6 Holiday Marketing Tips and Ideas for Small Businesses

With Halloween and Thanksgiving freshly behind us, it’s time to deck the halls and get merry.

This time of year, there are holiday marketing campaigns everywhere. Whether the campaigns are small and involve dressing up a company’s logo, or big, expensive campaigns that manage to go viral, many businesses are keenly aware of the opportunity to take advantage of the spending season and seek out ways to market their brand to enthusiastic customers.

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the ho-ho-holidays, November and December are a season of riches for businesses.

These two months alone drive an astounding 30% more revenue for e-commerce businesses than the rest of the year.

There is no shortage of holiday emails, social media posts, and TV ads everywhere you look – it can get overwhelming.

Some brands do a great job marketing their business during the holidays while others fall flat.

How do the successful businesses stand out from the noise and reach customers when every other business is competing harder than your Aunt Susan does for the last piece of pie?

Smart brands create campaigns that genuinely delight customers instead of contributing to holiday white noise. They evoke emotional, often nostalgic reactions from their customers. They find the sweet spot that encourages sharing, personal connection, and the spirit of giving.

The key to a successful holiday marketing campaign is analyzing your brand and figuring out which strategy is a natural fit for your business and then incorporating that strategy.

Here is a rundown of some great small business holiday marketing strategies:

  • Find your brand’s unique holiday angle
  • Get your customers involved
  • Discounts, contests, giveaways
  • Give your site a festive, holiday feel
  • Create a special unboxing experience
  • Social Media posts


Find your brand’s unique holiday angle

Apple is well-known for creating products that leverage technology as a way of connecting people and, in Apple’s mind, making their lives better. Their focus on products that foster communication was brought together with the holidays brilliantly in a holiday commercial a few years ago, “Misunderstood.”

In it, a teenager spends his holiday time with family seemingly fixated on his mobile phone. In scene after scene while his family is having fun we see him staring at the screen. You’re left with the sense that he’s detached and separate; that his phone is literally coming in-between himself and the rest of the family.

At the end of the commercial, he connects his phone to the TV and surprises the entire family with a thoughtful, heartfelt holiday home video that he created using his phone. Apple’s name never appears in the commercial, and the only branding, Apple’s logo, is right at the very end.

It’s a heartwarming, moving commercial and showcases how Apple communicates their brand and their mission effectively through the prism of the holidays.


Another famous example is Office Depot’s now-annual “Elf Yourself” campaign, currently run in collaboration with internet animation trailblazers JibJab.

Office Depot wanted a humorous website they could use for holiday advertising – something to warm up their corporate image. The idea they came up with was a massive viral hit.

Elf Yourself lets people upload photos of their faces, which are superimposed on top of existing footage of elves dancing. In 2006, its first year, Elf Yourself received over 36 million visits in five weeks, with 11 million elf videos made.

Their secret? According to Adweek:

Keep it dead simple, make it personal and give people a reason to pass it on. These sites might not win awards or wow other creative directors, but they draw big audiences by eschewing the urge to add on features and functions.

This focus on ease of use and word of mouth has made the campaign an annual phenomenon. The campaign has been a huge success. In the ten years since the first dancing elf hit the screen 1.3 billion Elf Yourself videos have been made.

That’s elfing amazing.

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Get your customers involved

Elf Yourself was a huge success and a very compelling example of how powerful user-generated content (UGC) can be. Soliciting submissions from your customers can be a good way of fostering a holiday community around your brand, but it’s not without its risks.


Big companies like Starbucks have made UGC a key part of their holiday branding strategy.

In 2016 Starbucks ran a UGC contest on Instagram inviting customers to post festive photos that incorporated that year’s “red cup” design. Entries were tagged with the hashtag #RedCupContest.

Over 40,000 entries were posted.

This may sound like a success, but a look at the entries reveals one of the challenges of UGC content: people hijacking it for their own purposes. Amongst the red cup entries are photos of other products, spam, and some that are, well, decidedly not holiday appropriate.

If you’re going to ask people to send you content, be prepared to filter the entries for inappropriate things and make sure that entries are moderated if they appear anywhere on your site. There are always some bad apples, but in general, the power of user-generated content can be a boon to your holiday branding efforts.


Offer discounts, contests, giveaways

Promotions can be a great way to spread holiday cheer to your customers.

A holiday promotion can take many forms: maybe a discount code, rewards points, or a free surprise gift with a purchase.

The Shop Files, an e-commerce marketing blog, provides a thorough guide on how to do this. They include information about how to incorporate potential partnerships in your contest with other brands.

That kind of cross-promote marketing is bound to boost traffic both ways – a win-win.

If you’re interested in taking your campaign to social media, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that’s a strong plan. Social contests are an effective method of driving holiday sales.
With contests or coupons you can:

  • increase sales
  • drive traffic to your e-store
  • generate leads through email
  • reach your consumers on a popular platform
  • deepen brand loyalty


Another effective strategy is to run a holiday-themed contest.

Participants in your contest can contribute content in exchange for rewards. This frequently involves an interested customer posting photos to social media, tagging it with a specific hashtag, and tagging some of their followers.

