Good marketers know that customers respond best to brands that reach out to them in a meaningful way. The trick comes in figuring out the winning combination of content, timing, and method of delivery that makes the engagement mean something. One of the most important factors in that equation is seasonality, or “the tendency of consumer expenditure on a good or services to vary in some pattern over the course of a year” (Ideas in Marketing, Kubacki 2013).
This blog post will define the two types of seasonal marketing—long-term and short-term—and provide examples of each method’s pros and cons. These examples will deal with sports season and holiday season, which each have a certain inherent culture. It’s important for marketers to understand the strength in connecting seasonality to business, and to know which kind of seasonal campaign is best for their desired ROI.
What’s the Difference?
Long-term seasonal marketing comes into play when businesses create special promotions, offers, and deals around an ongoing and/or long-lasting seasonal event. Short-term seasonal marketing is best for one-off and/or fast-ending events that happen during a season. For example, a retailer can make a long-term seasonal strategy that lasts the entire three-month duration of spring. But it could also build a smaller short-term campaign to run concurrent to the long-term one, with a focus solely on Easter weekend.
Also, long-term seasonal marketing is about building relationships and using subtle, low-risk campaigns to do so. To contrast, short-term seasonal marketing can afford to be more heavy-handed and in the customer’s face, because short-term campaigns have less time to engage people before losing novelty or relevance.
Fourth & Long-Term
Let’s explore one of the most common examples of long-term seasonal marketing: the sales pitch tied to a local sports team. Almost all of us have seen the ads; “For every touchdown the Wichita Generals score, get a free topping on any large pizza from Pizza Johnny’s on gameday!”
Different deals activate under different conditions for different audiences (and as Nate Silver’s 538 blog shows, brands can even calculate the probability an audience will get to use an offer). But in the end, all these deals are linking business to sports because 1) “people will always watch live sports,” as one ad director is quoted in Forbes, and 2) sports are an ongoing “passion point” for many potential customers.
By appealing to customers’ passions for an extended period of time, long-term marketing feels less like selling and more like affirmation from a company to its customers that they have similar values. This is why long-term seasonal marketing has so much in common with relationship marketing, which “focuses on customer loyalty and long-term customer engagement rather than shorter-term goals like customer acquisition and individual sales” (TechTarget). Long-term seasonal marketing is less about instant uplift than increasing brand trust and, by extension, customer lifetime value.
But long-term seasonal campaigns can’t solve all business needs. What if a company doesn’t want an ongoing, low-simmer campaign and wants to bring ROI to a hard boil with big, bold marketing? In that case it should go with a short-term seasonal campaign, which aligns more with transactional marketing than relationship marketing. In transactional marketing, “total focus is on the point of sale, the moment when a customer is actually charged for the item,” reports Signet Interactive. “In and out: Find the right product, click the purchase button … and be done with it.”
Let’s explore by leaving sports for another kind of season—the holidays. In the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and other Western-influenced countries, holiday season lasts from late November to early January, with people spending over a half a trillion dollars in recent years. Business can thus use this season for both long-term and short-term marketing, with short-term, one-off campaigns built inside a larger, long-term framework.
Retailers, for example, know holiday sales “can account for as much as 30% of [their] annual sales” (NRF). So a popular short-term strategy is to focus on individual days, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and to provide eye-popping deals that encourage spending.
According to Deal News, in 2015 video game prices were slashed by an average of 72% on Black Friday in the U.S.; iPhones were 67% off, and beauty products were 53% off. These aren’t modest promotions meant to stay interesting to customers for a long period of time. On the contrary, in the long term these steep price cuts would actually end up costing companies money. In the short term, however, this kind of promotion is valuable and profitable. It attracts so many new customers that the difference between normal price and sales price is offset by the sheer volume of purchases.
What happens when these amazing sales are over, though? Will the new customers that retailers attracted remain customers? This is the main drawback of short-term seasonal marketing. Because it is so transactional, it’s great at pulling in new conversions but not at ensuring these conversions will repeat. In other words, while short-term campaigns are good for customer acquisition, long-term campaigns are better for continuing acquisition.
Whether you’re taking the short-term or long-term campaign approach, this eBook will help you out tremendously. Download Making Spirits Bright: Increase Holiday Results With Retail Shopping Research for a happy holiday retail season.