Every year, when Halloween is behind us, the floodgates seem to open. Without warning, there are holiday marketing campaigns everywhere, with countless companies quickly benefiting from a spending frenzy. There are vacation emails, social media posts, and television commercials – oh my god.
It seems like vacation marketing has gotten out of hand. But some brands do this very, very well.
As? Well, these brands are creating campaigns that actually wow customers instead of adding to the holiday noise. They evoke emotions and encourage sharing, sometimes even connecting people with loved ones or partnering with a nonprofit organization.
Great vacation marketing campaigns come in many different shapes and sizes. Check out our favorites below and use these ideas to promote your own vacation marketing ideas.
1. Wanderer: All Mariah Carey wishes for Christmas
While the holiday season is a time of caring and sharing, Walkers shows musician Mariah Carey just the opposite. After Mariah Carey made a music video for her famous song “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, she was annoyed by an elf who took her Walkers chips. To fend him off, she sings a high note that makes him block his ears and let go of the chips.
This is a fun commercial as it shows that the only thing you don’t want to share about Christmas is Walkers products. It also shows how even stars like Carey enjoy the brand.
2. Coca-Cola Canada: Give something that only you can give
In a recent commercial, Coca-Cola tells the story of a father who goes out of his way to deliver his daughter’s letter to Santa Claus.
The father is enjoying a coke while deciding what to do with the letter. We can sense that he is not sure he will be there in time.
We see him sailing through a sea, wandering through a forest, riding through a desert, and climbing a snow-capped mountain as he searches for Santa Claus. It’s finally here, but Santa Claus is closed for Christmas. Especially when we think the situation is hopeless, Santa Claus saves the day by driving in a Coca-Cola truck and taking father home.
His little girl’s wish? So that he’s home for Christmas. (This ad is definitely going to make you cry.)
While we are always tempted to give expensive gifts, the best that you can give to loved ones is your presence and time.
This issue is just one of the latest in the Coca-Cola company’s iconic vacation marketing campaigns – I mean, who doesn’t love the coca-drinking polar bears’ annual debut?
3. Microsoft: find your joy
2020 was a difficult year for many of us. We’ve spent more time with Zoom than ever before and have relied heavily on technology to distract us from the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t celebrate the holidays and make the most of it with our loved ones and pets.
This topic is entertainingly covered in Microsoft’s Christmas advertising. The commercial starts with a puppy named Rufus. Rufus craves games and approaches every family member, but everyone from mom to grandpa enjoys a Microsoft product and doesn’t pay attention to it.
Rufus grabs his best bud, a puppy next door. Together, they embark on an imaginary adventure with the games and activities that their people enjoyed. In addition to showing Microsoft’s offerings, the ad also reminds us to value our loved ones (and take care of our pets!).
4. Macy’s: In daddy’s shoes
Macy’s campaign offers a new look at what could be considered an over-the-top gift: socks.
In Dad’s Shoes takes a little girl on a Freaky Friday-like adventure where she literally walks around in her father’s shoes for a day. Although we see her as a daughter, everyone else, from neighbors to passers-by, greets her as if she were their father.
During the ad she notices how much work her father is doing and how many places he visits during the day. He walks a lot. So she gets an idea for what she’s going to bring him: socks. We all know that without a good pair of socks, you can’t achieve anything.
We love that Macy’s presents a simple gift that comes from empathy. This ad shows us that giving gifts doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or excessive.
5. Airbnb: Airbnb hosts are ringing our opening bell
This is a great example of an ad that doesn’t explicitly refer to the holidays, but instead emphasizes the value of community and gratitude.
Airbnb is celebrating the season by thanking its four million hosts for opening their homes to strangers around the world. The video shows various hosts from different countries ringing the doorbell and opening the door. We travel from the USA to Japan, from Kenya to New Zealand, from Brazil to Spain. (We love that each of these countries is listed in its original language!)
This campaign shows that you don’t need strings of lights or artificial trees to create an amazing campaign that embodies the holiday spirit. You can increase the values of your company, celebrate your victories, and appreciate those who have contributed to your success.
6. Amazon: The show has to go on
If you’ve lived through the 2020 pandemic (which you most likely did when you read this) you know how much it derails all plans. It turns out that quarantine is keeping us from accomplishing things. Unless it takes time alone.
In this ad, Amazon effectively hits us in the stomach with the story of a ballerina chosen to star in their dance school’s winter show. The girl is thrilled to be selected, but as the months go by and as the pandemic gains traction, the event will be canceled. Ballet class will be postponed online. The girl’s initial thrill is wearing off, a feeling we can all relate to.
Her little sister fixes the situation by putting together a DIY event next to her apartment building. All tenants look down on them as they dance. The event is socially distant and the girl is allowed to dance the ballet for which she has been practicing since the beginning of the year.
