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How Not To Do Seasonal Holiday Email Campaigns

Seasonal marketing campaigns must evolve to keep up with consumer attitudes. See what you can change to better harness the potential of seasonal emails with Jarrang. 

March 28 - 2024

Article 5 min read

Easter seasonal marketing

Why marketing managers need to rethink seasonal email campaigns in 2024

In an industry increasingly concerned with protecting digital audiences from spam and misleading campaigns, it’s time for marketers to change their approach to seasonal email marketing. 

It’s no longer enough to see seasonal events as an excuse to bombard users with branded messages. Instead, you need to approach things with a critical eye and consider how your users are going to react. Is the holiday relevant to your brand? Will your audience care? How can you offer value to them rather than actively pushing them away?

Relevance matters to users, no matter how exciting you think your campaigns might be. Failing to account for this can drive users away from your brand. 69% of consumers report receiving irrelevant messages from brands, and almost half (49%) say they are frustrated by having their inboxes bombarded by them. 

Seasonal campaigns can’t just be your go-to idea because of the time of year. Brands need to account for their users and their needs in order to create relevant content that is matched to the genuine wants, needs and likes of their audiences. 

The brands making better Valentine’s Day decisions

We’ve just been through one of the early seasonal events in the UK marketing calendar – Valentine’s Day, so let’s start there. A record amount of British people reported feeling lonely ahead of Valentine’s Day this year and almost half of the UK said they’d be skipping the celebrations entirely. 

Despite this, some brands still proceeded to send lots of email campaigns across the period – with flower retailers guilty of sending the highest volume of emails at around 38.3 on average! 

Though spamming users with messages is never a good idea, there’s no intrinsic problem with sending campaigns themed to seasons – but only if you have given your users a sense of choice and your messages feel appropriately personalised. 

The UK flower delivery company Bloom and Wild made headlines in 2019 by allowing customers to voluntarily opt out of marketing messages for specific holidays. This idea gained traction, and they launched a ‘Thoughtful Marketing Movement’ to help other companies allow users to opt-out. Tesco, Papier, Etsy, and over 150 others have followed suit to allow users to avoid messages around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.. 

By examining businesses that are doing things right and those that are doing things wrong, we can learn a few key lessons about harnessing seasonal holiday email campaigns…

Seasonal florals

Respect user boundaries

Nothing turns a potential customer away faster than being made to feel uncomfortable. Certain festive events have negative connotations for users but may still be relevant to your business (such as Mother’s Day and flower delivery), so you need to be able to inform users ahead of time about any marketing they may receive and allow them to opt-out. Otherwise, you’ll likely see your unsubscribe rates skyrocketing. 

Empowering users to set content preferences is good practice not only for brand reputation, but for ensuring your emails actually matter to users and are subsequently opened and engaged with. 

How to action this in your email marketing:

  • Provide voluntary preference settings to give users more control over which campaigns they receive. 
  • Warn users ahead of any larger seasonal campaigns and highlight the opportunity to opt-out of these kinds of sends. 
  • Use your data insights to create segments for users who don’t engage with specific seasonal campaigns to avoid frustrating them next time. 

Be mindful of moment-to-moment context

The time investment behind great email campaigns means that you’re generally preparing them in advance and sending them via a scheduling system. When it comes to seasonal campaigns, brands typically prepare them long in advance and don’t make adjustments – but this can cause big problems. 

Though not seasonal, Airbnb learned this lesson the hard way when they launched a floating hotel campaign during Hurricane Harvey in the US. This was perceived as insensitive and cruel to the victims who had lost their homes to the subsequent flooding. Though totally unplanned and unforeseeable, the team needed to be aware of current events and be able to stop the scheduled campaign from sending. 

How to action this in your email marketing:

  • Monitor current events and news, both globally and nationally and within your sector and audience. 
  • Audit scheduled campaigns whenever significant news events occur. Have your team sense-check campaigns to ensure they won’t cause issues. 
Managed email marketing agency jarrang services approach deploy

Personalisation is powerful – when used correctly

Personalisation is an effective way to improve campaign results and is rapidly becoming an expectation of modern audiences. According to SmarterHQ, 72% of customers exclusively engage with personalised messaging. 

There are some pitfalls associated with personalisation that are easy to fall into. A classic mistake is using [Name] subject lines without having audience data properly organised, leading to emails displaying the code rather than the recipient’s name when it hits their inbox. 

However, personalisation needs to be managed even more carefully in terms of seasonal email campaigns. Though the evidence is anecdotal, the internet is awash with cases of poor seasonal personalisation – such as in the case of a US travel retailer that angered users by offering couples personalised discounts without accommodating for the fact many of those customers had since split. 

How to action this in your email marketing:

  • Use personalisation regularly, but always take care to check your data and functionality before sending any campaigns. 
  • Regularly engage with users and make it simple for them to update preferences and personalisation settings. This helps you to avoid accidentally using outdated information, such as a recent divorcee’s married name. 
  • Explore deeper personalisation tactics such as event and life stage campaigns to engage with customers more meaningfully. Jarrang can help you achieve this. 

Don’t be controversial to get noticed

Some brands use seasonal campaigns as an excuse to frame shock value as ‘creativity.’ Since the advent of social media and the concept of ‘cancelling’, this type of messaging tends to ring hollow and can genuinely anger audiences. Let’s look at an example that isn’t from an email campaign but is such a clearly misguided attempt to gain attention via controversy that we can’t leave it out…

On International Women’s Day in 2021, Burger King angered customers by tweeting ‘Women belong in the kitchen’ as the first message of its IWD campaign – despite having plenty of room for additional characters that would have given context within the tweet. Clearly, the intention was to be tongue-in-cheek and draw attention – but it backfired and led to the brand having to apologise. 

Embrace counter culture

Counter culture is a powerful way to market your campaigns – though its effectiveness is sure to dull as more brands adopt this approach. This year saw lots of companies embracing counter-culture with Valentine’s Day offers aimed at single people and the #SelfLove concept. US delivery company DoorDash encouraged customers to show love to themselves via self-love bouquets and an associated promotional campaign. 

Who Gives A Crap, a toilet roll company, produced a ‘Flush Your Ex’ toilet paper product and embraced the Valentine’s Day season as a way to encourage customers to move on from ex-partners and empower them to move forward. 

Both of these examples show brands that understand counterculture and can engage with it playfully. Provided you keep the lessons we’ve already covered around controversy and current events, you can work counterculture ideas into your campaigns where they suit. 

How to action this in your email marketing:

  • When planning seasonal marketing, consider each event and research counter angles. 
  • Challenge your team to come up with counter-culture campaign ideas that are relevant to your brand.
  • Consider testing those ideas with a focus group to see how customers might perceive them before launch. 

Stay ahead of seasonal campaigns with Jarrang

Effective email marketing relies equally on great planning and flawless execution. In a busy marketing team, seasonal campaigns often become a sudden rush event where people try to put together content to a tight deadline and simply ‘tick the box’ for the relevant event.

This approach doesn’t work for email campaigns that actually engage with audiences. You need a team that can help manage your email campaigns' day-to-day management, freeing up time and resources to plan ahead for those key calendar events. With an expert email agency partner on hand, you can plan, refine, test and tweak seasonal campaigns to improve your chances of success. 

Work with a pro-active email partner

If you’re looking to improve user engagement through better campaign planning, Jarrang can help you. Not only can we alleviate the resource drain of day-to-day campaign management, but also advise and collaborate on campaign ideas based on relevant seasonal interests. 

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