best holiday social media campaigns of all time

5 of the best holiday social media campaigns of all time

Holiday marketing campaigns have come a long way since the first department store holiday displays in the late 1800s. But the impact on consumers remains the same: By appealing to their feelings and emotions, businesses and brands can differentiate themselves from the competition.

Today, social media rules the day, but a festive holiday campaign done right can do wonders when it comes to engagement. That said, here are 5 brands that captured the spirit of the season with their holiday social media campaigns.

Top Holiday Campaigns

Starbucks: Red Cup Contest Campaign

starbucks red cup holiday social media campaigns
Editorial credit: Leena Robinson / Shutterstock.com

Starbucks debuted its festive holiday red cups way back in 1997, but social media has taken the campaign to a whole ’nother level. Similar to the way customers can’t wait to get their first Pumpkin Spice Latte each September, Starbucks keys on its customers’ anticipation of the holiday season with its Red Cup Contest.

Since 2014, Starbucks has leveraged Instagram to increase engagement among its followers by showcasing its holiday cups. The company simply asked its customers to share and tag photos of its holiday cups on the social media site using #redcupcontest. By doing so, they were automatically entered to win Starbucks gift cards. Amazingly, during the first two days of the contest in 2015, a photo with #redcupcontest was shared every 14 seconds on Instagram. In total, there were more than 40,000 entries that year.

But more important, customers began to equate the red cups with the holiday season (although this year they’re mostly white with red accents). And thus an emotional connection was born. After all, what says the holidays more than tasting and smelling such yummy flavors as peppermint mocha, eggnog latte, and gingerbread latte?






REI: Opt Outside Campaign

rei opt outside social media campaigns
Photo courtesy of REI.com

Although REI didn’t appeal to its customers’ love of the holidays as Starbucks did, its Opt Outside Campaign was incredibly effective because it was part of the outdoor retailer’s core message. In 2015, REI decided to close its doors nationwide on Black Friday to inspire its customers to spend time in nature, rather than inside a store.

But the #OptOutside Campaign went so much further; REI created a microsite for the special day, which provided suggestions for outdoor adventures and spotlighted hiking trails for its customers where they could enjoy some fresh air. The holiday campaign has moved far beyond a single day to become a popular hashtag used by outdoor enthusiasts year-round. And perhaps that was the intent all along, because the campaign helped promote what REI is all about: providing real-world experiences in the outdoors.

In essence, it helped REI strengthen its relationship with its customers by practicing what it preaches, which undoubtedly created more devoted followers who appreciated the company staying true to its mission.



Budweiser: Holiday Buds Campaign

budweiser holiday social media campaigns
Photo courtesy of St. Louis Dispatch

The iconic beer brand Budweiser kicked off its Holiday Buds Campaign in 2014 as a new way to target a specific audience: Millennials. And it was a shrewd move considering many Millennials better identify with and prefer craft beers due to their authentic messages, character, and flavor.

So why did the anti-craft beer campaign resonate with Millennials and more specifically with Hipsters? Because of their love of all things vintage.

Not only did Budweiser release vintage packaging from three different eras—1918, 1933, and 1976—the brand utilized vintage Instagram filters to promote this unique line of products on social media. And each year played a significant role in the product’s history: the last bottle design before Prohibition, the first after Prohibition, and the hundredth anniversary of the brand. Certainly promoting its proud history qualifies Budweiser as authentic.

But not only did Budweiser influence customers to share images of its vintage products on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by including the #HolidayBuds in posts and tweets, the brand further engaged them by emphasizing one of the most important aspects of the holiday season: spending time with those you care about. By suggesting that customers tag friends and family they’d like to share a beer with, Budweiser was essentially facilitating get-togethers to toast the holiday season.




M&M’s: Red Nose Day Campaign

m&M red nose social media campaigns
Photo courtesy of Pinterest

M&M’s television ads have been a fixture during the holiday season for decades. However, the candy that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand” recently captured the essence of the holidays with its Red Nose Day Campaign. In 2015, M&M’s spread holiday cheer by asking its followers to share their stories of when they recently made someone laugh.

Every time someone shared their story on social media with the #MakeMLaugh, M&M’s donated a dollar to the Red Nose Day Fund, which raises awareness and money for impoverished children in the United States. To spread the word about the holiday campaign, M&M’s utilized celebrities, sponsorships, and prominent media outlets, but the campaign was largely successful because the brand focused on the spirit of the holiday season. By emphasizing social responsibility and people’s desire to do their part by simply sharing their stories, M&M’s helped its fans make a difference.

Incredibly, the Red Nose Day Campaign was responsible for nearly 270 million impressions on social media and there were 2.9 million engagements on #MakeMLaugh content. In addition, the campaign was responsible for donating $1.25 million that year to the Red Nose Day Fund.



Barnes & Noble: Gift Tip Campaign

barnes and noble social media campaigns
Photo courtesy of Twitter

Despite what some may think, books are still a popular gift item, particularly during the holidays when you can curl up by the fireplace with a hot cup of cocoa and get lost in a compelling story. In 2014, Barnes & Noble came up with a great idea for those gift-givers who were struggling to come up with holiday present ideas for their friends and loved ones.

Using the #BNGiftTip, the bookseller asked its followers and other potential customers on Twitter to request information based on their friends’ and loved ones’ personalities, favorite genres, and/or preferences. The holiday campaign sparked an incredible amount of dialogue and engagement with B&N’s customers. Why? Because B&N was able to personalize book, game, and toy recommendations that unquestionably saved its customers time. But the campaign also showed how much B&N cared about its customers, which appealed to their emotions.

Customers didn’t have to trek to a brick-and-mortar store to get the expertise they were looking for; instead, B&N asked 35,000 of its associates to bring their knowledge to social media. Beyond the engagement it created, B&N won the day by providing first-class service at a time when many of its customers needed it. Undoubtedly, they #SavedtheHolidays for many.

The holiday season provides a great opportunity for brands to get creative with their marketing campaigns on social media. Not only can they generate increased sales during this fiscally important time of the year, but they can spark conversation and engagement among their followers and customers. This, in turn, can increase trust and brand loyalty, which is ultimately what every business strives to do.

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Jon Tsourakis

Written by:

Jon Tsourakis followed his dream of opening an independent digital marketing agency. As CRO of Oyova Software, he uses logic and intuition to help companies grow their business online.

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