The best holiday spots are ones that “tale” not “tell”

Some people gleefully admit that they wait all year for Christmas. And for those of you who love the cookie baking, the tree decorating, and the stocking hanging, the time is finally here.

It’s hard to find someone who isn’t at least slightly affected by the merriment that seems to radiate during the holiday season. There is no other time of the year when consumers are more vulnerable, empathetic, and emotionally charged than now. And each year companies strive to create the perfect ad that allows them to gracefully, subliminally slide their products and services into your merry festivities. During such an emotionally charged time, we find it is less about what is being told and more about how. It seems the best spots are those from companies that don’t explicitly “tell” you about their product, but the ones that give you a “tale” with their product.

With today being Christmas Eve, it seemed only fitting that Caroline and I share our two favorite Christmas spots of the 2014 season.

Apple – “The Song”

Apple… it seems the company’s fanfare is never-ending. And while Android fans will argue against it, it seems a majority of us find it seemingly well deserved. Each year they are not only topping the charts with their new product releases, but they are also consistently ranking in the top with their advertising spots as well. Remember their holiday ad from last year, “Misunderstood?” This year “The Song” serenades our heart strings as the commercial shows a granddaughter’s finding a record of a her grandmother singing to her late husband, which she then digitally remasters into a duet featuring herself singing with her grandmother. As if the song itself, “Love is Here to Stay”, wasn’t enough to form a lump in your throat, the new duet was then left as the most tear jerking gift to her grandmother on Christmas morning. While technology is often demonized for removing sentiment, Apple shows that when used with creativity, it actually has the potential to restore it – and in this case, tenfold. Grab a kleenex before you watch above.

Sainsbury – “Christmas 2014”

Our second pick is Sainsbury’s “Christmas 2014”. It’s hard to tell if you are watching a commercial or experiencing an actual cinematic event. The beautifully shot British ad depicts the ceasefire between the British and German around Christmas of 1914. As “Silent Night” is sung between the two opposing forces, the echoing lines of “sleep in heavenly peace” over shots of a haggard battlefield can get anyone to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Ranking first on the viral video chart, the spot’s powerful imagery has captured not only our attention, but also nearly 16 million views.

Did our two picks make your list for favorite holiday ads? What other spot made an impact on you this season? Let us know in a comment!

Before we officially end this week’s post, Caroline and I want to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all so much for following us on Communication Minded’s journey as we experience, explore, and evolve within the integrated marketing field. Due to the holidays we will refrain from posting next week, but will be back with content on January 7th!

Happy Holidays! – Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson

5 Social Media Resolutions for 2015

It’s time for our December guest blogger! This month we bring to you Savannah Myers. Savannah graduated from UNCW with B.A. in Communication Studies and a Minor in English. As an undergraduate Savannah served as co-coordinator for the UNCW Communication Studies COM Studies Day. She worked on social media and public relations projects as a marketing intern for the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association. After graduation in May of 2014, she accepted an internship at the North Carolina Seafood Festival, where she is now the Marketing Coordinator.

 5 Social Media Resolutions for 2015

Whether I am catching up on my friend’s latest adventures on Instagram, or managing and posting onto various platforms for work, social media is at the forefront of my daily life. My position as the Marketing Coordinator for the North Carolina Seafood Festival includes not only managing our social media, but also creating marketing campaigns to be pushed through our accounts. As a nonprofit organization driven by our community and 250,000+ attendees, social media has proven to be key for us in maintaining a personal connection to our fans, and engaging them throughout the year.

Through my experience managing a business’s social media accounts, as well as research done on trends and reports, I have created a list of five social media resolutions for 2015 that will help attract more fans, engage with followers, and give your page the extra “something” that keeps people coming back for more.

Be Consistent With Posting– A widely debated subject is the fine line between posting too much, and not posting enough. However, in order for your business to stay in the forefront of fan’s minds, you have to be on their news feed consistently. Each social media platform will lend itself to different posting frequencies, however with an outlet like Facebook, finding the perfect balance between informative and obnoxious can be tricky. In order to ensure that I post enough, but don’t over-do it, I check analytics each week to see what the engagements were in comparison to how many times I posted. This provides the benchmark for the number of posts I should be doing per week.

Find New Social Media Frontiers- Facebook and Twitter are the obvious platforms that all businesses should be, and are, on. Although both are great marketing tools in their own right, venture out by taking the time to research various outlets that could be a good fit for your company. Did you know that Instagram just surpassed Twitter in number of users? Being a trailblazer in your field is key!

