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How Can Your Business Be Inclusive During the Holidays?

How Can Your Business Be Inclusive During the Holidays?

Every holiday season, there are a few things you can expect to happen. Retailers debut their “greatest ever holiday sales.” Schools give students time off. And brands must address the holiday tradition of debating how to address their customers through an inclusive holiday marketing strategy.

For global brands especially, the fall and winter months present a conundrum. There are dozens of different holiday traditions celebrated around the world. U.S. traditions are diverse, as well. Every household has its own unique customs. Some of your customers might even be fans of Festivus.

This time of year is prime shopping season. According to the National Retail Federation, November and December are the biggest shopping months in the U.S. Already in 2021, holiday spending is projected to grow up to 10.5 percent year-over-year, shattering previous shopping records.

If you’re a B2C business, you want to capitalize on these buying trends while also including all potential customers as you avoid offending anyone. So how can you achieve these sometimes-difficult objectives during the holiday season?

Know your customers

Ideally, you should already have buyer personas that give your workforce a good idea of who your target customers are and who your current audience is. This will help you make educated decisions when creating your inclusive holiday marketing strategy.

When you create buyer personas, you’ll answer questions like, “What is most important in your buyer’s life?” That requires uncovering demographic information, which may include religion, customs and traditions.

Even with detailed buyer personas, there’s bound to be a ton of diversity within your customer base. Take a look at Pew Research Center’s “Religious Landscape Study,” and you’ll find more than a dozen prominent religious groups in the U.S. alone. Not everyone who’s religious celebrates their traditional religious holidays. And some people from outside of a religion partake in “religious” celebrations with friends and family.

Plus, there’s a faction of people who downright hate the holiday season. A 2019 survey of 2,000 American adults by Study Finds found 77 percent of survey takers had a very hard time relaxing during the holidays. What’s more, 56 percent said the extra financial strain was the biggest reason for their anxiety, with 48 percent citing having to get gifts for everyone.

Insights like these mean your customer base may be experiencing wildly varied feelings during the holiday season, including how they feel about retailers and shopping. Within your target audience, all of the following may be true.

  • Some of your customers love buying gifts during the holidays.
  • You have customers celebrating A holiday, B holiday and C holiday. Not all of them are celebrating all of them. But some are.
  • Some of your customers will scream in rage at holiday advertisements and like a brand less because they’re being advertised to this time of year.

Create an inclusive holiday marketing strategy in 5 steps

Given the varied perspectives during the holiday season, inclusivity can pose some challenges. But it’s not impossible. The following are some ideas to create effective messages your customers will appreciate this time of year. Use this to create an inclusive holiday marketing strategy that works for your brand and customers.

1. Be neutral

Avoid naming specific holidays in your marketing and advertising messages. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. And even a group that does celebrate one holiday will have different feelings towards it and ways of celebrating it.

Instead of focusing on holidays, you can focus on things everyone may be experiencing this time of year.

Your inclusive holiday marketing messaging can include the following:

  • Cooler weather
  • Extra time with loved ones
  • Approaching a new year

Think about the values of your brand and your customers when creating your strategy. Maybe you champion individuality or expressing yourself. These are themes you can feature in marketing messages, rather than focusing on a holiday that may exclude part of your audience.

2. Relieve stress

Given how stressed-out the majority of Americans are this time of year, even amid a “warm and fuzzy” holiday season, consider how you can spread some joy with your marketing messages.

You might:

  • Focus on making your marketing and advertising humorous
  • Tell your audience the good your company and/or their purchases are doing by promoting a charitable giving campaign
  • Offer a deal or promotion your customers have asked for that really stands out compared to other ones you’ve previously run

At a time when your customers may feel pressured to give a lot of themselves to family and friends and financially, think about how your brand can give back to your customers and brighten their days this season.

3. Spotlight diversity and inclusivity

This time of year, you might have customers who feel left out in some way. Maybe they’re the only person in their friend group who celebrates their particular holiday. Or maybe they feel weird that hate the holiday season altogether.

The American population is more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There are myriad other expressions of diversity, as well, including physical ability, age, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Your customers’ pronouns may also be diverse. A 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found approximately 1.2 million people who live in the U.S. identify as nonbinary. It’s not acceptable for brands to limit products as gifts “for him” and “for her” when many people identify as they/them, use some other pronoun or only want to be addressed by their name.

As a brand, you can make an effort to showcase a broad spectrum of diversity in your marketing during the holiday season, from the people you feature in your ads, to the pronouns you use in your copy.

To be inclusive with pronouns, you might consider using “we,” “us” and “you,” to show you care about your customers’ points of view and feel connected with the consumers you’re targeting. These pronouns are neutral and inclusive and speak to all consumers without excluding anyone.

For a potential customer who might feel left out by another brand, your company has the opportunity to attract attention and show you care about all types of people and values through your inclusive holiday marketing strategy.

4. Target your advertising

There is a way to potentially use specific holidays in advertising and match your messages to the right audience. With online advertising through paid social media ads or paid search engine marketing ads, you can target holiday-specific messages to people who use the same keywords in their searches or profiles.

There are some potential advantages to this strategy and some pitfalls to be aware of.

The good: If someone is searching for “Hanukkah gifts” or “decorations for Kwanzaa,” and your company sells a product that matches that type of search, these holiday-specific paid ad campaigns make perfect sense. Likewise, if you have social media followers who have “love Christmas” on their profile, Christmas ads targeted toward those followers are appropriate. These targeted campaigns can help you match up your ads with followers who are likely to be receptive to them.

The bad: If you make assumptions about your online audience, holiday-specific marketing could backfire on you. You can’t assume that all social media followers who list a certain religion on their profile celebrate the corresponding religious holiday. You have to be careful not to show unwanted messages to followers that could potentially turn them off of your brand.

If you do create holiday-specific messaging, you’ll want to ensure that the target audience aligns with that messaging. For messages that go out to all your followers, it’s a better idea to stay neutral and create values-based, inclusive messages, so you don’t alienate anyone.

5. Think outside of traditions

Traditional holiday advertising is outdated at best and offensive at worst. Your company can make your target audience’s holiday season a little brighter by creating messaging that speaks to them.

That means messaging that:

  • Is inclusive
  • Showcases diversity
  • Provides value and offers positivity

The messaging in your inclusive holiday marketing strategy will be dictated by your audience. There are times when spotlighting a specific holiday may make sense for certain brands, but only with the right targeting. For mass messages, neutral, values-based messaging makes everyone feel seen this season.

How can you promote inclusivity this holiday season for all your target customers? With diverse holidays and traditions, it can be tricky. Get tips here. #inclusivity #diversity #DEI Click To Tweet

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About the author

Nicki Escudero

Nicki Escudero is a journalist, marketing copywriter, editor, and social media strategist with more than 14 years of experience. She is a regular contributor to the ClearVoice blog who writes for hundreds of brands in worldwide markets.