If you have a signature product, try running a photo contest. Customers love a chance to creatively interact with your brand and show off their originality. Offering the opportunity to have their posts showcased by your brand is a reward in and of itself (and free!).

Offering this kind of contest is a straightforward, inexpensive promotion to set up, and you’ll increase your brand visibility from it because of the people sharing content related to your brand.

Need some ideas for a photo contest? We’ve got plenty:

  • Best-decorated Christmas tree
  • Ugliest holiday sweater
  • Most awkward family photo
  • Most delicious holiday dinner spread
  • Prettiest holiday light display
  • Most adorable pet holiday costume

Trisocial, a Facebook-centric contest, and promotions app, helps users create these kinds of photo contests. The app offers a Twitter-Instagram configuration, too!

To really celebrate your customers and make them feel extra special during the holidays, you can offer them exclusive deals.

One easy way to do this is to offer rewards or discounts for signing up for your company’s newsletter, email chain, or following your company’s social media accounts.

Whether it’s a giveaway that’s exclusive to your email marketing campaign or inclusive of your Instagram followers, offering a 10 or 20% discount code will reap its own rewards for your brand. Everyone loves to feel special, and everyone definitely loves a good promo code.


You don’t have to limit yourself to virtual rewards, though.

Canadian airline WestJet went viral a few years ago with a campaign that combined giveaways and the holiday spirit with a very personal touch.

Using a cleverly designed kiosk, the company asked travelers waiting for their flights what they wanted from Santa, and then magically made those wishes come true.

It’s a sentimental and well-executed campaign that played to WestJet’s perceived strengths as a company staffed by real people that care, and it’s a great example of how the holidays and giveaways can be combined in a clever, human way.


Give your site a festive, holiday feel

We’re living in a digital age for sure.

Gone are the days where people would crowd shopping malls and brick and mortar stores on Christmas Eve, frantically searching for that one last gift.

No, instead, 92% of holiday shoppers will research or buy gifts online – they can interact with your brand and product from the comfort of their fuzzy slippers and glass of eggnog. That leaves your business with an excellent opportunity to grab them by those holiday heartstrings while they browse your site this season.

When customers land on your site, your business’ special holiday promotions should welcome them with festive, cheerful designs. Create holiday-themed landing pages to help direct customers to any deals you are offering, and make it an enticing, enjoyable experience to shop on your site.

Sam Fisher, CEO of AiryHair IV, suggests it’s best not to overthink using holiday visuals to digitally decorate your website:

It’s amazing how many brands try to outthink themselves. Add some holiday-themed images and have fun with it. Your customers are in a festive mood, keep it that way!


Create a special unboxing experience

Dressing up your products with festive imagery is a well-tested approach to holiday branding.

Many companies (such as the previously mentioned Starbucks red cup) release redesigned packages every holiday season, which can be quite delightful when done well.


One of the most famous of these is Coca-Cola, whose name has become synonymous with a jolly fat Santa with a big white beard. (For the record, the myth that Coca-Cola invented that version of Jolly Saint Nick has been thoroughly debunked. Sorry to snow on your parade.)

Every year Coca-Cola releases new holiday packaging for Coke; The inventiveness and creativity of the packaging is a prime example of how to incorporate a festive feel into your product without compromising its brand integrity.

Here are some more of our favorite holiday package designs.


Showing your holiday colors is a nice way to bring the season to your brand while making store shelves (and other places) prettier and more festive.

If you want to create awesome package graphics for your own products and need some help, the talented creatives on crowdspring (more than 210,000) have helped thousands of businesses with affordable, quick and risk free package graphics design.

Social Media posts

Marketing using Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media sites is incredibly useful in today’s digital age.

You can use social media to target users who might not otherwise have the chance to engage with your brand. This is a great opportunity to start a conversation about your products, or better yet, a chance to let your brand’s personality shine as brightly as your Uncle Eddie’s holiday light display.

Styling your posts with unique holiday-themed content is sure to pique interest. Try using some of these ideas to engage social media users.

  • Gift guides – One of the best marketing tools your small business can create is a gift guide. So many people are looking for ways to be inspired by the season of giving, so this is a golden opportunity to show off your products in a convenient, easy to purchase setup.
  • Holiday hashtags – Take advantage of Instagram hashtags. They’re a great way to promote your holiday campaign – and of course, spread the word about your merry little company!
  • Host a Facebook Live – During the event, you can do giveaways, offer prizes, or play festive games. You can incorporate a Q&A, offer a flash sale available while you’re live, or a promotional discount/gift/goodie at the end to reward your customers for watching.
  • Run a customer appreciation campaign – The Honest Company famously ran a customer appreciation campaign through Facebook Live. They revealed their holiday 2016 diaper collection and then gave customers a $20 discount off their purchase. The video has received over one million views – proving that this is a very effective strategy.

The 2017 holiday shopping season is expected to be one of the best in recent years. Don’t let your business miss out on the chance to spread your own holiday cheer to your customers. Follow these holiday campaign strategies, and you’ll be sure to make you and your customers very merry this season.


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