At the time of this writing, it would be a few months before Christmas. In today’s consumer-driven society, it does look like the last quarter of the year is building up to this event: there’s Halloween on October,; Thanksgiving on November; and we haven’t even touched on other “observances” that have been blown up to major-event status as of late: Columbus Day, Leif Erikson Day, Hanukkah… you might as well insert your favorite one here, too. All of it sounds exhausting, but it’s a phenomenon that would have only been brought about by today’s internet, where information about cultures and the various holidays that make them are made available at one search-and-click of a thumb on a smartphone.
For businesses, centering their marketing around major events have been in existence ever since the 20th century when saturating the market became as important as selling the product to the customer. Not only are businesses still observing this behavior, they even pushed it to levels that makes Philip K. Dick’s fever dreams look tame in comparison.
However, just because Christmas happens only once a year doesn’t mean that it can be the only time you go all-out on marketing your business. And like we said at the title, Christmas can be every day… except, well, you just have to make it “feel” like Christmas through good, old-fashioned psychology!
As we would show you below, there are various ways for businesses like yours to lure customers in even when there’s no “season” happening at the moment. Here are some of our ideas:
Making an Event
Yes, it is that easy, believe it or not. The ubiquitous nature of the internet—and social media, in particular—have given businesses plenty of avenues to reach not just loads of people, but people they know will buy from them. But then again, aren’t customers supposed to be desensitized from all the information their brains are getting from brands urging them to buy something?
Well, that’s what people like to think; in truth, we’re prone to suggestion more than what we’d care to admit. We have psychologist Robert Zajonc to thank for putting this theory into words—in this case, he’s calling it the ‘Mere Exposure Effect’, a theory postulating that people gravitate towards certain things because they feel “familiar” with it. While that has arguably anchored much of modern marketing as we know it in terms of creating stimuli for people to engage and act upon, an earlier version of this called the ‘Familiarity Principle’ was already in place during—wait for it—1876. Yep, those European psychologists really were something during the 1800s.
Really, what better way to apply the above theory than through social media itself? While a giant billboard atop a busy highway was the best any business could have hoped for back then in terms of exposure, we now have the internet to do it instead, and at a fraction of the cost, too.
However, due to the glut of content on the platforms we use, it’s also easier than ever to “pass through” some of the things we see there because many of us have already been wired to scroll down and hope to see the next post that catches our eye. With that said, here’s another mind trick that you can use to complement the one we just discussed…
Giving the Feels
“People spend more money when and where they feel good.”
Know the dude the quote above is commonly attributed to? It’s Walt Disney, and that was supposedly the reasoning he used to justify the crazy idea of putting up the first Disneyland theme park in the middle of nowhere during the mid-’50s. And you know what? The guy’s right… well, sort of.
A study published by Sandra C. Matz, Joe J. Gladstone, and David Stillwell found out that people do spend more when they’re happy. The caveat? ‘Money can indeed increase happiness if it is spent the “right way”,’ they said in their study (link here). They further wrote in the abstract: “We found that individuals spend more on products that match their personality, and that people whose purchases better match their personality report higher levels of life satisfaction.”
That sounds good, right? We’re talking about Christmas in this article, so it only follows that “happiness”—as well as family, friends, warmth, nostalgia, tradition, festivity, and all those positive feelings we associate with the season—should be considered a major anchor for a marketing strategy that is based on a holiday. Now, imagine if you can do it year-round…
Let’s go back to the Disneyland example to further establish this point: back when the first one in Southern California opened, it did so at a time when “family values” were becoming a thing, so it aimed at attracting not just children, but their parents, too. In addition, the design of the first Disneyland also evoked fond memories from Disney’s childhood like Main Street (where it deliberately recreated the idyllic feel of early 20th century small-town America) and even attractions from a generation ago (the 1893 World’s Fair, where Walt’s father worked before he was born).
And, of course, there’s also this song:
And, if it must be said, yes, the song is about peace and unity. It sounds so… Christmas-ey.
The fact that the imagery and message established by Disneyland is still in use despite (or because of) the deep-seated cynicism that seems to prevail in many online communities nowadays means that those are the kinds of values that are relevant, no matter what year we might be living today.
Many businesses evoke those kinds of feelings even outside of Christmas. Why not put your own spin on it?
Love and goodwill to fellow men might be some of the more common messages to Christmas, but as far as action goes, it’s defined by this one trait: giving… or, to put it more specifically, “I give you this, and you give me that.”
This is the work of the Reciprocity Principle, which has been in existence under different theories forwarded by different psychologists and has a shockingly wide array of applications than people give it credit for.
For the purpose of this piece, we’d do well to refer to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s very specific example on said theory; in his book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, he shared a case study of waiter who found his tip increasing to about 3% when he gave an after-meal mint to diners, but later on found the rate to more than doubling to about 14% when two mints were given instead of one. Here’s the more telling finding: when the waiter left one mint with the bill but then returned to offer a second mint as he was about to take the check back, the tips increased to around 23%. Those are heavy figures.
There’s a reason why businesses giving simple “gifts” to their customers—like deals, discount, add-ons, and the occasional freebie—has been one of the go-to strategies by marketers for years; it shows that a business values their customers, which helps develop their loyalty to the former, in turn.
Do it right, and this will even help you in upselling your business. The flip side to that, of course, is when you do it frequently enough, it will give off the impression to your customers that you’re just giving them perks because you want them to buy from you—nothing wrong with that per se, but customers today are just more keen to spot blatant hard sells than they were, say, 50 years ago.
So, what other psychiatric “tricks” do you think we should have tackled with this piece? We would love to hear your feedback! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can have a chat!