Bah Humbug! Has Seasonal Marketing Become ‘Too Much’?

By Rob Skelly, Creative Director, Born Ugly

Walk into a supermarket just two days after Christmas and you’re already bombarded with Easter eggs, despite the holiday being almost four months away. Similarly, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if we see pumpkins and witches hats begin to go on sale before the kids have even left school this year.

Yes, you could argue that it’s just chocolate in a different mould, but it’s not actually about the chocolate. It’s about the mindset for consumers.

There’s something about the consumerism of retailers pushing Halloween outfits in (fingers crossed) 25c weather or half price Christmas puddings next to full price Easter eggs that just doesn’t sit right.

Christmas, no matter how exciting, is often a very stressful and expensive time, so a little bit of a break before the pester power of the Easter bunny would be greatly appreciated. This mass consumerism is not sympathetic to the consumer’s mindset – or to their wallet (keeping in mind Mother’s Day and Valentines Day are between the two, too).

Yet, retailers don’t appear to be considering the consumer in any of this. It feels like the big brands will continue their ‘follow the leader’ approach while they vie for the number one spot.

But if retailers gave consumers a chance to mentally breathe before the next big event, they could provide customers with something new, unexpected, and inspirational on the shelves, instead of a continuous stream of holiday-inspired items that only places continuous pressure on their wallets.

The holidays are coming (whether you like it or not)

By no means is this a new phenomenon – but it seems each year the seasonal marketing for the next holiday starts that little bit earlier. And it’s not just confined to the traditional holidays, either.

Black Friday began as a single day, then become a week, and now lasts a whole month. Similarly, back-to-school marketing used to be a sign that you were half way through the summer holidays. Now they remind us it’s back to school in July before the children have given their teacher’s thank you cards and chocolates for their current school year.

And it’s happening right across the board. Retailers are falling over one another to compete for the top spot during any holiday period, for fear of missing out on precious sales if they don’t follow the crowd.

Supermarkets have defended the early seasonal promotions as people ‘just wanting to treat themselves early’, but personally I just don’t buy it.

Let’s face it, the earlier the holidays begin, the more likely you are to be bored of it by the time it comes around. It takes away the novelty of a singular day – or weekend – of festivities.

And then before you know it, you’re on to the next big thing.

Imagine the possibilities if retailers understood that customers might need a break or just something different in between each holiday period, instead of jumping straight onto the next…

The season of giving

And the entire retail industry has been swept along with this trend. In turn, this only places strain on independent and smaller businesses to stand out in a market that is constantly inundated with seasonal promotions.

Retail shelf space is at an absolute premium with brands fighting to be seen, or even make it to the shelf at all.

Instead of following the crowd, it would be refreshing if a retailer dedicated that valuable seasonal aisle shelf space to support independent brands, startups, and local businesses. Rather than flying in the face of the ‘season of goodwill’, large retailers could continue that spirit for a little longer to provide a platform and opportunity for these smaller business to get a look in on their shelves.

This could even be tied into other notable months, like Veganuary, Stoptober or Dry January, which might give an opportunity for small businesses that fill a niche to shine.

Simultaneously, this break in the seasonal infinity loop will give the consumer space to mentally breathe.

But none of this will happen until one of the big retailers is brave enough to stop the cycle and to provide their consumers with something new, unexpected, and inspirational on their shelves.