Kids aren’t the only ones who get geared up in anticipation of the gift-giving season. Influencer marketing campaigns reach a fever pitch during the winter holidays too, and for good reason. It’s because the last three months of the year make up one of the most important selling seasons for retailers. In the United States, 2018 retail sales for Black Friday alone reached $717.5 billion.

Competition for those consumer dollars is fierce as brands up the ante with attention-grabbing holiday campaigns. And brands are reaching more and more consumers right where they research their options and make their purchases: online. Brands can reach their target audiences whether they’re on the go with smartphones in tow or at their desktop computers. That’s where an influencer marketing strategy for holiday campaigns comes into play.

Social media is the way to consumers’ hearts and wallets as brands team up with influencers to give consumers holiday gift ideas. If you’re looking for direction on holiday influencer marketing strategies, check out how these brands partnered with influencers to create campaigns that delivered wish list-quality ROI. You can follow their lead with these examples of how to best use influencers for holiday campaigns.

Macy’s

With its flagship New York City store starring in a classic 1947 Christmas film, Macy’s knows a thing or two about the holidays. More recently, the retail giant created the #MacysLove hashtag for its holiday campaign. The promotion encouraged consumers and influencers to use the hashtag alongside photos of their Macy’s gifts and purchases on social media during the holiday season.

The department store chain partnered with influencers including husband and wife team Robert and Christina, known as @newdarlings on Instagram. The duo has 446,000 followers on Instagram, where they post content about family life, beauty, style, travel and interiors.

Customers enter for a chance to win a $200 Macy’s gift card when they share their best Macy’s ensembles and fashion picks on social media. All they have to do is use the hashtags #MacysLove and #MacysSweepstakes. The styles shown in influencer photos blended seamlessly with Macy’s own posts, presenting a consistent image. On Instagram, one post of a Macy’s outfit created by the influencer @puttingmetogether snagged over 1,500 likes in just two weeks.

“The Secret Life of Pets”

To promote its Blu-ray and DVD release during the 2016 holiday season, the animated movie “The Secret Life of Pets” teamed up with furry, four-legged influencers. Animal influencers included the uber-cute Pomeranian Jiffpom, who is a star on social media boasting millions of followers. The movie wrapped up the year with earnings of $875 million, thanks in part to its influencer campaigns.

Released in 2019 in the months leading up to the holiday season, the sequel, “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” packed in the star power. It collaborated with influencers including Kim Kardashian and her dog Sushi for high-profile social media campaigns. As of November 2019, The Secret Life of Pets 2 had raked in a total of nearly $448 million in box office and home market sales.

Old Navy

Retail giant Old Navy teamed up with former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez for a holiday promotion benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Old Navy donated one dollar to the organization for every pair of Cozy Socks customers bought in-store on Black Friday. Old Navy raised $2 million ($1 million each year) for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America during its 2017 and 2018 campaigns.

Crate & Barrel

Crate & Barrel understood the importance of helping consumers bring holiday festivities to life when it partnered with food influencers on a holiday campaign. The influencers — Marcella Dilonardo aka @modestmarce and Tieghan Gerard aka @halfbakedharvest — created ideas for holiday parties and recipes and posted them on Instagram. While Crate & Barrel’s Instagram account has 1.6 million followers, together, the two influencers boosted the brand’s reach by an additional million Instagram followers.

Considerations When Planning Holiday Influencer Campaigns

  • Identify the Target Market for Your Campaign. Your brand will likely want to cast a wider net during the holiday season. Brands need to reach the consumers generating the wish lists — and those buying gifts for them. It’s crucial to reach the friends, family and colleagues of your target market as they make gift-giving decisions.
  • Decide How Long Before the Holidays Your Campaign Should Start. Remember, influencers get busy during the holiday season too, so don’t wait until the last minute to book them for a campaign. You’ll probably want to start pretty far in advance with teaser campaigns (featuring your influencers) for your products.
  • Put a Content Calendar and Schedule in Place. Map out your customers’ holiday purchase journey throughout the year and create content for its different stages. It’s a good idea to start with product and brand awareness campaigns well ahead of the holidays.
  • Work With an Influencer Who’s a Natural Fit. Make sure the influencer you choose can seamlessly and naturally integrate your product into their holiday content. If the fit seems awkward and inauthentic, followers probably won’t trust the campaign, and sales will suffer. However, if influencers tell real stories about how the product complements or enhances their lifestyle, it helps followers form a connection with the brand. It can also give them new ideas about how to use a product. For instance, an influencer who creates recipes for holiday treats might use ingredients or appliances from brands their audience has never considered buying before. Posting attractive photos of the tempting treats alongside the recipes then helps stir interest in the product and the brand.
  • Offer Special Experiences. Consumers think of the holidays as a special time that generates warm, positive feelings and memories. Offering them a feel-good experience, like donating to a good cause with each purchase of an item, creates a positive association with the brand. Influencers can also promote special holiday events and experiences like pop-up shops, interactive events, test drives and tastings to their followers. They can appear at the events, generating even more content and interest in the product and connecting with consumers.
  • Contests and Giveaways. The holidays can be real budget-busters, so brands often get big benefits from partnering with influencers on gift card giveaways and contests. Influencer audiences have positive feelings about brands that give away gift cards because they empower recipients to buy what they want. Influencer campaign contests and giveaways also ramp up brand awareness and loyalty, engagement, site traffic, leads and sales.
  • Make Video Gift Guides. Think about working with influencers to create video or carousel gift guides for social media channels like Instagram and YouTube. Unboxing is a concept that’s tailor-made for holiday influencer video campaigns on social media. It replicates the excitement of opening a gift as an influencer unwraps and opens a package containing a brand’s product.
  • Track Your Campaign Results. It’s important to track key performance metrics throughout your holiday influencer campaign. That way, you can switch course if needed and compare year-on-year results over the long term. Offering coupons and discounts through influencer holiday campaigns makes sales and campaign ROI easier to measure.
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