Marketing Technique: Sales Promotion - Seasonal promotions/Christmas presence/Tis the season to be selling, and this year’s crop of festive promotional offerings includes some innovative ideas. Louella Miles reports

A red-costumed figure with a flowing white beard has been spotted plodding up and down supermarket aisles since we all got back from our holidays, as the big brands battle to introduce a bit of Christmas cheer to their promotions.

A red-costumed figure with a flowing white beard has been spotted

plodding up and down supermarket aisles since we all got back from our

holidays, as the big brands battle to introduce a bit of Christmas cheer

to their promotions.



So what is there to look out for? In Edinburgh, there’s a novel solution

to drinking and driving. The Boroughloch agency has organised Beck’s

sponsorship of ten rickshaws - fully-branded three-seater carts - which

ferry Christmas revellers around city centre pubs and clubs pulled by

Beck’s uniformed runners.



Passengers do not pay but tip instead. The aim is that the rickshaws

become a potent media, promotional and public relations tool. Demand is

expected to lessen in the new year, providing a natural cut-off date,

but the rickshaws themselves are expected to continue to operate

year-round in Edinburgh, and in other cities. They will also be used in

other tactical promotional work nationwide.



The cut-off date is the main problem with seasonal promotions. ’The only

manufacturers who can deal with Christmas activities in a fit context

are those whose products have a very short shelf life, like snacks or

crisps,’ says Kevin Twittey, chairman of Triangle Communications.



Star bar



Twittey highlights one brand that seems to have tackled this problem

successfully. Mars Bar currently features a gift-box graphic

on-pack.



It has a simple, instant-win mechanic, featuring presents consumers

would like to give or receive. As there is no mention of Christmas, this

could be backed up by point-of-sale material bearing a seasonal message

until the new year, when it is replaced with a more neutral version.



Twittey’s concern about Christmas promotions is picked up by Nick

Fennell, a director of field-marketing specialist CPM. ’Everything goes

haywire at this time of year in the retail trade. If you look at trade

data, you can see that out-of-stock levels rocket during December.’



Manufacturers have to make the most of their seasonal on-pack promotions

in the six weeks before Christmas, which means that on-pack promotions

have to have maximum visibility on the shelf. However, every year

retailers run out of stock in this period. He challenges manufacturers

running seasonal promotions to ask themselves:



- Are you aware/can you quantify the Christmas effect on demand for your

product?



- Is your retail customer aware of the increased consumer demand for

your product?



- Have you adequately communicated the Christmas upweight in sales to

your retail customers?



- Have you agreed increased stock levels with them?



- Have the measures you are taking to deal with the uplift been

communicated at local store level?



- How are you planning to follow up at store level to ensure that these

measures are implemented?



- Will you be monitoring the stock levels in the run-up to Christmas, to

ensure that the measures your retail customers have put in place are

working?



Not all promotions take place in-store, however. This year a Christmas

Web site has been devised for Comic Relief by Traffic Interactive, in

which Clarke Hooper has a majority shareholding. It includes the first

ever online celebrity draw, including memorabilia from the Spice Girls

and Boyzone. ’There was a trend last year for bespoke Web sites, but to

no great avail,’ says Rob Lawrence, senior producer at Traffic

Interactive.



’A lot of people have backed out from doing it again.’



Comic Relief is a strange brand to market. The fund-raising event occurs

only once every two years and is public relations-driven. ’We have

picked a media dead time as an experiment to see how we can market Comic

Relief in the future,’ explains Lawrence.



’Through new media, we are looking at globalisation of the brand. The

site has a tracking system to find out how and why people give money.

Rather than look greedy, we have made people feel they get value from a

donation.’



Donations entitle visitors to a ticket to the prize draw, which includes

24 pieces of memorabilia, including model Caprice’s bra. The site

features Comic Relief’s version of the advent calendar, called the

Redvent Calendar, and a virtual Christmas card, which you can e-mail to

friends while giving a donation at the same time. The Sun and Radio 1

are media partners.



Cracker of an idea



Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without crackers. Two companies to have

gone down this route are Scottish Courage and Nikon. Drinkers at

selected pubs nationwide will receive a promotional cracker when they

buy a bottle of Beck’s, Holsten Pils, Molson or Foster’s Ice, all

Scottish Courage labels. They will be able to read the win-or-lose

message in each cracker.



Winners get a limited edition baseball cap, while publicans get an

incentive to order promotional cases with selected merchandise.



Nikon’s version is more sophisticated. Sales promotion agency SMP

developed a two-pronged approach, sending a box of six Christmas

crackers in the Nikon yellow and black colours to around 350 camera

dealers at the beginning of October. Each cracker carried a different

teaser message on the outside, with details about promotional activity

inside, plus an exclusive promotion for the dealer.



These varied from an instant win, where they could claim between pounds

5 and pounds 50 with a one-in-three chance of winning, to free draws to

win Nikon equipment, which they could either keep or sell on. Entries

and claims are still coming in, but so far over 150 cards have been

returned.



The second prong of the attack occurred two weeks after the arrival of

the crackers. Some 100 outlets were visited by ’Santa’s Helpers’.

Dressed in a yellow pixie-type dress, the ’helpers’ carried a sack full

of goodies with gifts including Nikon’s new product brochure, POS

material, yellow and blue balloons and crepe paper to decorate their

outlet - and a box of chocolates for staff.



Underground movement



For shoppers travel is a problem over Christmas and, as in Edinburgh,

sales promotion has stepped in to ease the pain. London Transport has

launched a fold-out promotional leaflet to stimulate trial and increase

off-peak usage.



’The challenge is to overcome a perception that travel takes too long on

the tube. To counter this, we did nine different versions of the

promotion,’ says Suzanne Partridge, associate director at Interfocus.

The promotion is part of a bigger project to change attitudes, but

Christmas is an ideal time to test the concept, since shoppers are even

more reluctant than normal to drive into town.



The leaflets are aimed at households within a one-mile radius of tube

stations in zones three to six; 970,000 have been distributed with free

newspapers.



The leaflets also contain special-offer vouchers for retail outlets in

zone one shopping destinations, to encourage recipients to try the

tube.



They feature such names as Tie Rack, Dixons, Blazer and Bella Pasta.



So, Christmas promotions are alive and kicking. But it does beg the

question why other ethnic promotions aren’t run at the same time? After

all, Chanukah is just a few days before Christmas, while Diwali is

between September and November. Is it a question of target audiences

being too small?



’It is a fact that pubs are famous for celebrating ethnic holidays,’

says Iain Ferguson, chief executive of KLP. ’Just look at St Patrick’s

and St George’s Day.’ But maybe, he ventures, promotions geared to these

occasions would be too difficult to organise. ’Do you do it through

media magazines targeted at a certain audiences, or what?’



So if you’re waiting for an on-pack offer around your Chanukah

doughnuts, it seems you’ll have to go on waiting. But I’m told

Selfridges does a very good Kosher Christmas pudding which is selling

like hot cakes.



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