Assumptions, perceptions and lost causes – plus a tasty snack or two

Marketing Festive season

So how was your Christmas then? Did Santa bring you everything you expected, or were there a few surprises? As the stock markets yoyo and the New Year looms, have you started thinking about those all-important resolutions? 

I’ve been trying to switch off, but to be honest, my marketer’s antennae are never fully retracted. And since the line between the personal and professional is especially blurred when you work from a home office, I’ve been picking apart my festive experiences (much like the meat on that never-ending turkey) and seeing what marketing takeaways are to be found.

Here’s what I’ve come up  with.

Changing your perspective is revealing

If you’re part of the English-speaking world, then Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Day. Yes, there’s an extended lead-up to the big day during which choccies, booze and assorted snacks are dotted around the house, and you simply can’t resist.

But the main event is the 25th. That’s when you unwrap the presents, carve the turkey and pull those crackers. That’s the norm.

Except it isn’t in most countries on the European mainland. For them, Christmas Eve is when they have their big blowout, whether it’s the calorie bomb the French call the réveillon or the yuletide yumminess the Italians call the vigilia. And this year, it was the latter that I experienced as I broke the habit of a lifetime and partied on the 24th with some Italian friends.

Also present were Spaniards, a Romanian and a Pole, and all agreed that Christmas Eve was where it’s at. They wondered why Brits don’t do it like they do. And being in the minority, it was difficult to explain why something that was obvious outside those four walls wasn’t that obvious within.

As for trying to explain Christmas crackers, don’t even go there. Not if you don’t want the quizzical looks that I got, when it wasn’t downright disbelief and incomprehension.

Takeaway: as ever, it’s not about you. It’s about them. 

Imagery is very powerful

Ask any language geek how they remember words, and they’ll tell you that they often use pictures.

Some of the most famous memory techniques involve as many senses as possible. If you can see, touch, taste and smell something in your imagination, it will embed itself much more powerfully in your long-term memory.

During the Christmas Eve festivities, I was introduced to what is set to become my favourite snack.

Taralli are a pretzel-like southern Italian delicacy that come in many different flavours (the five-seeds tarallo is to die for, trust me). But despite consuming embarrassing quantities during the vigilia, I kept forgetting the name. I’m normally very good with new words, but this one wouldn’t stick.

Then I hit on the idea of creating a picture from the word, based on English associations. Taralli gave me tar + alley, and I simply imagined the tarmac driveway of the house I was in with the delicious Pugliese snacks embedded in it.

And bingo – that was it. Now it too is embedded forever.

Takeaway: words work much better when they paint pictures and awaken the senses. 

You need to choose your battles

Some customers aren’t worth pursuing (they’re not receptive, don’t have the right profile, or are wedded to a competitor) and some campaigns aren’t worth running (they involve too much time and effort, aren’t targeted and don’t provide the aha moment).

And some causes simply aren’t worth fighting for, however right you think you are. Though I like the Christmas festivities, I’ve always been a big believer in moderation (not because I’m saint, but because I know I’m a natural binger).

So not too much Christmas pud, and never more than one mince pie. And here’s the big one: no presents.

If you’ve never had a present-free Christmas, you don’t know what you’ve missed. No stress, no last-minute fighting through the crowds, no sinking feeling when your present is unwrapped and the reaction falls short of what you expected.

But I’ve realised two things. First, that the present-free approach immediately makes people look at you as if you’ve just out-scrooged Scrooge. And secondly, that nobody likes to be preached to, even if they have an inkling that you’re right.

Takeaway: tread lightly when you’re getting your message across. And avoid the moral high ground (you’ll find you’re on your own up there). 

Enough end-of year philosophising – it’s time to get back to the festivities. There’s a mince pie with my name on it. Not to mention a tarallo or two.

Happy New Year to you.