2020 Holiday Messaging: More Personalization, No COVID Talk

Even in the midst of a pandemic, election anxiety, and widespread recognition of racial injustice, many people are feeling MORE grateful this year, and MORE connected to their friends and family, despite being apart from them.

This will change the gift giving-landscape this holiday season.

We conducted a holiday survey that included questions for consumers from an advertising perspective. 

Four findings stood out. First, the amount of gratitude people feel during what’s best described as a dumpster fire of a year is astounding. Consumers are saving their money so they can spend more this holiday season. The WHY and the WHAT of gift-giving have drastically changed.

So, too, will the way agencies consult with their clients to craft effective holiday messaging.

Don’t mention COVID-19 in holiday messaging. We know it’s here, reminders are unnecessary. 



The same goes with being grateful. There’s already an abundance of gratefulness in the universe; messaging shouldn’t remind others to be grateful.

Surprise and excitement are typically the main emotions to attain in gift-giving and holiday campaigns, but not this year. Those emotions have been replaced by love and appreciation. Loved, appreciated, joyful and excited are the top emotions gift-givers want recipients to feel. Navigate agency/client campaign discussions in this direction to have a robust impact on this year’s holiday marketing season.

When it comes to brand messaging,  consumers are looking for product deals and promotions; connection and togetherness; and creative that highlights essential workers, such as grocery store employees, first responders, and healthcare workers.

I expected to see people spending less on gifts this holiday season, but consumers are spending more on loved ones to reflect their gratitude. Half of those surveyed plan on spending more this holiday season. 

The pandemic even changed views on the age-old question: How soon is too soon to play holiday music in-store? Unless you’re Mariah Carey, the day after Halloween is too much for the rest of us to hear Christmas music. 

Seventy-four percent surveyed enjoy hearing retail stores’ holiday/winter-themed music leading up to the actual holiday, and 60% hope to see decorations and music well before Christmas, like now. 

What was annoying one year can be something to look forward to the next. Read the room. How has your audience handled the pandemic? Last year’s messaging won’t work this year, but past creative that was ixnayed should be given a second look. It’s an upside-down year.

We also found that consumers are planning to buy more personalized gifts or even make presents for family and friends rather than buy something with less meaning. For example, gift cards are great, but don’t convey appreciation the way a personalized gift does. The recipient will feel cherished as well as seen when given a well-thought-out gift or something hand-crafted.

Those surveyed are looking for holiday advertising to focus on children, significant others, parents and friends so they can find inspiration on what to buy them. 

Does your holiday messaging differ drastically from last year’s?

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