Get Creative- How many times do you get flooded with the same boring posts from a business trying to sell a service or product? If it’s anything like me, it’s every day. Make your company stand out by creating more than just a social media page- but rather an experience for your fans that ties into your overall branding theme. I am constantly in awe of Coca-Cola’s creative campaigns on Twitter that engage with fans and leave a reported 1 billion potential impressions over 30 days. Check out their campaign that turned fan’s tweets into 2 million pieces of confetti at a soccer game- talk about creativity!

Upload More Images- When I first began posting onto Facebook for work, someone gave me the advice to always upload an image with any post. Skeptical at first, I began looking at analytics for our Festival, which showed that engagement goes up at least 20% when a pertinent image is included in a post. Followers love getting a visual image, so indulge them by showing what you are posting about, rather than just telling them.

Free, Free, Free!- Is there anything better than a social media giveaway? Nope, there isn’t, and your fans don’t think so either! Giveaways or social media driven deals are a sure-fire way to directly engage with your fans, get more followers to your page, and keep people coming back. Keep giveaways simple by asking fans to do something that will be easy such as “like and share” or uploading a picture, which will enter them to win. It may take some time to plan and execute on the front end, but the benefits will be worth the effort!

Savannah Myers

Savannah Myers

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Eat, Drink & Be Merry: A guide to holiday at the office

We love the holidays! Decorating the tree, spending time with family, homemade dinners, giving the perfect gifts, and of course, holiday parties. For young professionals, holiday gatherings can be a great place for networking, and if attending one thrown by your own company, a great place for bonding with your coworkers. Yet in the midst of all the merriment that takes place during the holidays, we know how easy it is for budgets to get stretched. So the next time you need a quick gift for a secret santa at the office, or to give to the host of a party, here are a couple of inexpensive ideas to help you keep your bank account in balance this holiday season.

Holiday Cards

Not everyone at your workplace or in your life needs a gift, and Christmas cards are the perfect way to send cheer or to show your appreciation. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then New Years, sending a “Happy Holidays” card is a great way to cover all three. It’s easy to ring up a bill at the register if you have a list of people you want to send or give cards to, so save money by making them yourself, or buying at a reduced price. If you’re feeling crafty, simply buy some  plain inexpensive cardstock and decorate however you’d like with a calligraphy pen or watercolor. And if you can manage to wait a day or two after Christmas, you’ll find most stores offering huge discounts to clear out their leftover stock. Try Ollie’s, Big Lots, or World Market for cute cards and cheap prices.

Holiday Cards

Hand-Made Gifts

Say a card doesn’t quite cover it and you want or need to get something for someone, yet you have no idea what to get them – think of hand-made gifts! You probably have most of the necessary ingredients or supplies right at home. Make a peppermint sugar scrub, fill a christmas mug with hot chocolate supplies or personalize ornaments, coasters, or a wine bottle to any style your coworker would like. Hobby Lobby is a great place to get discount crafting vessels, decorations, supplies, or even ideas. This BuzzFeed article is an awesome resource for DIY gifting ideas for anyone on your list.

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Goodie Bags

If you are crunched on time and hand-made gifts are just not possible, put together a holiday goodie bag. More than likely, coworkers always need office or desk supplies, so throw in festive pens and sticky notes and then add candy, mints, or a key chain. Make it personal by adding a little something you know the receiver will really like – a locally made bar of soap, a fragrant candle, or a $5 or $10 gift card for their favorite coffee shop or iTunes. This site lists fun and quirky office supplies at various price points.

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(left photo: popcorn and gloves)

Food

Depending of the formality of the event, sometimes you may be asked to bring food or drink. You don’t have to spend all night baking an elaborate dish, bring simple foods but dress them up. For example, instead of bringing chips, bring homemade chocolate covered pretzels – you could even add peppermint chips or green and red M&Ms. Sometimes simply adding festive garnish can make it look like you spent a lot more time in the kitchen then you actually did. Here are recipes for eggnog dip and snowmen oreo pops.

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Decorations

If you are put on a committee in charge of social gatherings for the office, or are lending a hand to the host, it’s helpful to know how to cheaply and efficiently decorate for the occasion. Don’t underestimate what a little spray paint and glitter can’t do. As mentioned above, Hobby Lobby is a create resource for decorations, but so is a dollar store! Modge podge leaves to plain white candles and tie a piece of twine around them, add cranberries to flower vases, use pine cones and holly leaves as part of table runner centerpieces, or fill glass pillars with ornaments.

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Holiday parties are a great venue for getting to know your company culture, socializing with coworkers, and even networking. You may find yourself mingling with coworkers who work in different departments and levels of your organization, or you may even meet connections via your coworker’s significant others or guests. Whatever the event, or gift, remember to say thank you. Just as employers remember when you send them thank you cards after interviews, hosts and gift givers remember that same small gesture of gratitude.

