Year-End and Holiday Promotions: Tips, Product Ideas and Advice From Suppliers
We all know that person who gets into the holiday spirit a little early. Maybe it’s the house on your block that breaks out the Halloween decorations as soon as the NFL season starts. Maybe it’s that aunt who’s handing out candy canes as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is cleared off the table.
It’s natural to think, “OK, hold your horses—we’ll get there soon enough.” But those holiday early-birds might not be as off base as you think. That is, at least, if they’re in any sort of sales position.
Shipping firms are bracing for another year of off-the-charts shipping volume, particularly around the peak holiday season. USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy successfully submitted a plan this summer to delay some first-class mail to cut expenses, and UPS recommends that companies start their holiday shipping sooner rather than later to beat the real peak. (No word on whether the elves have experienced any slowdown from the North Pole as a result of the ongoing shipping challenges.) That’s on top of other issues up and down the supply chain.
Nick Lateur, director of national accounts for specialty brands at HPG Brands, Braintree, Mass., said that the best time to start thinking about year-end and holiday gifts would have been “like, a month ago.”
But, let’s not focus on the scary parts, because that’s not what the holidays are about. (Well, except for Halloween.) Instead, let’s take a minute to focus on the fun holiday and seasonal promotions that your customers and their end-users will light up over.
The Unboxing Experience
Just like the wrapping paper on a gift, the packaging itself does a lot to add to a product’s fun factor. From a promotional products standpoint, if your end-users are receiving a kit or any sort of product that comes in a package, adding your client’s logo and other design elements creates another layer of brand awareness and positive connection.
“So when people get something, like a Bluetooth speaker, for example—that’s always been one of our hot sellers, but right now in particular—if you just throw it in a crappy white box or plain box, it’s less effective than something that has a retail-style packaging,” Lateur said. “The way people receive it, the sort of unboxing experience, the reception of the product, might oftentimes overshadow the product itself.”
If you customize the box that a product comes in, the recipient knows from the first second who the gift is from, and it feels much more upscale than, say, a plain cardboard box. Adding a customized card or note adds a touch of personalization, too, making the recipient feel more special.
Lateur mentioned one particular tech set from Origaudio (part of HPG Brands), which brings together different pieces that people need for streaming video, improving their Zoom meetings and more. Part of what makes the set so popular is that the packaging is designed to feel like something you’d get at a retail store.
“It’s sort of a home recording studio,” he said. “It has a ring light, it has a phone holder, it has a really nice microphone. The box it comes in looks like something that, if you were in a really nice tech store, you would grab this box and go, ‘Whoa, what’s this?’ And that’s because it’s purple and it’s beautiful, and you open it up and the display of the ring light and everything is top notch. There are other tech products in the world—like if you ordered that from Amazon or something, it might come in an OK kind of box, or it might be a retail box. But we’re in promo, so we’ve got logos on it. When people receive it, they’re really wowed by how it looks even before they use the products.”
Products and kits like that are practical right now with so many people still working remotely. And with large indoor gatherings still an iffy proposition, some companies might want to mail gifts directly to their employees in lieu of in-person holiday parties or office events.
“Kitting is always a smart option when working with a budget,” said Lisa LeMond, vice president of sales and customer service for IMAGEN Brands, Mason, Ohio. “Pick two, three or more items and put them all together in a perfect promotional vessel—another product!”
“You’re sitting at your desk at home working, you don’t have people around you, and you get a delivery to your door,” Lateur said. “That’s why there’s this trend on YouTube of people unboxing: When you receive something, there’s the process of going, ‘Oh, this is for me!’ And you set it on the table and you rip the box open, and you have a feeling, this sort of Christmas-y—for lack of a better term—feeling any time of year. And we found that to be extra impactful for work-from-home employees and during the pandemic especially, when people are feeling a little isolated.”
When to Start
OK, it’s time to address the container-ship-sized elephant in the room. Almost everyone has experienced some sort of shipping slowdown, and transit times are likely only going to go up from here. If you haven’t already at least thought about what your customers might be looking for in the way of year-end gifts, start today! The best time to plant a tree was, apparently, a month ago. And the second best time?
“Today, now!” said LeMond. “Run! Don’t walk! 2021 has brought a whole new flavor to the gifting season, and acting quickly will be key to determining if your order arrives on time and as expected.”
“It’s not just December where we’re finding holiday opportunities,” Lateur said. “We’re always looking at August, honestly, September at the latest, to start promoting things, to start prepping an offer for customers for the holiday season, just because we’ve got to be well-prepared, especially given the time with supply chain issues.”
To combat that issue, HPG has been ordering extra stock on items that have been traditional top sellers, and started doing so in June, just to make sure that the hot gifts are on hand. The holidays can be tough when demand is high. We’ve all seen those videos of Black Friday brawls at Walmart.
“We really tried our best to refocus and look at what we know and what we think will sell really well, specifically in Q4, and order more of that so we can try to manage that whole process,” Lateur added.
HPG has looked at kits, especially. Think of a kit as a stocking in a box, where you include something from multiple product categories. Maybe there’s a power bank, a hat or T-shirt, and then something to snack on. It’s a way to cast a wide net. With multiple products, the recipient is bound to like at least one part of it.
Ultimately, though, the real spirit of giving is to show people that you’re thinking of them. By going the extra mile with packaging decoration and customization to show the end-user that they’re valued, you can’t really go wrong.
Just, you know, start making that list and checking it twice as soon as you can.