The Annual Guide to Holiday Marketing
Check out our handy annual marketing calendar. Scroll by month to see which holidays are upcoming in your region and get helpful content to manage your seasonal marketing strategy.
Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Super Bowl Sunday, Kwanzaa, Australia Day…what do these have in common? They are all popular holidays in different markets, which makes them fantastic opportunities for increasing sales and revenue. Gifts, parties, vacations, decorations…in every month of the year, there are several holidays your target audience might be celebrating, and you may even have the perfect product or service they can celebrate with. The first thing to consider as a marketer is which holidays you should be focusing on to make the most of your time, energy, and budget. But before we examine a year’s worth of seasonal marketing, let’s take a look at what holiday marketing actually is.
What is holiday marketing?
Holiday marketing, or seasonal marketing, is the use of tactics and channels to promote a brand, product, or service intensively around a specific holiday. Seasonal marketing campaigns tend to include special offers that incentivize consumers to purchase for the holiday, concentrated in a specific time period before, during, or even after the holiday date. Branding is an important part of holiday marketing, as it enables companies to heighten awareness of their brand together with the buzz that naturally surrounds a holiday or event. A classic example is a Super Bowl ad, or the UK-retailer John Lewis’ annual Christmas video.
Brands can leverage all kinds of channels, strategies, and tactics for holiday marketing, so there are no hard and fast rules about how to do it. Having said that, here are five broad foundations to holiday marketing you should be aware of so you can be sure to start on the right foot.
During holiday seasons, people are shopping with intent.
One of the best things about seasonal marketing? It’s easier to know your audience’s intentions. People shopping for the holidays are doing so with purpose. The types of purchases typically made for Mother’s Day are different than those for Valentine’s Day, for example, and marketers can adjust their campaign message and targeting accordingly. Holidays are also a time when consumers are highly focused on their shopping goals. It’s not just casual browsing – people are searching for specific gifts, ideas, and deals. As marketers, you can use this to leverage your holiday marketing efforts.
Pro tip: The easiest way to understand consumer intent is to follow the data. There are many resources that provide insights about shopping trends and patterns. Check out the National Retail Federation’s Holiday and Seasonal Trends website. It’s continually updated and chock full of fresh, helpful consumer data.
Consumers are primed to discover.
Because holiday shoppers have such high intent, they are very open to discover new brands and products. They are actively searching, with “antennas” up, hoping to find the perfect gift, the best price, or the tempting offer. Marketers should take advantage of this with a proactive approach that will put them on the consumer radar. Holiday season is the time to be different, to tap into creative juices, and create campaigns that stand out among a very crowded marketplace. The “20% off” sales are nice, but they won’t necessarily draw attention. Look for ways to reach out and grab mindshare, rather than passively hoping it will come to your brand.
Pro tip: Native advertising is an excellent channel to capture audience attention when they are primed for discovery. Native ads take on the look and feel of the web page they appear, so they don’t intrude on the reader experience. Plus native ads appear on premium publisher sites, generating high-quality traffic and leads, and marketers can even customize and fine-tune targeting to reach their best audiences. Find out more about how to create native ad campaigns in this guide.
Holiday season marketing usually starts early.
One of the mistakes marketers make is leaving holiday campaigns to the last minute. Apart from adding stress, starting campaigns too close to the holiday means you may miss out on crucial consumer traffic of shoppers who are getting on the scene early.
This is not always a hard and fast rule. Black Friday sales tend to start early, and consumers can spend weeks searching for the best deals – so it is a good idea to get in on the game early too. On the other hand, Valentine’s Day shopping really gears up very close to the day itself, so even if you are running late with your campaigns, you may still capitalize on last-minute traffic. Like all digital marketing activities, holiday marketing requires solid planning and enough time to optimize campaigns as you go along.
Pro tip: There really is no reason to wait – marketers have all the holiday dates at their disposal, so plan accordingly and in advance. Check out the Outbrain Global Events calendar to see all the dates for the upcoming year.
Holiday marketing is often localized (but not always).
Some holidays are global, like Valentine’s Day. Others are local, such as Mother’s and Father’s Day, which fall on different dates in the US and the Commonwealth, for example. Christmas in Europe is a winter holiday, while in Australia and South America, it’s the peak of summer vacation. Depending on your location and type of business, all this will need to be considered in your approach to seasonal marketing. If your offer is available globally, whether a downloadable product or via international shipping, campaigns will definitely need to be adjusted accordingly, and targeted to the right geo segments.
