What Makes a Successful Holiday Promotion?

Holidays. They dot the calendar throughout the year, like sprinkles on a Christmas cookie. The winter brings religious ones, the summer, more national ones, but there always seems to be a holiday not far off. Everybody looks forward to them for various reasons, be it time with the family or PTO from work, but as marketers we look forward to them for another reason — the holiday promotion.

Like lights on the trees or fireworks in the sky, it’s a time-honored tradition — and not just by car dealers. But with so many holidays and so many marketers wanting to take advantage of them it raises the question, “Just what makes a successful holiday promotion?”


First of all, it’s not the holiday. Any holiday can do. As a matter of fact, choosing a more obscure holiday like Groundhog Day for your promotion may make more sense. With fewer marketers joining in, you may find that your promotion can stand out a little more from the crowd.

November and December have historically been the lowest sales months in the RV and travel trailer industries, so for Airstream, the oldest manufacturer of travel trailers in the country, the winter holidays are the best time of year for a promotion. The factory stays busy and eager consumers planning ahead for the coming travel-friendly months get the last nudge they need to make dream-vacations a reality.


While traditions reign supreme during the Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas/New Year’s time of year, coming up with a “traditional” promotion is not the best idea under the moonlit sky. You need a promotion that’s going to stand out.

In Airstream’s case, the team decided to turn holiday gift giving on its head and put the ultimate gift-giver on the spot, and ask him (the man in the big red suit) what HE wanted for Christmas.

It’s not your typical Christmas ad, for sure. So many Santa promotions play off the warm and friendly feelings you get from the surprises old Saint Nick leaves under the tree for children, and stuff like that can get lost in the warm fuzzy holiday clutter. But when was the last time someone asked Santa what he wants? So if you want your holiday promotion to stand out in terms of sales, make it stand out creatively as well.


Do you leave just one present under the tree on Christmas? No. The best Christmas tree is decked out with presents galore. The same should be said of a good holiday promotion. A single TV spot that gets seen over and over again loses its punch after just a couple viewings. You need a story to string people along and keep their interest. While viewers may not be initially interested, if you can keep their attention and continue to engage them over time you can get them to think twice. In Airstream’s case, we did a series of ten videos and then planned for them to be released one per week over the Thanksgiving to New Year’s time frame.

They started with the twist (ask Santa what HE wants for Christmas) and ended with — oops, I can’t tell you yet. As of the writing of this piece the promotion is only half over, and while this entry will no doubt be reposted at another time, giving away how it ends would be like telling you what’s in that brightly wrapped box under the tree with your name on it. And where’s the fun in that?

But that’s beside the point — the more you commit to your promotion, the greater the impact. Make it a story. Keep people interested. Especially during the busiest shopping season there is.


Is your promotion just going to “lie there like a slug” as Jean Shepherd described poor Randy in his holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” or is it going to be something that engages your customers? The better promotions give the consumer something to do. In Airstream’s case their sales team likes to work with leads, so this holiday promotion offered rebates up to $2,500 if the viewer signed a petition to help Santa get his Airstream (which gave the Airstream sales team the viewer’s email address).

There are more engagements to come, but the same way I’m not going to reveal what’s behind the doors on your advent calendar, we’ll just have to keep those a secret for now. But the more interactive your holiday promotion, the better. Allow your customers to make it theirs. It keeps them engaged and leads them further down the marketing funnel.


A holiday TV spot is nice. A TV spot and web videos are better. A TV spot with web videos and a Facebook post are even better. Then add in some Instagram, tweets on Twitter, and a few emails, and now you’re really cooking the holiday goose.

The more touchpoints you have, the better. With Airstream, each year we’ve added more ways to spread the holiday cheer, and each year we keep seeing more and more leads.

There’s still a few days before the big man is supposed to saddle up in his sleigh and deliver toys to good little girls and boys everywhere, but the promotion is already outpacing last year’s, and the reviews from those who have seen it are very positive.


While Christmas, the Fourth of July, and every other holiday may be just one day of the year, there’s so much more wrapped up in each of those single days. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a single firecracker is going to carry the show. Especially when at the end of the show you’re going to ask that someone commit some money to pay for it.

Make your holiday promotion like the holidays themselves. Something that spreads to the days and weeks before the holiday and that people look forward to. You do that, and you can be sure that when the clock strikes 12 on December 25th you’ll find more than just a lump of marketing coal in your holiday stocking.

Perspective from Tom Aschauer, Senior Writer at Element Three