More reasons to Celebrate

Bank holiday weekend is nearly upon us. And what may come as a surprise to some, Easter is quickly becoming the new Christmas, in fact the Guardian has called it this year: Christmas II — the Sequel.

With less than half of the population (43.8%) identifying with the Christian religion, the value of Easter as an event is adapting to modern times. This can be an issue for some. Our Prime Minister, daughter of a vicar, got hot under the collar last week when the National Trust removed the word Easter from its Egg Hunt game. (The fact that name “Easter” is the name of a pagan Goddess seems to be missed in the controversy). But the fact remains, Easter is becoming a day less about reflection and more like the festivals of our pagan ancestors celebrating the start of Spring. We are now getting together to over eat, over drink, and share gifts.

Moreover, Easter is becoming a vital feature on the brand calendar for an increasing number of consumer categories. Easter is no longer limited to lamb lunches or chocolate binges. In fact, last year, Mintel estimated Easter was worth £550 million.

As an island governed by the seasons we have always been beholden to the calendar. But society has become more flexible, armed by technology to effectively access many things we used to take for granted in set time, such as, TV schedules, set holiday dates and set working hours. There is now greater anticipation, greater planning and more indulgence around days such as Mother’s/Valentine’s/Patrick’s Day. Whilst Christmas has been scaled to weeks of indulgence, creating the new phenomena of Dry January, a new collective behaviour of abstinence to recover from the excess. And of course, who could forget some of the emerging tongue in cheek days of celebration, Ed Balls Day.

Why? An increasing number of us have adopted a flexible lifestyle meaning we are turning into a nation of individuals. As a result, we love a genuine excuse to get together, one that is in everyone’s diary, that won’t see people bailing at the last moment (Foresight Factory have found 22% of us often cancel leisure plans at the last minute). There is comfort in traditional structures to a shared day of celebration that can be delightful in a world where so many of our social structures are disappearing.

Our reliance on physical gifts during these occasions reflect a growing trend in how we want to demonstrate affection beyond words. They can be simple moments of connection to say, “I’m thinking of you” such as the Starbucks-Tencent partnership that has created a coffee gift feature on Wechat. And of course, in these turbulent individualistic times we want to treat ourselves. We have seen a sharp rise in “self-care” which reached a five-year Google search high immediately after the USA election. Hygge (the Danish obsession with getting cosy),was a Collins’ word of the year in 2016, and even Chinese Single’s Day which saw 2016 sales rock 32% year on year to £14billion justify a desire to say, “I deserve it.”

Brands also successfully play to the selfish endeavours of these get togethers. Resources that can help givers “win Christmas” (Mulberry campaign 2014) or receivers avoid #giftface (Harvey Nichols campaign, 2015) all promote the ultimate aim of psychological gift giving — to get something back in return!

They say the greatest gift is to give, and Easter is a great example of how our holidays are emerging as crucial stable markers in a whirlwind of change. Brands therefore need to take advantage of the way our society is moving to one that has a globally influenced, jam packed social calendar as well as one that is increasingly lonelier. For in that landscape, physical gifts continue to be an important way in how we communicate.

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