How to Make Seasonal Branding Work for Your Business
Seasonal branding is an integral part of any marketing strategy. Here's why you need to capitalize on this trend all year round.
Every business owner knows that effective marketing techniques form the foundation of success. However, some forget that effective marketing relies on innovative and unique branding.
Your brand—who you are as a company and what you stand for—is the essence of your business. That's why you should use opportunities to make it more visible to potential customers.
We've all seen seasonal branding campaigns run by large corporations. Starbucks' Christmas paper cups immediately spring to mind. However, many small business owners don't know how to implement this marketing tactic. This doesn't mean it's impossible, especially if they don't have distinctive packaging. Learning to make the most of seasonal themes can revitalize stagnant companies and give new ones a welcome boost.
Before we tackle the ins and outs of seasonal branding, we need to clarify the concept of branding and how to distinguish it from marketing. The terms "branding" and "marketing" are not interchangeable. However, they go hand in hand. Marketing consists of advertising, promotional material, and all other tools and techniques companies use to attract customers.
On the other hand, branding lies at your business's core. Who you are, what you believe in, what needs you satisfy. These are all the qualities that differentiate your brand from your competitors. The physical manifestation of a brand can include the company name, logo, color scheme, and typography.
What Qualifies as Seasonal Branding?
Businesses use seasonal branding to engage consumers for a special occasion. They do this by temporarily changing or customizing their brand identity for a holiday or event. This can also include special offers or promotions and limited-edition products.
"Holidays" is an umbrella term of sorts. It covers religious festivals, secular public holidays, annual events, and non-traditional holidays like Take Your Dog to Work Day.
Seasonal Branding Example: Christmas
Christmas is probably the largest annual event globally, providing an excellent opportunity for brands to boost their visibility yearly. Although Christmas was originally a Christian festival, many secular people now celebrate it, as well as those of other religions.
In the Western world, Christmas is associated with gifts, large family get-togethers, and lengthy meals. Snow, crackling fires, roast potatoes, and Christmas trees complete the festive picture.
Yet the imagery associated with this time of year is not just festive. It's instantly recognizable, too. This makes it easy for brands to use it to form a connection with their audience.
Christmas: Starbucks' Seasonal Branding
Each year, companies take advantage of the Christmas period to use seasonal branding. The Starbucks siren appears on a bright red background, and the menu is suddenly full of festive flavors, like pumpkin spice. Looking at Starbucks' success with its Christmas-themed cups, it's abundantly clear that seasonal marketing works.
In 2023, market analytics showed Starbucks traffic increased around the "Red Cup Day" and the launch of its Holiday Menu. This trend continues to ensure increased profits over the Christmas period.
How to Use Seasonal Branding for Your Business
Using seasonal branding isn't too complicated. But it does need an innovative and creative approach. Your brand is the first thing consumers see, so it should be authentic, unique, and memorable--whether you're busy with a seasonal branding campaign or not. Seasonal branding isn't a replacement for your original identity. But it can build upon a solid foundation of your established brand.
We've compiled a short guide to help you start your seasonal branding journey. The process looks different for every business, but these eight points can provide a helpful framework.
1. Plan Ahead
To implement seasonal branding successfully, you need to have a clear vision of what you want to do and what you hope to achieve. Every business has the goal of increasing profits. However, getting there needs more than wishful thinking. There are many things to consider when you use seasonal branding to market your product.
First, what does your brand say about you, and what does it stand for?
The relationships you have with your customers depend upon your brand. People who buy goods and services choose where to spend their money based largely on trust. This makes it important to pinpoint how you inspire that trust and how to preserve that in your seasonal branding campaigns.
2. Clarify your Goals
Aiming for financial gains is a given, but you need to specify your goals to get there. Many people use the SMART method for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Business owners probably know this approach already. But when you first get into seasonal branding, it's imperative to have a rock-solid strategy. This will help you carry your campaign from beginning to end.
Three questions to start with are:
- What are your financial goals?
- Are these goals achievable?
- What needs to happen to achieve these goals?
These will help you determine when to launch your seasonal branding campaign, how much money to spend on it, and how to tailor it to reach as many potential customers as possible.
Taking things a step further, a small business owner should ask: what will I do with the profits I make, and how can I sustain engagement once the season has ended?
3. Get in Early
Most companies use some sort of seasonal branding or marketing. Seasonal marketing can mean anything from video ad campaigns encouraging followers to follow your brand on social media for a specific reason to a sign in the window urging shoppers to buy chocolates for Valentine's Day.
If you're a small business owner wanting to become a well-established company, you must keep an eye on other brands and act quickly. Launching your seasonal branding before other businesses means you're one step ahead. Coming up with a unique and engaging theme that will attract attention first gives you a significant advantage.
Apart from getting a head start, implementing seasonal branding earlier can help your brand gain more visibility. Consumers are more likely to see your brand the longer it's in the spotlight. By the end of a season like Christmas, you could build a solid base of loyal customers who recognize your brand and trust your business.
4. Keep your Regular Branding Visible
Seasonal branding shouldn't take the place of your regular branding. Your company logo should still be easily identifiable, with changes that complement it rather than obscure it.
Tweaking your logo, decorating your store or office, and making (temporary) alterations to your packaging, website, and marketing material are examples of seasonal branding in practice. At no time should these decorations make it hard to recognize your original brand. Customers like change, but overdoing changes can alienate those who have become used to your branding as it is.
5. Satisfy your Customers' Needs
Since early 2020, it's no secret that companies have had to expand their online presence. With social media channels like TikTok taking off, influencers creating an estimated $16.4 billion marketing market, and e-commerce growth skyrocketing, digital marketing efforts are more critical than ever.
It's unlikely that online demand will decrease any time soon, especially considering how convenient it's proven to be. This is important to remember when you're looking at seasonal branding. The effort into your online presence should match that of your physical premises and vice versa.
Ensuring that your digital seasonal branding aligns with your in-store branding means that customers will recognize you online and offline.
6. Be Creative and Look for Opportunities
Seasonal branding applies not only to holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. For smaller businesses, especially, the way to go is to take advantage of opportunities to customize your branding for a period. New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, and Easter are just a few examples of "seasons" that you can use to engage with and inspire consumers.
Apart from these widely recognized festivities, there are many more holidays. These occasions provide perfect opportunities for companies to change their branding for a period. Customers not interested in religious celebrations might appreciate more light-hearted themes like Halloween. At the same time, others are drawn to important occasions such as International Women's Day (March 8) or Human Rights Day (December 10).
Seasonal branding doesn't have to be wildly colorful and celebratory. Engaging with potential customers more genuinely is an opportunity to educate and be educated. Women's Day can be a celebration while highlighting the need for true gender equality. Observing various holidays and internationally recognized days tells your customers you care about what's happening in the world.
7. Don't Forget the Paperwork
The importance of keeping records is impossible to overstate, especially for smaller, up-and-coming businesses.
It's easy to get caught up in seasonal branding and spend ages planning and executing campaigns. But if you neglect to analyze your sales figures, your efforts will have been in vain. A business needs to make a profit to survive.
8. And Plan Ahead – Again
Companies setting out on their first seasonal branding project can fall into the trap of not preparing for when business returns to normal. When this happens, the holiday fever fades. The planning you put in before you begin should consider your company's future. Well beyond temporary changes to logos and packaging.
The Bottom Line
The marketing world is ever-evolving, and trends change constantly. Seasonal branding allows you to cash in on this and make your brand more relevant and engaging.
Achieving your goals using this branding strategy is simple but requires thorough preparation and creativity.