This post was last updated in November, 2018 with 26 additional ideas about holiday campaigns and contests that engage audiences.
Come Christmas and there’s magic in the air!
One may exclaim that ‘tis the season to be jolly, but brands are probably thinking “’tis the time to start engaging customers by spreading some holiday cheer.”
One of the most popular ways of doing so successfully is by launching riveting contests centered around the upcoming holidays. Several brands have done this in the past and are continuing with this tradition. Organizing exciting and interactive online contests and campaigns is a great way to acquire and hold audiences’ attention.
If you’re a new startup, you may want to seriously consider making the most of the holiday time by investing in promotional contests, games and competitions. If you’re wondering how to get around that, we’ve got a few ideas to help you capitalize on the Christmas spirit to engage customers and keep their loyalty:
1. Run a Holiday-themed Campaign
With Christmas in the offing, you will do well to run a campaign that encapsulates the spirit of this joyful festival in your holiday contest. Consider adding elements from the upcoming holidays into your ad campaign and marketing gimmicks. Organize in-store Christmas soirees and Santa visits to make it a family affair.
Tie up with charitable organizations and offer to donate a part of the Christmas sales to their cause. This is highly instrumental in bringing about a sense of unity, harmony and good cheer. Further, these kind of contests are great because they target families, and not just limited sections of the audience.
Coca Cola, for example, is already hard at work. It has its ‘Holidays Are Coming’ campaign on air, its truck is busy touring the UK, and the ‘A Coke for Christmas’ campaign (a young boy giving bottles of Coca Cola to his mother, father and a store employee, thereby spreading the holiday-season cheer in his own small way) has also beenlaunched. It has also tied up with FareShare to help the needy get a decent meal, and store the surplus food and drinks properly.
2. Run a Festive Quiz
Tap social media to devise and run a fun and interactive quiz. By doing so, you can figure out what your followers are looking forward to during the holiday season and use these discoveries to your advantage.
Ask multiple choice questions to enable them to select the answer they relate to the most. Make sure the rules of participation are simple to encourage maximum involvement. Frame questions in a way that enables you to gain insights into customer preferences.
3. Wish-Fulfilment Campaign
The holiday season is a time when we all want to send gifts to our loved ones. Use this knowledge to your advantage by creating a campaign around this idea to spread your goodwill. Ask your audiences to express their holiday wishes to their loved ones on your website or social media page. Announce that for every wish sent, your company will donate a certain amount of money to a good cause.
For instance, UPS delivers millions of gift packages, which begin with a wish. In keeping with this, UPS launched the ‘Your Wishes Delivered’ campaign, through which they encourage their customers to share their holiday wishes. For every wish shared on their website and social media pages with the hashtag #WishesDelivered, UPS donates $1 to charitable institutes.
4. Selfie Contest
Who doesn’t enjoy taking selfies? Why not turn this fun activity into a contest?
You can ask your audience to get into the Christmas spirit and take selfies alongside Christmas trees, with Santa Claus or a snowman, in a Santa hat or costume while showing off your product. Ask them to upload their entries to your social media page(s) and win prizes.
5. Express Your Gratitude
If your business is available on social media, chances are that you’re well connected to your customers. How about thanking them for being loyal to you? The holiday season is the perfect time to express your sincere gratitude to your audience and engage them in some seasonal fun.
In December, 2014, British Airways launched a video thanking their flyers for travelling with them. The 70-second clip featured a host of holiday pictures to acknowledge the travels that their passengers undertook through the year and was displayed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and British Airways’ in-flight entertainment systems.
6. Be-Santa-to-Someone Contest
This holiday season, give your audiences a chance to do something nice for someone they value in their life. Ask your followers to comment on the Christmas posts on your website or social media pages with the name of the person they think deserves to enjoy some festive magic. The person named then stands a chance to win a prize.
7. Gift-Vending Machines
There’s something about vending machines that makes us want to use them over and over again. The anticipation of receiving something helpful from it probably has something to do with this fascination. This brings me to my point: Why not use vending machines to distribute Christmas gifts as well?
