’Tis the season to be savvy with your digital marketing

For many marketers, the holiday stress will be even worse this year as political ads drown out pre-holiday marketing messages. Columnist Lewis Gersh offers strategies to make your message stand out from the noise.

Chat with MarTechBot


Everyone dreads that ol’ holiday creep. And I don’t mean the unctuous uncle you see only at Thanksgiving. I’m talking about the relentless drive to push the start of the holiday shopping season earlier each year. (Remember when Christmas in July promotions were supposed to be ironic?)

That creates a cycle in which every marketer feels the need to keep up — even if they don’t like it — or risk losing market share or attention at the most critical time of year.

A mixed-up media landscape

New research from Millward Brown reveals that “half of marketers aren’t confident they have the right media mix.”

That doesn’t surprise me. The media landscape has changed so thoroughly, and so rapidly, in recent years that the “right media mix” for today could well be the wrong mix by tomorrow. And these shifts are particularly acute during the holiday season.

In 1998, just 10 percent of holiday sales were online. Now the number is roughly 50 percent, which is about the same percentage of people who will shop online this year. That’s 160 million prospective customers.

And with overall ecommerce expected to increase in the US by an astonishing 72 percent in just four years, the pressure is on marketers to figure out how to tap into that tremendous growth.

Online but out of sight?

Many marketers have yet to fully grasp all the implications of this drastic shift. It’s not that half of all US consumers have stopped going to stores altogether. Shopping is not an either/or proposition. Most consumers now rely on a combination of online and in-store purchasing.

Moreover, some consumers do their window shopping in stores and then buy online, while others do the opposite. And, in many cases, purchase category is the determining factor, not the shopper’s personal preference.

Buying habits have become very complex. Marketers need to understand that.

Yes, building brand awareness and brand loyalty across all platforms is important, particularly during the holidays. Marketers need to recognize that the answer is not to simply hedge their bets and try to be everywhere at once — although some have certainly tried. No one can afford that for long.

Situational targeting is more important than ever. The key to marketing success is to root out efficiencies, as well as inefficiencies, in each channel and budget accordingly.

Grandma got run over by a retargeter

This fall, the pressure on digital marketers is especially intense. The most coveted digital ad space, already at a premium in Q4 because of the holiday season, will be even scarcer this fall because of the quadrennial election. (Brace for a barrage of political ads on all your screens.)

That means many marketers will have to pay such a premium that the economics no longer make sense. They’ll panic because they can’t afford not to reach everyone possible during the holidays, and in the process, they’ll lose respect for ROI — and consumers.

Another panic solution is for marketers to run ads on off-brand sites that aren’t contextual. But that results in a loss of respect that’s potentially even more damaging. What if your ads disrupt the consumer’s experience to the point where they resort to ad blockers?

Pumping up the volume of your ads, at the expense of efficacy, is never the answer.

As a marketer, the key to surviving the holidays is to understand that the same principles that apply in June and July also apply in November and December. If you’ve read me in this space before, you know I’m a big advocate of a complete marketing breakfast. You still need that complete marketing breakfast during the holidays — just spiced, perhaps, with a little eggnog.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Lewis Gersh
Lewis Gersh is founder and CEO of PebblePost, guiding corporate strategy and company vision with over 20 years of board and executive management experience. Prior to PebblePost, Lewis founded Metamorphic Ventures, one of the first seed-stage funds, and built one of the largest portfolios of companies specializing in data-driven marketing and payments/transaction processing. Portfolio companies include leading innovators such as FetchBack, Chango, Tapad, Sailthru, Movable Ink, Mass Relevance, iSocket, Nearbuy Systems, Thinknear, IndustryBrains, Madison Logic, Bombora, Tranvia, Transactis and more. Lewis received a B.A. from San Diego State University and a J.D. and Masters in Intellectual Property from UNH School of Law. Lewis is an accomplished endurance athlete having competed in many Ironman triathlons, ultra-marathons and parenting.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.