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The Death Of The Seasonal Campaign (Or, Why The Holidays Should Last All Year For Marketers)

Napkin Labs’ Riley Gibson argues that marketers should use the holidays as an opportunity to create an ongoing dialogue with consumers, rather than a once-a-year blitz.

The Death Of The Seasonal Campaign (Or, Why The Holidays Should Last All Year For Marketers)

Ah, holiday campaigns. 'Tis the season for consumer oversaturation, where marketers clamor for wallet-share as much as a desperate parent scrambles to purchase an "it" toy. It’s easy to understand why we’re so obsessed with capturing consumers at this very moment when they are poised to spend more than they do on, say, a Tuesday in July. But why aren’t we, as marketers, better at keeping up with the customers we attract during the holiday blitz?

Think about it this way. You’d never say to a friend, "Hey, I promise if you pay attention to me for the next 30 seconds, I’ll go away until the next Black Friday." You wouldn’t email every person you ever met with the same message, repeating every week in a minutely different edition from Thanksgiving to the new year. For the people you care about, you make a true effort to have a conversation, check in every now and then, or visit.

The same should hold true for a brand attempting to capture a customer’s loyalty. A holiday campaign should be used as a jumping off point for a customer dialogue, rather than a flash-in-the-pan gimmick.

A great example of a campaign with staying power is GE Ecomagination. Started as a campaign to raise awareness for the company’s commitment to sustainability, Ecomagination evolved into a dynamic community where people share ideas about energy savings, green tech and more. On this dedicated website, GE talks about its own socially responsible actions, but also works with third-party bloggers to report on innovations outside the company. GE also does a great job translating the campaign to Facebook for audience participation, asking questions such as, "If you could give shoes a second life, what would you recycle them into?"

Another idea to give campaigns longevity and generate excitement year-round, especially for a seasonal brand, is to follow in the footsteps of Nike Snowboarding and start early. With its "Get Laced Up" campaign, (to which Napkin Labs contributed) Nike started to get fans psyched in the summer about snowboarding, before there was a flake in sight (unless you’re talking Everest or K2). The brand collected stories from customers about what gets them excited for winter, and took to social media to share photos of fan snowboarding swag. When Nike launched new snowboarding boots in the winter, they had a ready and receptive audience excited about the product.

So brilliant holiday campaigns out there like Butterball’s Holiday "Turkey Talk-Line" could emerge from the November/December shadows to create a post-holiday "Damage Report," having fun with its customers craziest requests. From there, the brand could give tips for a happy (fireproof) kitchen throughout the year. Tryptophan hangovers aren’t just for the holidays—this is a fact!

All in all, campaigns should be just an element of a brand’s strategy to build a community of advocates that recommend a product, love a service, and continue to come back to a brand again and again. So your fans created a meme in December. How do you engage that audience you captured year-round? Instead of focusing on building a bigger community, think this holiday season and beyond about what to do with the community you build.

Riley Gibson is the cofounder and CEO of Napkin Labs, a startup that builds tools to help companies turn their Facebook fans into an army of collaborators for new insights and ideas. For more thoughts on tapping online communities for innovation, check out the Napkin Labs blog and his previous contribution to Co.Create.

[Images: Flickr users Jack, Jake Kitchener, Lydiat, and Greg V]