To illustrate, London’s Not On The High Street placed two Twitter-supported gift vending machines inside the busy Paddington and Waterloo stations with the aim of assisting last-minute shoppers with buying suitable Christmas presents. Participants were required to stop at these stations and tweet @notonthehighstreet with their location and personality type of the receiver of the gift (options included #Gardener, #Foodie and #PetLover). For example, the tweet could look something like ‘@notonthehighstreet #waterloo need help with a present for my #PetLover friend!’ The vending machine then dropped a gift according to the chosen personality type.
8. Make-a-Wish Contest
Everyone has a secret Christmas wishlist in their mind. Ask your followers to spell theirs out by selecting a product (offered by you) that they wish to receive on discount or for free within a limited time period. Let them have the product as your Christmas gift to them.
9. A Christmas Present with a Message
How about using the holiday season to spread the message of preserving the environment? This is be a great time to get your efforts to protect our planet noticed. This will not only earn you tremendous customer goodwill and trust, but also strengthen your brand credibility. This can done through a simple direct mail campaign.
For example, the primary objective of Toyota’s 2008 direct mail campaign was to highlight its environment-friendly stance by wishing a merry Christmas to its top clients and VIP endorsers. A box with the word ‘Fragile’ written on it was delivered. Upon opening it, the receivers found a spherical object with the world hand-painted on it. The message on that read, “The world is in your hands. Treat it well. Merry Christmas from Toyota”.
10. Name-Your-Favourite-Christmas-Movie Contest
We all have at least one Christmas movie that’s close to our heart. This is the movie we watch every year during the festive time. Your followers will surely love to talk about their favourite holiday movie. All they will have to do is tell you the name of their chosen Christmas movie along with the reason to be able to win some irresistible prizes from you.
11. Create a Calendar
Who knew something as simple as a calendar could be used to build anticipation among the audience and keep them wanting for more from you! This aspect is crucial to customer engagement.
Cadbury’s Advent calender came into existence to build anticipation. It shows Cadbury workers packing up trucks, set to be deployed from Bournville, home of Cadbury, to spread joy everywhere they go in the run up to Christmas. This was translated to real life with 24 purple Cadbury trucks being sent to undisclosed locations throughout the UK, each one packed with a surprise. The chocolate-making giant records the reactions of the people visiting the trucks and plays them online, on TV, and through video-on-demand.
This is a great way of leveraging real-life content to increase brand awareness and spread joy.
12. Comment-and-Win Contest
One reason why social media is addictive is because it gives people the opportunity to express their thoughts, wishes and opinions in the form of comments.
This opens up tremendous scope for running a comment-and-win contest on your social media pages. Announce an attractive prize and ask your followers to tell you why they should win it by commenting.
13. Long-Term Sweepstakes
It isn’t easy to keep customers engaged and earn their loyalty. However, make the right moves and you’ll have audience eating out of the palm of your hand. Well-thought-out loyalty programs tend to keep customers glued to a brand. Have your customers enrolled with your loyalty program and watch the magic!
For example, members of Starbucks Rewards loyalty program can participate in the annual Starbucks for Life sweepstakes, and stand a chance to win a grand prize of “free drinks for life” for up to 30 years. This is the third year of this promotion and its annual nature is bound to make customers wait for it with bated breath every Christmas season.
14. Caption Contest
A great caption can lift your campaign like nothing else can. Having trouble coming up with one? Get your audience to create one for you, as you keep them engaged with your brand simultaneously. Simply post an intriguing photo on your social media accounts and ask your followers for interesting captions, which will qualify them for winning a grand prize.
15. Holiday Selfie Campaign
Ask your followers to submit their best holiday snaps to your website or on your social media page. Put the photos together, create a collage and display it to create a sense of community. You can also include voting, wherein the photo that gets the maximum likes, wins.
Let’s look at Lenovo’s #Holiday360 selfie campaign, in which it asks its customers to create a ‘360°selfie video’ which encapsulates the holiday spirit in their city. These videos can be shared on Lenovo’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts along with the hashtag #Holiday360 and the tag @Lenovo. Lenovo then compiles the videos to create “the world’s first global 360° selfie”.
These kind of campaigns are highly effective in enabling engagement between brands and their online followers.
