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Giving Into Holiday Temptation to Sell Instead of Tell

Posted by: Soo Kim on December 19, 2013
Nike Holiday Ad

During the holidays, brands compete for people’s attention more than at any other time of year. Trying to wave down shoppers in a crowded commercial space can make it tempting to veer off message in favor of a short-term focus on holiday-speckled dollar signs.

Brands with strong identities inherently have strong messaging. That is, they have a knack for telling people what they stand for in a consistent and inspirational way. For example, if you invited Nike to a dinner party, it wouldn’t drone on about its latest shoe technology for runners. It would talk about how everyone around the table has the potential to be an athlete. That’s Nike’s message.

Retailers that stick to their messaging do it because they understand their brand is a more powerful driver than discounts and deals alone. Anthropologie speaks to the idea that clothes transport women to a world of fanciful delight. That message underlies all of its communications and rings true even as it introduces its holiday collection, “a rather giddysome collection of wants & wishes, oohs & aahs, fancies & finery and just about everything one’s heart could possibly desire.”


E-commerce design curator Fab also doubles down on its message that design creates space for people to be adventurous and bold with invitations like “let it all hang out.” It's a cheeky way of introducing their take on modern holiday décor.


Staying on message during the holiday frenzy is more challenging for others. A few months ago, T-Mobile announced its rebrand with fists up, declaring, “Ladies and gentlemen, T-mobile has left the clueless-cellular-company building.”

Its messaging platform of challenging the status quo, however, is more difficult to find in its holiday campaign, which focuses on seasonal deals, “great gift ideas for everyone,” and “T-mobile wish lists.” CEO John Legere, who’s popular for provoking his competition on Twitter, throws most of the blows through his personal account, but this feisty spirit isn't reflected in the brand's holiday messaging.<p/>



While we can’t deny the importance of ringing up as many sales as possible, it’s the brands who take the opportunity to flex their messaging chops and remind shoppers what they stand for that will turn customers into brand evangelists, long after the holiday season is over.

Do the brands you relate to tell a story you appreciate? What about those messages appeals to you?

Soo Kim is a Consultant for Verbal Identity at Interbrand New York.

For more on holiday brand messaging, see Speaking for the Holidays: Brand Voice and Holiday Shopping.




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