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Why do Christmas stories resonate with us?

Christmas stories resonateAs I write this we’re heading towards Christmas and I know that a lot of you are starting to wind down.  I’m always reluctant to write off the end of a year but I understand the impulse.  This year seems to have flown by.  There’s political turmoil that’s making everyone feel tired. There have been a lot of changes in my personal life this year too.  I’m ready for some time off.  But that doesn’t mean I’m switching off altogether.  This is a good time for reflection and thinking about the year to come.  So I thought I’d give you some Christmas themed food for thought.  There’s something about Christmas stories that really hit a nerve and I think it’s something we can learn from and carry through our marketing for the rest of the year.  So I asked myself a question. Why do Christmas stories resonate with us?

Here’s what I think lies behind it.

We’re tired and emotional

Yes, I know that has another meaning.  Come on, I’m a writer.  Maybe we will all be tired and emotional after a few Sherries on Christmas Day, but that’s not the point.  By the time we get to the end of the year we’re exhausted.  Not just by the things happening in our own lives, but everyone else’s too.  The news is grim and we’re constantly bombarded by social media messages making other people’s lives look better than they actually are.  I’m about ready to gather my family around me and snuggle under a blanket, hoping it all goes away.

To me, it explains why Christmas stories with a bit of magic in them are so appealing.  It’s comforting to believe that there is help out there if you need it.  Of course, I’m a pragmatic sort so still take the view that if you want help you need to ask for it. But Christmas stories help us to tap into the idea that the world isn’t all bad.

Family time

Trying to achieve a good work life balance has been at the top of a lot of priority lists for a while now.  It seems as if everyone has their own definition but when you have children time with them is always in there somewhere.  This year’s BBC One short, ‘Wonderland’ capitalises on this beautifully.  The idea of a stressed mum and son desperately needing time together is incredibly powerful.

It’s easy to feel that we’re short changing our children sometimes. Running a business can consume every waking minute if we let it.  We’re often told that we ‘should’ want more time with the family, but that misses the point for me. The Christmas stories that celebrate the true meaning of the season tend to be about putting people first. Even Scrooge learned to be charitable.

How Christmas stories help us throughout the year

Christmas stories tap into some pretty powerful concepts. Things like helping those in need and spending time with the people you love. They’re ideas that your marketing can evoke all year round.  You might not believe in magic, but encouraging people to ask for help is no bad thing, especially if you’re the one making your living by offering it.  It can be hard for a small business to build trust with their customers, but people love the idea that they’re supporting the little guy.  Those memes that talk about small business owners doing a happy dance when they get a new order are popular for a reason.

These themes might resonate more strongly at Christmas, but they’re there all year round. How can you use them in your business?

This is my last blog post for 2018. Whatever you’re doing I hope you have a happy and peaceful Christmas and I’ll see you again in 2019!  If you’d like to start the New Year with a new marketing strategy, visit my website to find out more.

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What Christmas stories are you telling?

Christmas storiesAt Christmas it’s easy to feel as if everything has become overly commercialised.  When you’re running a business you might feel as if you’re just contributing to the problem.  After all, the run up to Christmas is often referred to as the ‘Golden Quarter’ because of the increase in sales.  The good news is that you can evoke the true spirit of Christmas in your marketing.  You just have to work out which Christmas stories you’re telling.  Thankfully there are plenty to choose from…

Bah humbug

I’m not saying that you should tell your customers they remind you of Ebenezer Scrooge. Although, running an advert that says “I know you’re not going to buy anything from me at Christmas because you’re a modern day Scrooge” your customers could take umbrage and spend loads of money to prove you wrong. Thankfully ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’ are tales of redemption.

However, we all have our ‘bah humbug’ moments and your marketing could tap into that.  A joke or even a poll featuring mince pies in November could work really well.  Alternatively, if you provide a gift that needs advance planning you could send out a funny early warning.  You know it’s ridiculously early but Christmas photo shoots book up quickly or your order book closes at the end of November.

Christmas magic

If your customers can’t start celebrating soon enough, the world is your lobster (sorry, family joke). You can take inspiration from any number of Christmas stories that bring back childhood memories. ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ evokes the excitement of potentially bumping into Santa when he comes down the chimney. ‘Polar Express’, ‘The Snowman’ and ‘The Nutcracker’ all tap into our dreams of adventure.

Using these kinds of stories in your marketing helps your customers to revisit their childhood. One word of warning though; use it carefully.  If it’s overdone it could be a bit too cloying so keep it light.