16. ‘What’s-Next?’ Contest
One of the best ways of keeping your audience engaged is by giving them what they want in a bid to solve their problems. However, how do you know what they’re looking for? Run a ‘what’s-next’ contest. Declare that you’re looking for ideas for your next product and ask for winning suggestions from your followers.
17. Online Christmas Greetings
Use your website as a platform that visitors can use to send out personalized messages and gifts to their loved ones this holiday season. This will help you increase your website traffic as well as keep your audiences involved in your brand initiatives.
Take a cue from Ferroro Rocher’s multi-platform campaign on its Chinese website, which allows customers to cutomize, share and send Christmas greetings (virtually) along with a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates with just a click of a button.
The personalized messages can be shared via email, on social media, and can be printed. Participants can win a Ferrero Christmas box and card, which is delivered to their doorstep by a Ferrero brand ambassador. The advertising message that accompanies this is, “Light up the golden moment and cherish this special occasion”, which is sure to strike a chord with customers.
18. Video-Sharing Contest
The holiday season is when most people inundate their social media accounts with holiday videos that focus on the celebrations at their home and office. Capitalise on this and ask your followers to share a video of Christmas decorations in their home/office to win prizes.
19. Snapchat-based Contest
If millennials form the majority of your target audience, then this kind of a contest can work wonders for your brand. Snapchat has become a favourite among social media-savvy people, who enjoy uploading snaps that disappear after a few minutes. A similar campaign will surely have lots of takers.
BMW launched a Snapchat-inspired social media campaign and website called Snowchat, wherein pictures shared by visitors disappear after a few seconds. The campaign is aimed at young consumers. The Snowchat site shows a BMW window covered in snow. Visitors can write messages and/or create virtual artwork on the window, which disappear after 5 seconds.
The simplicity of use and the transient nature of the scribbles can go a long way in motivating users to share their messages with their loved ones, thereby ensuring the success of this campaign.
20. Follower-of-the-Week Contest
This kind of a contest will go a long way in building audience engagement for your brand. All you need to do is choose the most active person from among your existing followers as the winner of this contest.
21. Christmas-Game Campaign
A great way to use social media to keep customers engaged during the holiday season is by getting them to partake in holiday-themed online games that revolve around your brand.
Ted Baker’s Instagram-based game for the Christmas season has been a huge hit. It features Santa’s 7 elves, who have suddenly gone missing. They were last seen in an #elfie taken by none other than Santa.
Fans can find the elves by visiting @TedsElfie on Instagram and participating in the adventurous game therein. The three-week campaign offers several opportunities to win prizes.
22. Holiday Sweepstakes
This can be a limited-edition Christmas-themed contest. To enter it, your followers will need to submit their email ID, and Like and Follow your page. This should help increase your number of followers and leads. Make is easy for them to participate, and ensure to run one sweepstakes a day to encourage more participation.
23. Give-Back-to-the-Community Campaign
People tend to feel thankful and generous during the holiday season. You can leverage the holiday atmosphere to help the needy, while engaging your audiences.
Cisco’s 2012 ‘How Do You Give Back?’ campaign on Facebook is a great example of a company using the holiday season to give back to the community. It worked like this: every time a visitor would post a comment on their page, Cisco donated four meals to the World Food Programme. After that, Cisco made their followers aware of their good deed. The page also acknowledged other people who gave back to the community.
Through this campaign, Cisco managed to involve people and encouraged engagement on social media. They also made their followers feel good about themselves. No wonder this campaign was a success!
24. Vote Contest
Set up a new vote contest every day and ask your followers to pick between two displayed products and mention the reasons for their choice in the comments. The products can be related to the holiday season, such as stockings versus Santa hats, eggnog versus hot chocolate, or candy cane versus gingerbread man.
25. Refer-a-Friend Contest
Get your followers to refer a friend or ask their friends to Like and Follow you on social media. Track this and up your offerings accordingly. Give increasingly better deals to those who do this successfully. For instance, offer 50% discounts to people who refer 5 friends and 70% to those who refer 10 friends.
26. Singing Contest
Host an online music contest and ask your followers to upload recordings of them singing Christmas carols and other festive songs to your website or through SoundCloud. Entertain only holiday-themed music and get a professional singer to pick the winner(s).