Are you attending any holiday office party/events this year? What gifts are you giving to your coworkers? Any easy office decorating tips? Let us know in a comment below!

-Caroline Robinson & Savannah Valade

Consumers switch from gobbling to grazing holiday deals

Thanksgiving often acts as the kick off to the holiday season, but over the years it seems that it has become less about stuffing the turkey, and more about stuffing the shopping bags. Rather than gathering around and watching the football game before dinner, we are watching reporters update us on how long the lines are, who has the best deals, and what times the stores open. It’s no secret the massive crowds and sales that are generated each year, and retailers are eager to corral shoppers.  We are increasingly finding that stores are opening earlier, and sales lasting longer and that is just the trend this holiday shopping season – stretching, staggering, starting early, and most importantly for future years – shifting – from crowd to convenience.

Post Thanksgiving is a big pull for retailers and sales departments – Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and more recently, Giving Tuesday.  But these four days have transitioned into two-week long affairs in which the namesake of the day itself is increasingly declining.

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Black Friday has clearly crept into what is being dubbed “Gray Thanksgiving” as it is now expected for stores to open that Thursday, with some big box retailers starting as early as 6 a.m. Cyber Monday deals often start on Sunday, and Saturday acts as a day for retailers to claim as either a day of sale extensions from Black Friday or an early savings day for Cyber Monday. And going even further, some brands are even having cyber weeks, in which deals that begin Cyber Monday continue throughout the week.

It seems that the shopping holidays have blurred into one another creating a merger of sales and mass consumerism. It is no longer really necessary to differentiate the sale days, as more often than not “retailers have plenty of Black Friday deals that are available for shopping online, meaning that any new sales specifically designated for  Cyber Monday blend into the hoards of longer-running sales that began on Black Friday or earlier.”

Rather than the generated collective week of sales, a key take away from the shopping trend is that these savings days are not just brick-and-mortar store deals but are available online as well.

Stats from the past weekend are showing that the migration to online shopping is well under way. Cyber Monday proved to be the busiest online shopping day in history with sales up 8.5% compared to last year, and the busiest shopping day of this year with sales 30.5% higher than those on Black Friday.

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Retailers are noticing, and capitalizing on the shift in consumers buying behavior as online deals have become expanded and staggered. This year, Wal-Mart doubled the number of deals available online for Cyber Monday and will offer 500 new promotions a day through Friday. Target has 100,000 items on sale throughout the week, Kohl’s is advertising deals online through Saturday, and Amazon is offering new deals every 10 minutes all week long.

Amidst the shift to online purchasing, reports also noticed developing trends in how we online shopped. According to IBM, mobile accounted for more than half of all online traffic over the weekend. Even on Monday, where most shopped via desktop, mobile still accounted for 41.2% of all traffic, and 22% of sales. Numbers that aren’t too surprising considering the amount of people who would prefer convenience over crowds and the ease in which smartphone browsers and apps can perform any necessary shopping function.

Trends in the increase of online and mobile use could indicate that shoppers are becoming more digitally comfortable and savvy in using online coupons and rebates to get the best bargain – something that brick-and-mortar stores are very aware of. It is a term coined “showrooming”, in which people walk into stores, find a product they like, see the price, but then pull out their smartphone to find it cheaper online, and buy it there instead. In attempts to alleviate this, retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target, have all offered price match guarantees.

The message for shoppers this year is that deals will keep coming, and retailers don’t care how you buy from them – in-store, online, via app – as long as you are buying. What do these trends indicate for the future of the holiday shopping season?

“A continued flattening of the season,” says Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate, a company that sells software to retailers to help them personalize the online shopping experience. “One where people are more willing to wait to see what’s going on.”  As we mentioned earlier, Duncalfe also comments on the increasing parity between online and in-store deals but also mentions the convenience of same-day shipping and buy online – pick up in-store options. All of which she says, are making it easier for consumers to wait out the season for the best prices.

If you still have shopping to do you can grab plenty of good deals throughout the rest of this cyber week with most big box retailers, and sites such as fatwallet.com can help you monitor the best deals from them all.  If you’re in need of delivery before Christmas, the next biggest online shopping day is coming up on December 18th – Free Shipping Day.

Did you participate in any holiday shopping this year? Where did you find the best deals? Were savings better on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or was there no difference? Are crowds worth the in-store savings, or does the convenience of online shopping make up for the slightly lesser savings? What are your predictions for the holiday shopping season next year?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson