Nostalgia marketing in Christmas campaigns

December 7, 2020

When December starts knocking on the door and the weather gets colder (or if you are in the Southern Hemisphere warmer), this means that the season of giving and kindness is here. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, Christmas is the last busiest time of the year especially for marketers. That’s because over the years brands have learnt to use the festive season to their advantage. Consumers are sitting there with an open wallet ready to spend a fortune on (unnecessary) gifts. 

But what makes a Christmas campaign perfect? Well, the short answer is emotions. You need to get under the skin of your potential customers with something truly inspiring in order to make them love you and buy from you. And there’s no doubt who wins the Oscar in this category – of course, that would be Coca-Cola. They are the veterans who find their place in all marketing textbooks as an example for the perfect holiday campaign. And if you haven’t watched this year’s commercial, grab a tissue and click the play button below. We sure shed some tears over it… a couple of times.

However, if your business is not as big and old as Coca-Cola is, doesn’t have a tremendous marketing budget and resources, and you feel like Grinch when you see someone overly excited, don’t worry. You still have a chance to save your Christmas campaign. So set yourself in a mood to read – grab a cuppa or some mulled wine, if it’s already dark outside, and play some Mariah Carey songs.

Nostalgia marketing

Looking back to previous years, it’s easy to understand how much better it was. The positive feelings connected with the “good old times” help boost emotions now. 

Nostalgia marketing is not something new. But it sure is the next big trend for the upcoming years. As stated in an article by the New York Times from 2009 (is it a coincidence that it was right after the beginning of the previous recession),

The hope is that warm, fuzzy feelings about the past will help make people feel better about the present and future.

In a nutshell – we couldn’t find a better definition about this term. If you decide to use nostalgia in this year’s Christmas campaign, you should consider several important details.

Do you know your audience well enough?

Even though one of the best ways to capture your audience’s attention is by helping them remember, you should be precise when it comes to demographics. First of all, think about who your customer is. That is extremely important if your targeting is usually broad because for sure Generation X will not respond to your ad the same way as the Millennials would and vice versa. Once you clear things up, ask them what was their favourite thing to do over the Christmas holidays when they were little. Was it the family gathering, or the food, or maybe the games they played with their cousins? This will give you a clue how to proceed further. 

A really good example about this type of marketing is the launch of Pokemon Go in 2016. It resonated a lot with the millennials because they grew up with the series. A couple of years ago they were young enough to play an AR game and old enough to remember Pikachu. But the same didn’t apply to their parents.

Go digging

Besides for asking directly, make sure you do your research. Find out what was trendy back then. And if we are lucky to live in a digital era and have the internet on our side 24/7 to be able to dig deep, in some countries, years ago Generation X didn’t even have a TV at home. What were they doing then? Were there any important events around their childhood that you could be using to your advantage?

Turn to “retro influencers” for creative inspiration

Did you know there are influencers who build their following base by sharing nostalgic elements? Just a simple Google search leads us to 16 top retro influencers. These people are extremely valuable to work with, not only for drawing inspiration from, but also because their followers are already engaged with what they share. Either way, if you find an appropriate influencer resonating with your brand, you’d definitely want to drop them a message and say a few words about your new campaign or ideas.  

In simple words, because of the consequences led by Covid-19 this year, the world is already trying to disconnect from the current struggles by looking back. Or as stated in the new “Social Media Trends 2021” global report by Talkwaker and Hubspot: “Connect that positive memory to your brand and that sense of positivity will build an emotional relationship with your consumer. You made them feel good, therefore they associate your brand as a good brand.” Nostalgia helps you create more authentic campaigns in a way that your marketing efforts will be seen as real and not salesy. Furthermore, nostalgia marketing is thought to be working really well with millennials because they “remember” both sides – before and after the digital, and are more likely to respond in a positive way (as was the case of Pokemon Go). Or as Lauren Freidman wrote for the Forbes magazine “Share a compelling blast from the past with a millennial, and you’re likely to reach them on an emotional level — the holy grail of brand marketing.”

A blast from the past

Disclaimer: Writing this article has been extremely hard just because I’m one of those “Grinch-like” people who roll their eyes when someone is too excited. The reason? I get stressed every year – not just because I’m a social media ninja and have plenty of work to do, but also because I’m a human and it’s normal to have feelings.


And as we just spoke about nostalgia marketing and how you can leverage it in your festive campaign, below you will find some of the best “old but gold – contemporary” ideas to boost your sales and be as authentic as possible.

But before that, it’s important to note that Christmas planning and preparation starts as early as the summer simply because there are many things to consider before you actually get to do the work. No wonder why Facebook released their Christmas marketing guide in July. It is a good idea to download a checklist containing all the steps you need to follow so that you don’t forget something. Later’s holiday marketing checklist is perfect for this occasion. Once you fill it in, you’ll be half way through fulfilling your goals. If you haven’t started the preparations already, do something small but meaningful, and make sure you bookmark our blog post and schedule a reminder to read it again next year. So now let’s jump straight into the ideas we have for you.

Advent Calendars

Remember the special calendars filled with chocolate with which we used to count the days before the 25th December arrived and how instead of opening one window per day, we did it at once? Advent calendars are the number one idea on our list. As we live in the 21st century, however, these can be transformed to suit pretty much every business, not just the confectionary industry. Both physical products and services, online or offline. Advent calendars are a good way to build a solid email list. Furthermore they are fun, engaging and have the ability to create a buzz around your brand.

  • For example, if you are a winemaker, you can create a wine rack in the form of a Christmas tree and place 24 small bottles of your collection. The advantage for your customers will be that they’ll be able to taste a huge variety of your collection.

Credits to: Chateau Copsa 

Furthermore, in the sense of Covid, you can sell these online on your website, through social media or email if you already have a list of subscribers. If you don’t have an email database, this will be a good opportunity for you to generate one and use it later one. In addition, as people will be leaving their emails when placing the order, you can send them a special discount after New Year’s Eve to use if they decide to purchase a box of wine. This small incentive will also boost your January sales. And as for the clients – having in mind the current lockdowns, they’ll have something nice to enjoy.

Bonus: ask them to post their happy stories on Instagram and tag you, so you can increase the social interaction on your channels. User-generated content is a key factor for the success of every business nowadays.

  • If you offer services, what is stopping you from creating your own advent calendar as well? You just need some creativity to think how you and your customers can benefit from this campaign. The tricky part here is that you’ll mostly need the help of a developer to code it on a landing page. And if you are wondering, here at Interval, we just happen to have the perfect people for the job. Just drop us an email at So back to the question. In 2019, the British home cleaning and maintenance company Fantastic Services did exactly that. Their online advent calendar included prizes connected to their activities. Clients had to come back every day to open a new door, fill in their names and email and were participating for a chance to win the daily surprise.

Of course, what you can do is, place various discounts, free consultations (if you work in the beauty industry, for example), gift vouchers, bonuses (if you buy this, you get 1 for free) and even educational content. It’s really up to you and your budget.     

If you think about it, you’ll definitely come up with plenty of ideas suitable for every industry from confectionary, food and beverages, cosmetics to home cleaning. Probably the biggest benefit of doing a Christmas advent calendar campaign, no matter online or offline, is that it never gets old. It rather adapts and finds its way back on the market. Furthermore, online advent calendars are becoming more and more popular with the development of the technology. It is the ideal campaign to engage your audience. Besides, if people keep returning to your channels again and again, you are more likely to stay on top of mind when they need your product or service. Not to mention that this ultimately increases the traffic and time spent on your website.

12 days of Christmas

12 days of Christmas is the little sister of the Advent calendar campaign. Why? Because you might not have the budget or resources to do almost a month of prizes (if you are not selling the product directly), which is understandable. However, at this point you should be aware that it’s almost impossible to conduct any type of marketing for free. In order to receive, you should give something in return. And in this case, this will be 12 days of deals. This idea is perfect for those businesses which want to get rid of old inventory. Create tempting promo deals or give discounts on the products you don’t want around anymore. Generate some presale hype within your current audience so that they are curious to find out what you have in store for them. In addition, add that “hurry feeling” that they might miss out.

Anti-stress Christmas stockings

As I mentioned in the beginning of this part, and I’m sure it is valid for many people, besides for the season of joy, it is also the season of stress. Because of that, come up with a Christmas box, or even better – Christmas stocking, full of first aid things (for adults) to get through the holidays alive ????. When we were little, we used to get a Christmas stocking full of chocolate and sweets (why chocolate, though?). However, 20 something years later, the case is different. Even though the good old times were light-hearted for many, the truth is, today we have our own families to take care of and as much as we love them, it complicates things a bit. If you work for a convenience store or a supermarket, this will be the easiest but most brilliant thing to do. Gather essentials such as: aspirin, ibuprofen, a bottle of gin (could be wine, if you are not into this type of liqueur), coffee, chocolate, a scented candle (for switching into zen mode) and a voucher for additional internet for your mobile phone (trust me, that’s extremely necessary). Pack everything and have it ready for people to buy as a present for themselves, or for someone else. 

Even if your business does not belong to the above mentioned industry, you can still partner up with one and work on an affiliate basis – you get a percentage of every sold Christmas stocking. The more you advertise it, the better.


Bonus tips

Although you can do it through the whole year, Christmas is the best time to show your customers you care about them.

So why not do something small that will make them smile? Add that personal touch to the products they order or the services they enjoy from you.

  • For example, you can do gift wrapping so that even if they ordered last minute, they’ll be safe to have something nice under the Christmas tree. Additionally, many people will also enjoy it just because it will save them time and efforts. 
  • If you own a beauty salon, prepare Christmas cards and put them in a nice envelope. Give them to your clients when they leave and tell them to open it on 25th December. It’s a plus if you get the cards from a charity bazaar and hand write the message. You’ll show that you support local activities and for sure you’ll add the emotional feeling. 
  • Even though most restaurants are closed due to the pandemic, they still receive food orders. So when you package your customers’ lunch or dinner, why not add a card with a QR code which leads to a hidden online spot on your website with classic Christmas recipes? For sure it won’t cost a fortune but it will be a nice touch.

No matter how big or small the campaign you organize is, make sure you are socially active. In times of lockdowns, this is extremely important in order to stay in touch with your clients. 

One post or story per week won’t do the work. Posting every single day won’t do the work either. You need to find the balance between reminding your customers you exist and becoming too annoying. Reply to your comments and messages in a timely manner. This will show your clients you are really there when they need you. 

Use unique, branded hashtags in your posts and stories. Ask your clients to share their photos and videos using them. This way you’ll be able to follow what they think, how they feel, and also engage in a conversation. This might turn out to be great feedback that you can take into account next year. Plus, the more user-generated content there is, the better.

Take advantage of all free Instagram tools. Using stickers and gifs in stories is a fun and engaging way to promote your activities. Guides, on the other hand, now give you the opportunity to create collections containing various lists – from places, tips, local producers and products to gift ideas.

Most importantly – if you use more than one communication channel, make sure your message, tone of voice and visuals are aligned. You don’t want your customers to be confused. Rather all your efforts should be focussed in the same direction.

Believe it or not, this is the end of this article, so well done reaching so far. There are plenty of Christmas marketing ideas out there, but we wanted to go back in time when everything was simple. You don’t have to have Coca-Cola’s or Sainsburry’s marketing budget in order to create something truly touching. All you need is a team of smart heads to help you out. So if you like what we do, save our contact details and get in touch with us. It’s never too early to start planning your next year’s goals.

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