Pro tip: Localization of seasonal marketing campaigns can involve adaptation of messaging, translating or localizing the copy, use of appropriate images, or even adjusting the offer itself to suit local markets (i.e. pricing or discounts). Learn more about localization and global marketing here.
Planning holiday marketing can be done all year round.
As mentioned above, all the holiday dates are known in advance so there is no reason to wait till the last minute. More than that, it’s wise to look at seasonal marketing as a long-term deal, and leverage those strategies that work all year round to build up holiday buzz. For example, you can advance your SEO around holiday-related keywords all through the year, so you get good visibility on search engines during peak times. And planning your holiday campaigns throughout the year is important for allocating budgets and ad spend accurately. If your product is not popular during winter months, then you can focus more budget on summer campaigns rather than New Year’s.
Pro tip: Even when you’re focused on holiday marketing, it’s a good idea to frame it within the larger marketing picture. Here’s a helpful blog post about how to create an effective digital marketing budget, and it covers the issue of seasonal marketing too.
Holiday Marketing Guide: Month By Month
Now that we’ve established the basics of holiday marketing, let’s take a walk through a year’s worth of seasonal marketing occasions and opportunities. Below you’ll find a monthly breakdown of the main holidays that might feature in your annual marketing calendar, with fun facts and interesting insights to explore.
Remember, not all holidays will be relevant to your market or location, so focus on the ones that have the best potential to boost your brand and sales. Wherever possible, you’ll find links to advanced, holiday-specific content, including hacks, tips, strategies, and inspiring campaign examples to help turbo-charge your seasonal marketing efforts. We’ll be updating this with fresh, relevant content over time, so make sure to check back often.
Happy holiday marketing to you and yours!
The peak of winter or summer, depending on the hemisphere. January is the beginning of a new year, the start of the Q1 marketing plan and budget, and a time when people are setting their new year resolutions.
- January 1: New Year’s Day (Global)
- 3rd Monday of January: Martin Luther King Jr Day (US)
- January 26: Australia Day (Aus)
- Back-to-school marketing inspiration for the southern hemisphere
A busy month around the globe, with major and minor national and global events. The Super Bowl is a biggie for US audiences, while Valentine’s Day is celebrated as the international day of love in many countries. Not to forget Chinese New Year, which is celebrated widely outside of China.
- 1st Sunday in February: Super Bowl Sunday (US)
- February 2: Groundhog Day (US): the whimsical day made famous in the classic movie of the same name
- February 14: Valentine’s Day (Global). Approximately 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent every year. Love is in the air!
- Between January 21 and February 20: Chinese New Year
- Use the Chinese zodiac animal sign as inspiration for your campaigns!
- February 29: Leap Day (Global). A super-big marketing opportunity that comes once every four years!
For the northern hemisphere, March brings the stirrings of spring and a great opportunity to freshen up your campaigns with new ideas and offers. Plus, with women driving the majority of consumer purchase decisions, International Women’s Day is a not-to-be-missed marketing opportunity.
- March 8: International Women’s Day (Global)
- March 17: Saint Patrick’s Day (US, Ireland, Global)
- March 19/20/21: First day of spring (Northern hemisphere)
Kicking off with the joky-est day of the year, April is a holiday-packed month that includes Easter and Passover, offering lots of marketing opportunities particularly for family-friendly brands. Celebrate Mother Earth with eco-inspired marketing campaigns, a great way to attract value-conscious customers.
- April 1: April Fool’s Day (Global)
- March/April: Passover/Easter (Global)
- April 15: Tax Day (US)
- April 22: Earth Day (Global)
May is the month of the Big “M”s, with Mother’s Day in the US and many other countries, Memorial Day in the US, and the Mexican holiday of Cinco De Mayo, which has spread to the US and elsewhere. This month offers several opportunities to run various campaigns suited for different tones, styles, and target audiences.
- May 5: Cinco De Mayo (Mexico)
- 2nd Sunday of May: Mother’s Day (US & Others)
- For the full list of Mother’s Day dates around the world, check here.
