How to Plan a Seasonal Marketing Campaign: A 5-Step Guide

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Every year has built-in opportunities to boost sales, increase brand recognition, and bolster customer relationships. Seasonal marketing is the key to aligning your outreach with special times of the year, like holidays and events, to capitalize on increased consumer enthusiasm.

A well-executed seasonal marketing campaign will increase sales and strengthen the emotional connection between your brand and your audience, which is a recipe for dedicated, lifelong customers.

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Pulling off a standout seasonal marketing campaign requires hard work, creativity, and a little know-how — but don’t fret, I’m here to help. Read on to learn all about seasonal marketing, check out our step-by-step campaign guide, and get inspired with top-tier seasonal marketing examples.

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The holidays are associated with strong emotions such as joy, love, and hope. Businesses can create a more meaningful and memorable connection with their customers by marketing products and services that appeal to these emotions.

Seasonal marketing isn’t just about holidays, though. Special events like the Super Bowl and seasonal opportunities like Back-to-School shopping and Black Friday are further examples of chances to flex the seasonal marketing muscle.

Seasonal marketing aims to drive sales and foster an emotional connection with your target audience. Read on for a step-by-step guide to jumpstart your next seasonal campaign.

Here’s are five key steps for planning your own seasonal marketing campaign.

1. Choose a seasonal opportunity.

Choosing the seasonal opportunity to capitalize on is the first step to a successful campaign.

Major seasonal events like Black Friday are always a safe bet to campaign around. However, you should research your target audience to find seasonal opportunities that resonate with your customers and their values.

Audit existing seasonal campaigns.

Once you have decided on a seasonal event to utilize for a campaign, it’s time to do some homework on similar, successful campaigns — Ahrefs and BuzzSumo are great places to begin your research.

Consider how each piece approached content format, distribution, messaging, and emotion when evaluating previous campaigns.

When validating a campaign, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How has this piece used multiple content types and distribution platforms?
  • Is the messaging clear, and if so, what is it?
  • What emotion does this campaign evoke in the user?

Gather insights via external outreach.

Consider gathering outside opinions from journalists and digital publications in your space.

Seek out platforms that have covered campaigns you admire and ask for feedback on what makes a seasonal campaign compelling from their point of view.

2. Plan for marketing-friendly holidays.

Lucky for us marketers, every year comes packed with advantageous marketing opportunities in the form of holidays.

But what is it about holidays that makes them so great for marketing campaigns?

It’s the built-in positive sentiment.

Holidays are generally positive times that beget warm feelings like joy, nostalgia, and gratitude.

Marketing is all about evoking positive emotions in your audience and aligning your campaigns with marketing-friendly holidays allows you to ride the wave of seasonal good vibes and make customers feel good about buying your product.

According to a 2022 HubSpot survey of 247 marketers, Black Friday and Winter/End-of-Year Holidays were the most popular seasonal marketing events for future campaign planning.

51.4% and 52.6% of respondents indicated plans to build marketing strategies around those holidays.

While Black Friday and Winter holidays evoke different feelings, the marketing strategy of riding those times’ excitement and positive sentiment remains the same.

Of course, there are many other holidays to consider, and choosing the right one depends on your brand values and goals.

3. Establish a schedule.

With seasonal campaigns, timing is of the essence.

Your planning should begin well before your selected seasonal event, and you must create a schedule to execute each campaign step.

Generally, your content should be prepared, built, planned, and ready for press releases at least two months before the big event.

Consider using a marketing calendar to streamline your processes and get your team on the same page.

When creating a schedule for your campaign, don’t forget about your audience. When is the best time to contact them? When will they be most willing to share the content or engage with the campaign?

5. Organize your assets.

Your seasonal marketing campaign should touch all major platforms, including social media, email, blogs, and out-of-home advertisements (if that’s your thing).

A wide-reaching campaign requires meticulously organized assets. You should brief your creative team on the assets needed for each channel and the necessary resolutions and dimensions.

Pro Tip: A practical, up-to-date campaign plan document is essential during this process. It will enable you to better organize the timing and frequency of content releases and keep your messaging consistent by serving as a home for all your campaign assets and communications.

Check out these content marketing planning templates to get started.

5. Report and remain agile.

Remaining agile means prioritizing speed, collaboration, flexibility, and testing.

Reporting and reviewing your campaign’s performance as you go is necessary for maintaining the ability to adjust the campaign as it unfolds.

