles. Following this trend, Godiva sells its classic chocolates in packaging designed to resemble a present, hinting to consumers that a box would be the perfect gift for a loved one. Holiday packaging utilized by brands also often incorporates a specific theme or message to consumers – such as Coca-Cola’s use of the phrase “good for the whole family,” which capitalizes on feelings of family closeness that peak during the holiday season. For organizations, developing this connection is vital to proving their purpose. In Coca-Cola’s case, their mascot and imagery related to the cold further their connection to the holiday season. The polar bear is often featured drinking a soda to associate the holidays and colder weather with the Coca-Cola brand. Holiday packaging is simply an easy and fun way to reinvent already-existing products offered by a brand to make them reflect the holiday season and entice customers to purchase them.

3. GIVEAWAYS Although giving away free products may not seem like an ideal way to boost revenue, this PR strategy can actually act as a great sales stimulant for companies throughout the holiday season. Giveaways increase customer engagement and website traffic, boosting brand awareness and bringing more potential customers to the company holding the contest. Some brands may launch social media campaigns, which encourage followers to share, comment, follow, or like the brand’s page in order to be entered in a giveaway. When a follower shares this giveaway to their story, their followers will see it and become interested, and brand awareness spreads accordingly. Other brands use member-specific apps to streamline their rewards to frequent customers. The Panera rewards app, for example, is currently hosting a “Holiday Gift-Away,” which promises “over 25,000 deliciously good prizes” to MyPanera rewards members including a weekly selection of one lucky winner to earn free Panera for an entire year. Consumers are more likely to enter and get excited about giveaways and contests such as these in the atmosphere of the holiday season.

Today, strategic public relations strategies carry the same importance to the American holiday tradition as hot chocolate and sleigh bells. Although some may view advertisements and other specific attempts by companies to increase revenue during the holiday season as irritating, the influence of these promotions is not purely negative – after all, it was a Coca-Cola advertising campaign that played a large role in shaping the character of Santa Claus. In fact, a recent Morning Consult survey found that over two-thirds of American adults find holiday ads and marketing “enjoyable rather than annoying.” Brands use various strategies to communicate their purpose and values, and their messages are amplified during the holidays. By appealing to these traditions, organizations can stand out and become a staple of the season.

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