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Op-Ed: Christmas For the 99%

 

HUGE senior marketing strategist Josh Seifert has been busy this October and on the last day of the month, we present you with a little Halloween breather via his latest effort, in which he discusses how brands will attune their holiday messaging now that we’re in the Occupy Wall Street era. Take it away, Josh.

Ever since Gap seared comfy sweaters into my heart with dancing and jingles, holiday has been my favorite of all the advertising seasons. And, of course every year it seems to start a bit earlier -  the West Elm here in DUMBO has been experimenting with Christmas tree window displays since late last week. But with 99 percent of my neighbors protesting lost jobs in Zuccotti Park, I’m curious which companies, if any, will seek to align their holiday messaging this year with a more sober outlook harnessing people’s very real economic anxiety. Most likely, I expect we’ll get the usual boisterous and celebratory approach with more focus on deals and bargains deeper than ever. And who could argue with that?

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While we have a little while longer to wait for holiday advertising to hit screens, Wal-Mart and Amazon are two retailers who have both made interesting communications moves to prepare themselves for a successful season. Wal-Mart has started advertising the return of a layaway program, promoting it at exactly the right time as cash strapped parents worry about how they’re going to pay for Christmas this year. For many consumers, struggling to pay off years of credit card debt, the ability to responsibly take care of Christmas on layaway could be the difference between affording gifts and not. With so few other brands leveraging this economic reality, layaway may well produce a halo effect for Wal-Mart by demonstrating a real commitment to its customers.

Amazon, while not yet introducing any unique holiday services, also moved to announce the Kindle Fire at exactly the right time. By announcing early, promoting it on the Amazon homepage, and communicating scarcity with its pre-order approach, it’s subtly preparing itself as a must have Christmas item, with enough lead time to allow consumers to plan otherpurchases around it. While its $199 price point seems like a steal next to the much more expensive iPad, this is still a lot of money for most people, butmuch more within reach. Amazon has a great deal invested in this approach, with speculation that the Kindle Fire is actually selling below cost.

With Christmas trees in retail windows even before Halloween and economic uncertainty top of mind, people are already thinking about how they’re going to afford Christmas this year. There are more ways for retailers to sell holiday than over-the-top sales and promotions, Wal-Mart and Amazon are two that seem to have put themselves ahead of the game. Amazon has started building demand for a very exciting yet affordable gadget, and Wal-Mart will let customers buy gifts without the burden of relying on credit. When it istime to roll out the holiday deals, these two may well end up better positioned than their competitors.

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