Where is the majority of traffic coming from? Which pages have the best bounce rate? Which ones are converting the best? These are some examples of metrics that can inform your strategy moving forward.

Don’t be afraid to make alterations to the original plans. If the changes you will make will ultimately improve the campaign’s success, why wouldn’t you make them?

Check out the video below for helpful information on running seasonal marketing campaigns. The video discusses promoting digital products like online courses, but the advice is broadly applicable.

Seasonal Marketing Examples

Back-to-School Shopping

Company: Walmart

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As much as we wish it weren’t the case, summer comes to an end every year. With summer’s end comes back-to-school shopping season, which can bring about excitement or dread, depending on who you are.

Still, the back-to-school season presents a tangible seasonal marketing opportunity, and Walmart seized it.

What makes it great: Walmart cleverly combines the urgency of back-to-school shopping with an exciting deal. Walmart offered customers last year’s prices on this year’s school supplies, which is an exciting way to frame their low prices, especially for inflation-conscious consumers.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to get a jump start on things. Walmart announced their 2023 back-to-school campaign on July 6th (too soon if you’re a student, but just right if you’re a marketer), and planning occurred many months beforehand.

Back-to-school spending is expected to reach record highs of $41.5 billion, up from $36.9 billion last year and the previous high of $37.1 billion in 2021. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to ride that wave if your products fit the bill.

Winter Holidays

Company: Starbucks

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Starbucks’ holiday cups are almost as ubiquitous as the winter holidays themselves.

Every year, as the colder months approach, Starbucks releases a festive holiday cup to kick off the season. Starbucks has been taking advantage of this seasonal marketing opportunity since 1995, and brand loyalty increases as the tradition cements yearly.

What makes it great: Starbucks gives customers something fun to look forward to every holiday season with fresh, festive design. They have piggybacked off the warm and inviting feelings of the holiday season so consistently and effectively that their seasonal marketing campaign has become a mainstay of the holidays.

Pro Tip: Consistency is key. If you can devise a seasonal marketing campaign that you can execute every year (while still keeping things fresh), your customers will look forward to it and open their wallets accordingly.

Summer Fun

Company: Target

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Target appeals to summer fun in their #TargetDrop seasonal marketing campaign.

Tik-Tok creator Hungry-Fam surprises his family with a pool party featuring Target’s summertime products like ice pops, swimsuits, and pool toys, all peddled from a rolling ice cream-themed mystery box.

Target’s campaign evokes the seasonal excitement of summer from a wholesome, family-friendly angle.

What We Like: Target takes advantage of a growing influencer marketing industry (up to $21.1B from $16.4B in 2022) and carves out a broad seasonal niche that doesn’t rely on a specific holiday.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to think big picture when crafting a seasonal campaign. It doesn’t always need to be a specific holiday you highlight in advertising. A broader seasonal campaign can resonate with a more significant number of people.

Spring Cleaning

Company: OXO

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As winter fades into spring, a feeling of freshness washes over us, and the urge to tidy our spaces resurfaces.

OXO supports that sentiment with helpful content to motivate peoples’ Spring Cleaning journeys. OXO’s contribution to this list shows how to approach seasonality from a content marketing perspective meant to delight and inform.

What We Like: OXO’s Spring Cleaning content perfectly matches seasonal opportunity and brand values.

Pro Tip: Formatting your written content as a list (when appropriate) makes it easier for readers to skim, increasing page views.

Halloween

 

Company: Reese’s

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Reese’s set out to cement their position as a top-tier Halloween candy with their Candy Converter vending machine.

Reese’s seasonal marketing pop-up installation was a vending machine that let people exchange unwanted Halloween candy (like store-brand lollipops and Almond Joys) for their coveted peanut butter cups.

What Makes It Great: Reese’s Candy Converter was a creative, attention-grabbing stunt that bolstered positive brand sentiment with seasonal excitement. Running a seasonal marketing campaign around Halloween was a no-brainer for a candy brand, and the exciting pop-up stunt garnered significant press.

Pro Tip: Physical pop-up installations can be a great way to get eyes on your brand and garner press. However, pulling off can be difficult and costly and requires a high degree of creativity.

‘Tis the Season for Marketing

Use the power of seasonal marketing to your advantage. With the right recipe of relevancy, creativity, and timing, you can capitalize on big events — and ultimately, boost sales.

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