27. Get a Gift, Give a Gift
During this giving season, offer your customers the opportunity to spread some joy through a giving contest. For each purchase, one product can be chosen to be given to a person in need or donated through a charity. You can create a “contest” by setting a giving goal or letting each purchase count towards an entry in a sweepstakes.
28. Holiday Recipe Contest
Host a friendly family recipe showdown by asking customers to share their favorite dish. You can also make a more specific recipe type, such as a Christmas cookie, pie, vegetarian side dish, or a spin on the classic mashed potato. This is a great contest to host on Facebook so followers can submit photos through a comment on the contest page.
29. Holiday Prank Contest
Many late-night shows have sponsored holiday themed pranks and it’s a great way to have some engaging fun with your followers. Follow in the steps of harmless but hilarious pranks, such as Jimmy Kimmel’s Twitter prank that asks parents to record the moment when they tell their kids that all of their Halloween candy was gone. Invite your followers to share videos of themselves pulling pranks on their friends or family, such as telling their kids that Santa forgot to come by their house. Whichever video gets the most likes and views wins! If possible, you might consider limiting the contest to a certain area or two, as this can open up some opportunities to improve your local business SEO.
30. Pet Holiday Themed Contest
People aren’t the only ones who enjoy the holidays. Run a fun photo contest asking customers to submit pictures of their furry friends getting into the holiday spirit. A winner can be chosen at random, or the top picks can be voted for on social media, like Minted’s Holiday Pet Photo Contest.
31. Weirdest Christmas Gift Contest
Ask followers to share photos/videos of the weirdest or strangest Christmas present they ever gave or received. This is a great campaign to run on Twitter or Instagram with a branded hashtag, and whichever post receives the most likes or shares wins.
32. Holiday Trivia Contest
Run a “12 Days of Holiday Trivia” contest throughout the month of December with Christmas-themed questions. Every day a new question can be posted on social media and everyone who submits a right answer gets entered into the final sweepstakes.
33. Win Your Wishlist Contest
Ask customers to comment what their top 3 product picks would be from your company and choose one lucky winner to get what’s on their wish list! This is a great move to get people talking about their favorite products, and you can even use the comments for some market research as well.
34. Christmas Story Essay Contest
Customers can submit a short story related to Christmas or the holiday season through your website or via email. You can set parameters, such as writing age groups for children, word length, and bonus points for hand-drawn artwork.
35. Gift Opening Video Contest
Run a contest asking your customers to film the reactions of their friends and family unwrapping your product as a gift! Viewers can vote for their favorite videos and award the funniest, most heartwarming, or most unique unwrapping video. This is also a great way to generate some user-generated content (UGC) around the holiday season that you can use for marketing.
36. Refer Your Friends Contest
Get more entries by sharing a link on your social media pages to invite followers to sign up or enter any holiday contest you are running. This can be done several ways depending on which platform you are running the competition on. For social media, followers can tag their friends or share your post to their personal page. If the contest is being held on your business website, you can include a shareable link so people can refer friends via email or text.
37. Awkward Christmas Card Contest
Nearly everyone has that awkward family photo from the holidays. Ask your followers to share the best of the worst on your social media page. The most liked and most uncomfortable family photo wins!
38. Rewrite a Christmas Song Contest
Ask customers to re-write a Christmas carol around a specific theme, such as their favorite holiday tradition or a Christmas character. Or, you can even ask customers to come up with a clever holiday jingle around your brand, like Tillamook’s Holiday Song contest to win a full year’s supply of cheese.
39. Best Christmas Lights Contest
Ask your followers to submit pictures of how they’ve decorated their home for the holidays. If you get a lot of entries, you can break it up into categories to be voted as the prettiest, most creative, brightest, or overall best house décor for Christmas.
40. Christmas Tip Contest
Everyone needs a little help around the holidays to keep things running smoothly. You can actually turn your followers’ pieces of advice into a fun contest by asking them to share their best tips for different holiday-themed problems. Ask them for their best-kept secret tips for decorating, last minute gift ideas, or easy ways to save money during the holidays. This is a great contest to run through Twitter or Facebook with a branded hashtag to collect entries.
