Christmas in July

No, this isn’t another blog about Amazon’s Prime Day. Nor is it a battle-cry for us all to dress in red suits and feast on plates of Turkey during the height of summer. I’m exploring why the brands who have Christmas ‘locked down’ in July, thrive in H2.

The banking crisis of 2008 forced a lot of change upon us – an understatement, you might say. In brand terms, it drove the need to be more strategic. The period of austerity meant Brands had to explore making Christmas more affordable for the consumer: “how can we help consumers, with less disposable income, budget for Christmas?”

So what changed, and why do I believe the financial struggles of 2008 resulted in positive change?

Everyone became focused on numbers. Businesses scrutinised their bottom-line and all activities they had undertaken. Across-the-board, companies had to be more tangible, showing evidence of value back to the business. To some smart companies, this was business as usual, but for the masses, it was the dawn of a new period and new way of working.

The process of scrutiny led businesses (consumer and B2B) to be more data-driven. Teams mined their consumer/client data, mapping who their primary buying audiences were, how and when they were spending and what (if any) spend enabling triggers, could be identified?

Teams were challenged to address these questions and the encouraging signs of producing tangible roadmaps spurred greater effort and further exploration. A limited number of smart businesses took further steps forward – they started to look beyond their own data; seeking more than analyst forecasts. After all, the period of 2008 taught us that while analysts foresee and map a lot of positive insights for us, there is the occasional trough or cavern they miss.

Was the quest to identify insight into what their nearest and dearest rivals were doing? Could we identify why they were successful? Wouldn’t it be great to marry their successes with ours? Wise questions indeed, but could these data-seeking companies find their answers? What if we could compile go-to-business and go-to-market strategies founded upon substance – irrefutable data?

Subsequent trends have seen brands launch their Christmas windows earlier and while, yes, there is an element of publicity behind this, the growing trend of facilitating budget-savvy consumers and clients is the real driver.

In the consumer world, it all starts next month with Tesco’s famed P9 period – or ‘back to school’ for those whom haven’t had the pleasure of working with Tesco (and Dunnhumby) during this peak footfall period. Following on from our youth returning to formal education the mission switches to clearing the storerooms and warehouses of the last summer products. By 1st October consumer brands are into ‘Christmas driver’ or ‘gifting period’.

While a lot of this copy has focused on consumers, the smart approaches pioneered by consumer and retail markets since 2008 have significantly evolved the approach and thinking in B2B. For years, there has been the anecdotal ‘use it or lose it’ budget challenge in the second half of the year. Today, how this is spent is scrutinised for value.

In the unlikely event you’re reading this and thinking ‘these approaches are yet to be deployed within my organisation, how do I go about this?’ here are some suggestions.

You start with deep data analysis. The thriving role of social media offers much, not least a significant data source. The volume and detail of tangible insights, trends, topics and themes that can be drawn from social data is significant. Listening tools will do part of the job – assuming you know how to use them and structure complex searches – and no this is as simple as copying and pasting your keywords. Then you need very smart people who can interpret the data, mining it for trends, relevant to your organisation and possessing the ability to produce potent go-to-market and go-to-business strategies.

The companies who will thrive in the second half of this year and who will be enjoying a booming festive period are those who have already started at pace their deep data analysis into current and past years. They don’t take a cookie cutter approach to their H2 strategy just because it was effective last year. They ask smart questions, seeking smarter answers and they let the data show them how to unlock the successes of H2.

They have Christmas (locked down) in July.

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