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Tips for Holiday Brand Building Success

The Holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to thank employees and clients and generate a positive perception as you head into the New Year. Below are a few easy and cost-effective ways to strengthen your brand while you have some fun in the process.

Create a Space that Won't Disgrace
Some might think that "decking the halls" might cause too much of a distraction for employees. It certainly can be taken too far, but consider the fact that most of us spend more hours on the job and with our coworkers than with our loved ones. That said, a little Holiday cheer — be it decorations or a tree (be sure to check with your property manager before lighting a real tree) — can help liven up your physical workspace and create a rejuvenated staff. It also provides a conversation starter with your clients when they come to your office for a meeting. They will be more apt to open up about how they are spending their Holidays, which will give you an opportunity to "cross over" the preexisting professional boundaries, deepen your relationship, and leave in their minds a positive perception.

Send Cards That Won't Be Discarded
While Christmas remains the holiday that sparks the most greeting card sales, fewer people send cards each year, according to a 2010 marketing research report. The percentage of consumers buying greeting cards for Christmas fell from 77 percent in 2005 to 73 percent in 2007 and to 62 percent in 2009. While convenient and essentially free, email or social media correspondence alone does remove the personal touch. For those of you who say, "I do send a card each December," is it one of those "customized" catalog cards you can order in bulk and have your company name and logo preprinted inside? Sorry folks but that's NOT customized, nor personal and I'm here to tell you that if it does get opened, it will quickly wind up in the trash.

If you stop thinking of holiday cards as a "necessary evil" and build it into your annual marketing budget and production schedule, you will have the funds and time allocated to create something unique that supports your brand positioning and desired brand perception. Imagine what will happen when your client or prospect comes back to work on January 2nd and still has your card on his/her desk — a lingering positive impression and maybe even a phone call to kick off the New Year with a new project.

Now that digital printing presses have stepped up their quality output, custom holiday cards don't have to break the bank either. If your quantities are low, the unit price may be a bit higher but the total cost won't cramp your style. Higher quantities printed offset will oftentimes cost less than those catalog company cards that your competitors send. How embarrassing would that be? Two identical cards from two different companies...that's no way to differentiate yourself!

Give Gifts That Won't Get Re-gifted
I remember getting a paperweight from a client one year and thinking to myself, "My office will never be windy enough to require a weight to keep my papers from blowing around." As for chocolates, popcorn, nuts or other food, it may taste good but what are you really saying to your client besides "thank you" and "here's a few more pounds you'll need to work off."

If you're going to spend the money to send a gift, make sure it says something about you, your company, what you care about, or what you know they care about. It could be a charitable donation to a cause you know is near and dear to their heart, or it could be a gift certificate to dinner and a movie. After the Holidays you can ask them about their experience, again, giving you an opportunity for some personal small talk that is more compelling than the weather. It also will leave an impression that you understand they work hard and deserved to have a reprieve, which you so kindly provided.

Brand Building Doesn't Take a Vacation
Employees are your best brand ambassadors, so be sure to send them off on their holiday vacation with a smile. They'll be seeing a number of family and friends during their time off and they will certainly be asked, "How's work going?" When they say, "Great actually. My boss did 'x' or 'gave me y', that person will also be left with a positive impression. The same holds true with your clients and prospects so go and enjoy a few days off, but keep in mind that your brand will be working for (or against you) even while you're not watching.

Dina Wasmer is President of Incite Creative, a marketing and graphic design firm that provides brand building services for financial services, insurance, education and non profit industries in Maryland, DC and Virginia. For more information, log onto www.incitecreativeinc.com or contact dina@incitecreativeinc.com.

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