41. Creative Re-Gifted Packaging Contest
If you’ve got some creative customers, ask for some ideas of how your product’s packaging can be re-purposed into a clever gift item! Ask your customers to participate by submitting photos of how the product’s packaging or boxes can be reused into something for the holidays, such as a unique present or piece of decor. For example, the brand Chameleon Cold Brew shares pictures of how their customers reuse the glass jars for storage, vases, and even unique art pieces. Turn this into a competition by voting on the best ideas on your social media pages.
42. Holiday Poll Contest
Polls are very popular engagement tools on social media, and you can create a contest around them during the holidays. Ask your customers for their opinion on a holiday-related question in an online poll. This could be something like best Christmas movie, character, or song. Everyone who votes for the winning category will be automatically entered into the contest.
43. Christmas Commercial Content Contest
Ask your customers to submit short video clips that can be compiled into a holiday commercial! Getting featured in the commercial can be a prize in and of itself, or each chosen feature can receive an additional prize like free a product or gift card. You may want to provide some guidance, such as a script for them to follow so that you have cohesive content that can be turned into a great marketing tool.
44. Pin It to Win It Contest
You can use Pinterest to run a contest and boost your brand’s visibility through a “Pin It to Win It” contest. You can either create one or multiple brand pins that customers can save as an “entry” into the final sweepstakes. You can even have customers create a wish board and pin their favorite products for extra entries, like Jewelry Warehouses’s holiday contest campaign did.
45. Get on Santa’s Good List Contest
The holiday season is the perfect time to spread good cheer and give back. You can run a contest that asks customers to share pictures or videos of themselves doing some good for the holidays, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or collecting gifts for kids in the hospital. Ask customers to share photos and videos with a branded hashtag of themselves volunteering during the holiday season to enter in a contest, and pick a winner who will receive a prize or donate a set amount to their favorite charity.
46. Pick a Good Cause Contest
Extend the season of giving by hosting a contest where charities and non-profits win. Your followers can nominate and vote for their favorite charities through your social media page or website. The final winning charity will receive a donation for the holidays.
47. Facebook Live Holiday Giveaway
Facebook Live is a super popular engagement tool these days that many brands are using. You can make the most of this trend by hosting a giveaway during a live event. Every viewer who sends a comment during the stream gets an entry, or you can include a special link that leads to a sign up form. You can even announce the winner during the livestream to keep your viewers engaged the whole way through!
48. Holiday Sale Giveaway
Boost your company sales and get customers excited for a contest at the same time by doing a holiday sale giveaway. Everyone who buys from your website using a specific code for a holiday sale is entered into a giveaway. The more purchases a customer makes, the more entries they receive! This is a great campaign to run during the busy shopping season or during Back Friday/Cyber Monday sales.
49. Share It On Your Story Contest
Get your social media follows involved and boost your brand’s visibility by hosting an Instagram or Facebook content contest. Customers can get extra entries by sharing the contest post to their “story” (a feature available on Facebook and Instagram). This can really increase your brand’s reach because each person will be sharing the post for their followers to see.
50. Fill in the Blank Christmas Contest
Fill in the blank caption contests for holiday themed statements or song lyrics are an easy way to get customers engaged. In fact, Facebook updates with fill in the blank posts have 182% higher engagement rates than other types of status posts. Make your contest Christmas themed by asking followers to fill in phrases like: “All I want for Christmas is ___,” or “My favorite Christmas tradition is ___.” Each comment can be an entry, or top choices can be voted on to determine a winner.
51. Decorate Your Space Contest
Have your customers share a photo if they designed a unique space outside of their home or business for the holidays! You can make this specific to the niche that you sell to as well. For example, if you are a B2B company, ask customers to share pictures of their office, cubicle, or desk decorations. Companies that market to students can have them share pictures of their dorm room décor or door decorations; businesses that sell to teachers/educators can have them share pictures of their classroom, etc. Each entry can be voted on and rewarded for creativity!
Running well-executed campaigns and contests on the right platforms can help brands and audiences connect better. Festive campaigns can be highly instrumental in not only keeping customers’ engaged, but also in appealing to their emotional side, thereby capturing their share of heart. The holiday season serves as the perfect opportunity to get in touch with your existing customers and gain new followers.
Here’s wising all you readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!