Christmas spookiness

Why do we tell ghost stories at Christmas? I’ve read that when the Pagan festival of Yule was co-opted by the church and turned into Christmas, some ghosts lingered. Yule acknowledged the darkness as well as celebrating the lengthening daylight.  It makes sense for us to hold onto some scary stories for the long winter nights. Plus it means you can watch ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ with the justification that you’re celebrating your Pagan heritage.

You can use this type of story even if you aren’t in the business of sending a chill down your customers’ spines.  Whilst Christmas is all sweetness and light in theory, it can be a tough time of year for a lot of people.  Admitting that there is darkness could help your audience to feel less isolated and that can be a very positive thing.  Of course, Christmas is also becoming known for tales of murder.  Those might be worth sharing if any of your customers need help getting through Christmas with their nearest and dearest.

The true meaning of Christmas

All of this talk of magic and mayhem is all very well, but at its heart Christmas is about giving.  That doesn’t have to mean an enormous pile of presents under the tree. It could mean one present that’s chosen with care. Time can be a wonderful gift if you don’t often get to spend it together.

Again, this is the kind of message that could make your audience want to throw up. However, it’s very powerful if done well.  It doesn’t always have to be jolly either.  ‘The Little Match Girl’ is heart-breaking but still recreates Christmas through the little girl’s visions. If that’s too unbearably sad, think of stories like ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’ or ‘The Snow Queen’ where love and friendship win the day.

Christmas stories like these have stood the test of time for a reason.  They all evoke something primal that we can connect with at Christmas. What story are you telling? Leave a comment and let me know.  Or, if you need some help getting your story out there, sign up for my email series taking you through blog writing step by step.

Further reading

A few examples of the stories I mentioned:

The Little Match Girl

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Plus one of my own: A Christmas Deirdre


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Why you need to focus on your customers at Christmas

customers at ChristmasYou need to focus on your customers at Christmas.  Of course, you need to focus on them all year round, but especially at Christmas.  To quote Andy Williams, it may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most stressful. If you can bring your customers something useful and give them a dose of the warm and fuzzies, you’ll be on to a winner.  However, to do that you need to think about their personality and how you can help them through the festive season in one piece.

What’s their style?

When you think of the big Christmas ad campaigns there are a few key players who always pull out the stops. Each has their own approach which reflects the types of customer they usually attract.  John Lewis are luxurious, M&S are sparkly and Aldi go for laughs with Kevin the Carrot.

Even where campaigns share a common cause, they’ll all do it in a slightly different way, with a different feel. The focus might be on gathering your family around the table or going out and having fun, but each reflects the brand’s core audience.

What do your customers want?

Your customers’ personalities aren’t suddenly going to alter because it’s Christmas.  They still have the same values at Christmas as they do throughout the year.  Their approach to the festive season may influence the kind of marketing they’ll respond to. This goes beyond distinguishing between the ultra-prepared present buyers and the last minute shoppers.  You might attract both. Even the ones who normally have everything wrapped by the end of November could fall behind.

It can help to think about your customers in terms of the bigger brands.  Are they John Lewis and Waitrose type people who like a bit of luxury and appreciate the personal touch? Do they want magic and sparkles? Will their house be filled with food and people even though money is tight?  Working out what their priorities are will help you to talk to them more effectively.

What can you bring your customers at Christmas?

None of us have the budget to hire Elton John (and I know quite a few people who think John Lewis shouldn’t have bothered) or even to have an animated carrot dangling from a cliff.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t bring your customers something that they’ll like.  If you’re struggling for quick Christmas marketing ideas I’m running an advent calendar on both Facebook and Instagram that has a few.  There are also a few things in there to help you look after yourself.  We all get frazzled at this time of year and I’m using my calendar as a cue for myself.

At Christmas you might want practicality but emotion is important too.  I’ve no doubt there will be a few modern day Scrooges out there saying ‘humbug’, but you can ignore them.  Unless you’re one of them, in which case you have the perfect opportunity to band together in sympathy.  You don’t have to spend much money (if any) to give people something that they’ll find touching or entertaining. Hafod Hardware, a family run shop in Wales, made this advert last year for just £7.  You could showcase your products in a fun way or show people how you can make their lives easier at Christmas.

Over to you – what are you offering your customers at Christmas?

If you’d like to start 2019 with a new content marketing strategy you can find out about my content planning and strategy service here or sign up to my mailing list and receive your free guide ‘Do I need a writer’ by clicking on the image below.