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Comment: What’s ‘in store’ for brands this Christmas?

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With Christmas (almost) around the corner and high streets already adorning their displays with festive lights and oversized pine trees, brands are busy making sure their marketing and sales plans are firmly in place. With high profile launches from Apple, Samsung and Microsoft among others, the tech sector is yet again set to be firmly in the limelight as festive shoppers rush to get their hands on the latest gadgets. Despite economic worries, Christmas often tempts people to buy big ticket tech items, but as ever, brands need to use all the tools in their arsenal to ensure people part with their money and get the tills ringing.

So what marketing activity should brands be prioritising over the next few weeks to guarantee that their products are front of mind for consumers? Last week’s Bellwether report from the IPA showed a decrease in spending across most marketing channels, with the perhaps obvious exception of online and digital, which has increased over the last quarter. It seems that most brands see the continual rise of online activity and use of social networks as a sign that marketing spend must be placed in these areas to secure sales.

In spite of overall decreases, it seems unlikely that TV advertising won’t play a huge part in brands’ Christmas strategies, and the familiar jingle bell music will surely start to ring out from our screens before November is in full flow. Hasbro, the toy manufacturer, has announced a 40 per cent increase in TV, social and online advertising budgets, due to a 12 per cent drop in boys’ toys sales. Hasbro are putting this down to a lack of screen time promotion, with no film or TV tie ups to boost merchandise sales.

However, brands should not be so quick to assume the reasons why sales may have dropped, or indeed that the solution is to increase investment in ATL and online channels. With the stress, indecision and impulsiveness that often accompanies Christmas shopping, surely brands should also be thinking about what activity they’ll be undertaking in store, in order to convert last minute buyers and assure people that their purchases are worth the money. In terms of tech products in particular, that last minute reassurance from a trained professional can be just what unsure customers need to push them from browsing to buying.

Recent Gekko research shows that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of people say they would be very unlikely to purchase gadgets and tech items such as TVs, phones or games consoles without having some kind of in store interaction or demonstration beforehand. What’s more, 44 per cent of respondents said they would like more interaction with brands in store and that it would tempt them to buy more products. In such a tumultuous economic environment, brands would be foolish to ignore such obvious cries for attention from consumers. Properly trained, dynamic brand ambassadors, who can demystify complex gadgets and point out their capabilities and features, are vital when the consumer reaches that point where they decide either to buy or to walk away.

An additional investment in this sort of field marketing activity can be hugely impactful for brands, and if done correctly, can reap massive rewards without putting a big dent in marketing budgets. The investment does not and should not be done in an isolated manner either. A strong creative strategy and theme can be woven expertly across channels, and if this is also echoed by in store and experiential activity, there’s a greater chance that the theme will resonate deeper with consumers and drive them towards the tills.

There is no doubt that other marketing channels have a huge role to play throughout the festive period, and it’s no surprise that Hasbro is investing money in TV, social and online. However, although toys may have a different target audience to tech brands, the principle remains the same. Investment in dedicated, knowledgeable brand representatives, who can make a connection with consumers and leave them with a memorable impression of both the product and the brand, is sure to leave both customers and marketers with a smile on their face this Christmas.

Published on Monday 29 October by Editorial Assistant

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