- May 30: Memorial Day (US)
In the US and elsewhere, June is Dad’s month, with Father’s Day marketing campaigns in abundance. For the northern hemisphere, summer vacation is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to start planning and executing travel and leisure campaigns.
- 2nd Saturday of June: Queen’s Birthday (UK. In other Commonwealth countries, dates vary.)
- 2nd Sunday in June: Father’s Day (US & Others)
- For the full list of Father’s Day dates around the world, check here.
- June 20-22: Summer solstice – vacation season is almost here! (Northern hemisphere).
- June 20/21: Amazon Prime Day (US)
- World Cup Marketing: Why You Should Connect With World Cup Fans
- All month long: Pride Month (Global)
It’s the month of national celebration for the US, Canada and France, in addition to peak summer vacation time. School’s out, the sun’s shining, and families and friends all get together to relax and enjoy. There’s no better time to tap into the consumer sense of national pride and the spending behaviors of the summer vacay season.
- July 1: Canada Day (Canada)
- July 4: Independence Day (US)
- July 14: Bastille Day (France)
- World Cup! Once every four years…
Summer is winding down in the northern hemisphere, and that means back-to-school shopping is just getting started. For marketers who plan ahead, now is the time to start thinking about the biggest season of the year, Black Friday. More on that below!
- August 12: International Youth Day (Global)
- Back-to-School Tips for Native Campaigns
- Best Back-to-School Marketing Campaigns (and the ‘Worst Ad Ever’)
While September is a quieter month in terms of actual holidays, it’s a busy period for marketers, with the leadup to the longest holiday season that begins with Halloween and ends with Christmas and New Year’s. This is the time to focus on building out your upcoming campaigns.
- 1st Monday of September: Labor Day (US)
- 1st Sunday after Labor Day: Grandparent’s Day (US)
And so it begins…The end-of-year holiday marketing season kicks off at the end of October with Halloween. Once a uniquely American holiday, Halloween is now celebrated as far afield as Australia, and it’s a great opportunity to grab consumer attention and sales.
- October 31: Halloween (US and other countries)
- Holiday Marketing Tips to Increase Sales
- E-Commerce Trends for the Upcoming Holiday Season
November includes some of the biggest and busiest shopping periods in the calendar. The Indian Diwali holiday, Chinese Singles Day, Thanksgiving, and of course the legendary Black Friday weekend that extends through to Cyber Monday. Both instore and online, consumers everywhere are opening their wallets. Build your November strategy to make the most of it.
- November (date changes according to Hindu calendar): Diwali (India). For marketers in India, celebrate the 5-day festival with your customers.
- November 11: Singles Day (China & Global). One of the world’s biggest shopping days – ever! There are over 200 million singles in China who want to celebrate their singledom, plus the holiday has spread to become a global one.
- November 11: Remembrance Day (Commonwealth)
- 4th Thursday in November: Thanksgiving (US)
- Weekend after Thanksgiving: Black Friday/ Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday (US & Global)
- How to Plan Your Black Friday & Cyber Monday Marketing
- 5 Tips to Overcome a Challenging Holiday Season
The last month of the year is packed with holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve, plus the 5-day Kwanzaa holiday. For southern hemisphere marketers, it’s the peak of summer vacation so make sure to plan ahead. In the wintry north, leverage brand power with unique holiday marketing opportunities like National App Day and Free Shipping Day.
- December 11: National App Day (US)
- Mid December: National Free Shipping Day (US)
- December (dates vary according to Jewish calendar): Hanukkah (Global)
- December 25: Christmas (Global)
- December 26: Boxing Day (Many Commonwealth countries) – Similar to Black Friday, this is a big discounted shopping day for consumers in Australia, the UK, and around the Commonwealth.
- December 26-January 1: Kwanzaa (US)
- December 31: New Year’s Eve (Global)
So, what’s the biggest shopping day of the year?
If you want to crush your holiday marketing, you’ve got to know what dates are worth focusing on. Of course, this will depend on your location, target market, and the type of product or service you offer. Black Friday is typically regarded as the busiest shopping day of the year. However, with the continued rise of e-commerce, it has merged with Cyber Monday to become Cyber Week. Together with Thanksgiving, these holidays produce record-spending levels in the US.
Want to discover more insights to help build successful holiday marketing campaigns? Visit Outbrain BrainPower and search for the data in your vertical.