The Christmas Marketing Disaster

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Quite simply, success in marketing depends upon offering the right product to the right consumer at the right time. That is not always easy since the fickle consumer is constantly changing and the marketer must be ever-ready to adjust accordingly.

Thus, depending on one’s perspective, marketing has become a science, a craft or an art. The marketer has at his disposal techniques and tools since in today’s streamlined and globalized world, one mistake can translate into millions of dollars lost.

Last year, Wal-Mart learned their lesson and brought back Merry Christmas while others did not.
Last year, Wal-Mart learned their lesson and brought back Merry Christmas while others did not.

And so, the marketers employ these tools to get results. They use demographics to identify every sector of the consuming public that might remotely be interested in the product. Thus they might seek to find every left-handed windsurfer that listens to Mozart and lives in California. They might find every mother under 30 living in Tennessee who drives a minivan.

Next, marketers utilize massive databases which compile every conceivable fact on a person that could identify him as a potential consumer. They buy this information and then analyze and test these names on markets with scientific precision. They never make the mistake of selling the proverbial ice to Eskimos since they know that the more they can focus on a potential consumer, the greater the sales.

Finally, marketers add the touch of personalization to further attract the consumer. “Dear Mr. Smith,” the letter might read. “As a lover of Mozart, I am sure you will be interested in our product which is available to all our friends in Columbus, Ohio.” The more a person’s name and details appear, the more the person is enticed to read the letter or browse through the catalog.

It has all been studied. Good marketing depends on right markets…or at least it should.

Suddenly, this key principle does not seem to apply to Christmas.

At first glance, it might seem a rather absurd statement since Christmas is precisely when the most intense marketing takes place. In addition, everyone rightly complains about the gross over-commercialization of this most sacred of feast days.

But if marketing is about markets, the target for Christmas would logically be…Christians. Marketers should logically be isolating all Christian categories and targeting them with all the tools in their arsenal.

Granted there is a tiny non-Christian niche sector that “celebrates” Christmas as a sentimental time for partying and gift giving. There are also other holidays, real or imagined, that coincide with the general period. However, these categories are mere niche markets. None of these holidays call for decking the halls with boughs of holly or decorating a traditional tree. Marketers unmistakably use Christmas imagery to sell their “season” and “holiday” wares.

Thus, they should be consulting their massive databases finding every byte of information that would identify names that would be open to their Christmas products and Yuletide decoration.

They should be personalizing their message demonstrating how well they know the sentiments of their customer. “Dear Mr. Smith,” the letter should read. “A Very Merry Christmas to You! This is the season for gift giving and spending time with the family before the manger.”

But it seems many Scrooge-like marketers have lost the Christmas spirit. They do not seemed interested in targeting their logical customers. Rather than focus on the Christmas feast, like the infamous Grinch, they seem intent on tearing from public sight any mention of Christmas or the reason for the season.

How can this pre-decorated holiday tree take the place of a real Christmas tree?
How can this pre-decorated holiday tree take the place of a real Christmas tree?

There are no “Merry Christmases” in many of the emails and catalog that fill mail or inboxes. Rather, there are the ever-ambiguous happy holidays or season greetings. Replacing Christmas trees are pre-lit (even pre-decorated) holiday trees. One finds whole catalogs without any mention of Christ. Advertising sections of papers ruthlessly scorn any reference to the Infant Jesus. Like the Holy Family so many years ago, there is no place for them at the commercial inn – not that they would want to enter.

It is as if those who devotedly celebrate Christmas are invisible. And it is as if the marketers are working against their own self-interest.

The left denounces the “war on Christmas” as a figment of the imagination of the religious right. Nevertheless, many major retailers, including Wal-Mart, reversed policy last year, by announcing they would “bring back” Christmas to their retail sales, thus implicitly admitting their past anti-Christmas policy. They further acknowledged that public sentiment clamored for a return to Merry Christmas.

However, there is a significant number of marketers that remain intransigent and block out Christmas to their own detriment. It is a marketing disaster where political correctness trumps the bottom line. Even the “almighty” dollar trembles before the secular onslaught in the nation’s Cultural War.

In face of such attacks, one feels like responding to “holiday” catalogs and emails by cutting and pasting a standard message: “Dear Friend, I don’t do holiday shopping. I do Christmas shopping. I don’t celebrate the holiday season, I celebrate Christmas. I see you promise to deliver your HOLIDAY gifts by Christmas. I see your messages are filled with all the trappings of Christmas. Please be honest and call the holiday by its proper name: Christmas. Please update your list and record in your database that I am a Merry Christmas Catholic and would like to be treated as such. Would it be too much to ask? I await your prompt response. Merry Christmas!”

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christmas_disaster3Of course, Christmas is not about marketing and databases. Indeed such modern banalizing of this most august feast is but idle chatter to be rejected and scorned.

Rather, deep inside the hearts of men with even slightest good will, Christmas still brings “comfort and joy.” It is a time when the brutal engines of modernity reluctantly grind to a stop for a moment of peace. The innocent of heart marvel at the Infant God that so loved man as to “become flesh and dwell among us.” It is a time when men of all classes and conditions unite like the shepherds and Magi around the Prince of Peace.

In the midst of affliction and trials, all such men seem to hear the consoling voice of the angel who said: “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people. For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)