You’ve probably already seen Christmas decorations on shelves at your local store. Believe it or not, national retailers started rolling out end-of-year holiday items and Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as early as October this year. With holiday shopping and festivities kicking off earlier than ever, marketers are already in the midst of planning performance-driven campaigns for brands to take full advantage of the season.

Holiday-themed creator campaigns are a key way for brands to maximize sales. 58% of U.S. consumers say social media influences their purchasing decisions, while 29% of U.S. shoppers say creators help them find gifts during the holiday season. And 25% indicated that seeing a creator recommending a product will prompt them to buy a product faster, suggesting that creators can speed up the conversion cycle. 

Preparing creator campaigns for the holidays isn’t a simple feat, though. To start, marketing teams must account for and tailor campaigns to shopping behaviors that have grown during the pandemic—such as mobile commerce and buy online, pickup in store—and determine which platforms and product campaign approaches will work. And as with any campaign, brands need to establish attribution models ahead of time to effectively measure campaign success. 

BEN’s AI platform addresses these needs by using AI to analyze audience viewership and engagement metrics for past campaigns, and then segmenting those audiences based on behavior. These AI tools help brands identify patterns among specific groups and content verticals to inform more strategic campaign decisions.

Once brands check these boxes, they can shift their focus to qualities that will power a successful creator campaign. To succeed, brands must prioritize finding the creators that best align with their values and campaign goals, be inclusive of all holidays in their messaging, be willing to share the spotlight with creators’ other favorite brands, and give them freedom to authentically promote products and connect with an audience.

Be extra thorough when sourcing creators 

It’s always important to do your due diligence when sourcing creators. With holiday campaigns especially, brands need to be meticulous in researching and partnering with creators that align with their overall brand values and campaign theme. 

Brands should look for creators that have demonstrated they care about a brand’s causes or have shown interest in a particular campaign theme. Doing so will result in holiday campaigns that feel authentic and likely resonate more with audiences over an approach that feels forced—such as opting for a popular creator that people will know, but has no ties to the campaign theme or brand values.

If a brand takes the safe route of sticking with a creator they’ve partnered with many times before, they also might not garner the level of customer excitement they’re looking for if the audience is used to seeing that creator in their other campaigns. They could miss out not only on sales, but also on making new, potentially long-term creator relationships. 

If the core campaign goal is to get online conversions, brands need to work with creators that have proven track records of driving sales. Christie Childers, creator marketing consultant at Best Day Ever, says analyzing a creator’s link click tracking data from previous sponsored campaigns and stories is one way to gauge their effectiveness. 

“Certain creators are traffic drivers and others are not,” says Childers. “A popular creator might have a huge following and will get brands a lot of impressions. But if they’re not going to drive a good amount of traffic to your site, they’re not your best bet.”

Brands can also use AI to find the right creators based on their objectives and target audience. Goat Foods wanted to drive sales for its Licorice and Pretzel snack brands during the 2021 holiday season and used BEN’s AI platform to identify women—specifically including moms and interior design-focused creators—as the most appropriate partners for the campaign. Using AI to source the creators paid off: The six-week campaign garnered a 192% and 207% increase in month-over-month conversions for Licorice and Pretzels, respectively. 

Holiday inclusivity is a must

Brands and creators might be inclined to tailor their campaigns solely to major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. But celebrating a variety of holidays should be the brand norm. Otherwise, brands can come across as tone deaf and lose the opportunity to connect with a diverse audience this season.

Through the end of 2022, marketing teams can consider incorporating holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa—and even unofficial celebrations like Friendsgiving and Friendsmas into their campaigns—and work with creators of diverse backgrounds who are enthusiastic about those celebrations.

Fast-casual Mexican restaurant chain El Pollo Loco’s Bless Togetherness campaign in 2021 celebrated the return of in-person holiday gatherings with themed menu items and branded products. To boost awareness and sales, El Pollo Loco catered Friendsmas dinners for TikTok influencers who created and shared content about how they hosted celebrations using the brand’s holiday-themed meals. The company’s campaign is a prime example of a brand effectively targeting a diverse demographic during the holidays by working with Latinx creators and focusing on a holiday that anyone can celebrate.

Share the spotlight with gift guides

Sharing is caring—even if that means sharing the spotlight with other brands.
This holiday season, brands should consider pitching their products to creators to feature in their annual holiday gift guides, which can be an easy way to boost brand awareness and sales among creators’ fans. 

Online holiday gift guides are effective because they give consumers an easy way to shop and decide what to buy, which is especially helpful for those scrambling to find gifts at the last minute (or those who find online shopping daunting, in general). Gift guides curate all products of interest in one place, and can introduce new, on-trend items to shoppers that weren’t on their radar. Plus, online gift guides come with click-through links that make it as easy as possible to take consumers to the brand’s site.

“People are looking for gift guides during the holidays, and creator gift guides can send a lot of traffic to a site,” says Childers. “Some brands might not want their products featured alongside other products, which could be a huge miss. Brands don’t need to be sovereign in thinking they should be the only brand featured by a creator.”

Creators add a new layer to gift guide effectiveness, since they already have followers that come to them for product recommendations and reviews, and trust what they have to say. A gift guide that features items from a variety of brands will inherently be a more authentic piece of creator content, since it will feel like less of a straightforward advertisement for shoppers.

Let creators take charge

After briefing creators with key holiday campaign messaging and goals, brands should give them the freedom to promote products and connect with their audiences how they’d like. This, in turn, will add layers of creativity, authenticity, and fun into holiday campaigns.

“There’s a problem in general with brands making creator campaigns all about the product and giving them too many guidelines,” says Childers. “Specifically around the holidays, messaging can become so robotic that no one wants to engage or click a link. Obviously, brands should give creators key points they need covered, but they should let them speak to their audience in a way that makes sense to them.”

Unboxing videos are a natural way for creators to authentically promote holiday items and earn organic traction for a brand. Beauty brand Kiehl’s releases annual holiday advent calendars as a gift idea, which creators have promoted by releasing videos where they reveal what’s inside each calendar flap. These types of unboxing videos appeal to audiences because they’re fun, unscripted and a way to see creators—who generally don’t know what’s inside—react to products for the first time.  

And, during the first holiday season of the pandemic, Lowe’s launched a holiday-agnostic campaign that tapped creators that do good (such as foster parents, nonprofit leaders and frontline healthcare workers) to write original thank you letters to their homes and post them on social media, encouraging everyday customers to do the same. 

The home improvement company’s goal for the campaign was to spotlight the importance of homes during the first year of the pandemic and keep home products top-of-mind as a holiday gift. The campaign was successful because it was timely, displayed real words from people that aligned with the theme, and it had an interactive element for shoppers—Lowe’s accepted letter submissions from fans and displayed them during the holiday season on its social media channels and in stores. 

As brands prepare their holiday campaigns now, keeping these creator marketing tips top of mind will set themselves up to achieve their business goals for the 2022 season, and will provide them with lessons to inform future holiday campaigns.