Discounting isn’t dead.
It never will be.
The trouble is that everything is discounted now. Seriously, everything. Even bullshit is on sale.
If discounting doesn’t stand out, then how do you break the mold this holiday season? How do you create effective ads that grab attention and drive sales, without resorting to the same 15% off that everyone else is using?
Here are 4 ways, including how to make discounting more effective.
But first, some knowledge.
Which Holiday Facebook Creative Approach is the Best?
Fear works. Most of the time.
Protecting yourself from external threats, or fixing internal mistakes you’re already making is one of the most basic, primal motivations we have as human beings.
That’s why utilizing fear is so damn effective. It elicits one of the most powerful, visceral responses. We can’t help but respond.
And that’s why our news programs are so damn depressing. (Hi, Fox News!)
While negative emotions are more noticeable, during the holidays positive emotions are more likely to cause a viewer to engage and take action.
A brilliant study done by Fractl, highlighted in the Harvard Business Review, shows that emotions related to happiness are the top drivers of most shared content.
Study participants were shown photos and told to select emotions from the “wheel of emotion”.
As you can see from the findings below, the most shared images were emotionally related to happiness.
That’s why great ads work. They play with our emotions by triggering a neural reaction that causes us to mirror an emotion.
So instead of focusing on how people can avoid a looming disaster or fix a critical mistake, during the Holidays your creative should emphasize what people can get – above and beyond the norm.
Like a discount! 🙂
The 4 Ways to Create Effective Holiday Facebook Ads
Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this blog (pandering).
You know how to create beautiful, effective ads people love by introducing Cialdini classics like urgency or scarcity, and helping people make the cognitive leap.
And you know how to get people to click on your Facebook ad through risk-reversals, social proof, and more.
So beyond that, where do we start? The offer.
The key to an effective holiday ad campaign is the incentive or compelling reason you’re asking people to take action in the first place.
For example, if your business is transactional, then discounting works great!
But, what if it isn’t? What if you have a consultative sales cycle, that could take months, and discounting would erode brand value?
If you’re looking for inspiration outside of discounts, then here are a few ideas plotted along a simple chart.
Let’s now walk through some of the major categories these ideas fall under to give you a quick mental framework for creating new holidays ads.
For simplicity, we’ll start on the far left and work our way right (because that’s how they taught me in grade school, and I haven’t learned much since then).
1. Discounts (That Don’t Suck)
There’s nothing inherently wrong with discounting.
It’s effective. Always has been, always will be.
But discounts are like white noise now. It’s not enough to shout about your 15% off. How do you stand out?
One way is to offer deep discounts on specially curated holiday items, like The Spangler Science Club:
These work because you’re making people’s lives simple. This is the perfect gift for your own child or one you know. And in this case, the savvy people behind the Spangler Science Club are using this as a loss leader to drive subscription sales. Smart.
(Also, that damned Elf on a Shelf gets me every time.)
Next up is a deep discount on something surprising that stands out. For example, Groupon’s Ugly Christmas Suit (with matching tie). Perfect for that special hipster in your life.
A minute ago, we learned about the strong appeal surprising or truly unique things create (that was the science part you probably skipped over). That’s why a pattern interruption or creating a curiosity gap is so effective. Groupon (and Braveman) do this brilliantly by not just creating a clever offer, but also creating something that people will actually share and talk about.
If you must discount, then why not support a good cause at the same time? That’s what the Iowa Hawkeyes Blanket promotion is doing, donating over 18,000 (!) blankets to date.
Anytime you can make someone feel good about purchasing something from you, it’s a win-win. In this case, a third party benefits from a purchase somebody was probably already going to make anyway. While these customers also feel better (read: lower buyer’s remorse) about their decision too.
If you’re a bit uncomfortable with a straight discount, or you just want to try something a little more different, why not reward people and incentivize them to purchase more? Like a buy-one-get-one-free (aka skill kinda a discount)?
Redbubble does an excellent job creating packages that reward customers for purchasing more:
2. Sell Loyalty & Service, First
The next level for transactional-type businesses is to compete on service and loyalty.
Here, you’re emphasizing the mutual trust between you and the customer as a prime purchasing motivation for a particular kind of buyer (i.e. the one who will spend more $$$), instead of going after more price conscious people looking for the best deals.
For example, Nordstrom’s free shipping and (liberal) free return policy make them a perfect candidate for selling on service. They’ve combined that by curating holiday looks that (again) help people simplify their shopping.
They’re also experts at content, cleverly staging a specific product combination that not only appeals to a certain demographic on Instagram but also encourages upsells.
Another clothing brand, REVOLVEclothing.com, has created a curated Holiday Guide full of products that would make somebody (or yourself) happy.
These last few examples have also started to blur the lines a bit between incentive categories, which is a perfect segue for the next section.
3. Offer High Value, Exclusive Content
One of the best ways to differentiate online ads without discounting is through content. For companies on the transactional side of things, we’ve already seen that curated guides can be a hit.
Case-in-point: Frank & Oak put together a quick overview of 5 options for men based on different occasions they might be attending this year.
Target, as most large retailers, almost HAS to discount. But that’s not their primary message here. Instead, they’re investing heavily into content and using storytelling to do the trick.
By now, we’ve beat the transactional or product-focused examples to death.
What about more service-based companies or ones with higher price points and longer sales cycles?
Content is the perfect incentive vehicle to grab attention and interest, while not eroding your brand either. A few of these savvy brands are also adopting the new lead generation features.
The most traditional form of content incentive example is a standard guide or ebook available for download. For example, if you’re investing heavily in advertising this holiday season (like all of the companies mentioned so far), sovrn’s here to help:
IBM is raising awareness for their new Watson app with a gift guide that will forecast shopping trends and provide special insight. So not only are they creating an incentive to generate leads, but they’re also using that incentive to show (not tell) people about how their technology works.
Content means many things, though. Beyond basic guides or ebooks, you can also use images, infographics, video, and even tools or calculators to help drive leads.
HubSpot does this brilliantly, by providing marketers with a HUGE pain point – free stock photos – that typically can set them back $1,500!
Another example along the same lines is from TemplateMonster, which is providing photoshop files for Holiday banner ads.
The commonality is that they’re taking something difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, doing all the hard work, and then providing it for free in order to get their foot in the door with the chance to nurture that lead over time.
4. Access to Contests or Events
The next step beyond exclusive content is exclusive access.
Contests can create this exclusivity with the promise of something interesting, memorable, and valuable. For example, SC Johnson calls themselves “A Family Company”, so what better way to show that then through 3,000 Visa cards to help people spend the holidays with their loved ones.
A huge prize always works. Always. No matter the context or scenario. Sam’s Club and Jeep have co-branded a holiday promotion this year by offering a new car OR dream getaway. It’s tough to beat either if you’re trying to drum up attention and interest.
Finally, what can you give people that money can’t buy?
Experience and entertainment. Cue Saks example:
Saks is using an exclusive event to create their own buzz, kinda like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. However, I don’t think the statuesque Angels will be in attendance. Sad emoji.
Discounts are great. They work. And they don’t have to suck.
But there’s more to a successful holiday campaign than a buy-one-get-one-free deal.
Like the underlying motivational factors you’re shooting for. The positioning of your brand in the mind of consumers. And the clever packaging of an irresistible incentive.
At the end of the day, what do the holidays mean to your customers? What are their biggest aspirations and motivations, or possible reservations like work or travel.
THAT is what will ultimately be successful. THAT is what your campaign targets.
Do THAT, and then ahead and knock a little off the top.