What we love the most is Amazon’s tasteful product placement. Instead of showing everyone ordering all items on Amazon, the ad shows the purchase of a single product: a flashlight. The flashlight is the crucial element that tenants could use to watch the show from their balcony.
7. Woodies: #WereAllHomemakers
This made us cry. Woodie’s, an Irish hardware store, reminds us of the holidays through the story of Mrs. Higgins, an elderly woman who is loved in her neighborhood.
During the ad, we see several people greeting her. Neighbors and passers-by love them. Even the noisy teenagers hanging around their house love them. She has a problem: the door that leads to her garden is missing a hinge. In the UK, houses usually have a fence with a gate. Every time she goes and comes home, she strives to open and close that door as a corner drags across the floor.
When Ms. Higgins comes home on a particularly snowy day, she finds that her door opens smoothly. The image focuses on the new hinge that was installed.
Who fixed that? It turned out to be one of the teenagers loitering outside their house. With this advertisement, Woodie not only undermined expectations, but also effectively communicated what is so wonderful about the holidays.
8. Hinge: See what we’re grateful for
What are you grateful for this holiday season? Recently the dating app Hinge sent out an email asking the same question to its members. The opportunity was taken to discuss the recent rebranding and growth that followed – something Hinge is very grateful for, according to the email.
The timing for this type of marketing is impeccable. The holidays are notorious for the sentimentality they evoke among the masses and the desire to spend them with “someone special”.
Hinge used this email to harness the vacation spirit and draw attention to an app that would help people find meaningful relationships rather than short-term alternatives.
[Click here to see the full email]
9. Lagavulin: Nick Offerman’s Christmas Protocol
This one is an oldie, but a goodie. Actor, writer and humorist Nick Offerman loves his whiskey. He’s sung about it before, and during an earlier holiday season he joined his favorite whiskey brand, Lagavulin, to shoot a 45-minute video of Offerman sitting in a leather armchair next to a crackling fire, drinking whiskey and calmly in look at the camera. Where do we register for this gig?
“This is a smart branding from Lagavulin,” wrote Kristina Monllos for AdWeek. “If you create an advanced ad that can serve as a conversation starter – should consumers at parties swap traditional Yule Log video for Offerman’s – everyone will be talking about the brand, too.”
A new 10-hour version has been available since the video was first published. Consider it our gift to you.
10. BarkPost: Yappy Thanksgiving Eve
Holidays are traditionally a time to spend with the family. For many of us, this includes our dogs.
BarkPost is no stranger to marketing campaigns helping Dog Ruvers get their furry friends on board. In November, the pet-friendly brand showed how to do it on Thanksgiving with a clever email that included vacation-themed cartoons and videos, feeding safety tips, and other vacation survival techniques – which, of course, include your dog.
Also, check out the adorable call to action at the bottom of the email: “Stop adding cute dogs to your email. Unsubscribe.” I mean who would want to unsubscribe from this?
11. Notable: Keep track of your goals for the new year
You may never have heard of reMarkable, but never mind, this company is the definition of cool and simple. Your only offer is a tablet that functions as a “digital notebook”. When you write something down, the reMarkable tablet automatically turns your writing into typed notes. Pretty cool right?
In its New Years email ad, reMarkable embodied the simplicity of its product by creating an equally simple campaign. In the email, you are enticed into receiving a $ 50 discount. Everyone knows the New Year is a time to make plans, set goals, and get your things in order.
reMarkable presents its product as the way to do it. They want to help you save time so that you can spend more time with loved ones and pets in the year ahead. And who likes to transfer notes from a notebook to a tablet?
12. Kool-Aid: Anything I really want for Christmas. Lil John
In a music video-style ad, rapper Lil John quietly sits down to have a glass of Kool-Aid while the Kool-Aid man slams through his wall. At that moment the bass drops as a festive music video begins with Lil John knocking outside a family Christmas party. The video shows Lil John, the Kool Aid man, and Santa Claus dancing along with footage of holiday dinner, gifts, and Lil John’s Christmas list.
By launching a full-fledged music video with a celebrity rapper, Kool-Aid is entertaining potential customers and showing how “Kool” is their brand. In addition to being humorous and entertaining, this ad is a reminder that at a time of year when your main focus is on hot drinks, you can still drink Kool-Aid.
13. Resy: Where to spend New Years Eve
Don’t want to cook for New Year’s Eve? We don’t want that either – mainly because washing up is a chore.
Resy is banking on this in a recent New Year’s email campaign. In a short but effective email, the company invites subscribers to the best restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area for the New Year. (If you’re not in San Francisco, there’s an option to search for local restaurants in your area that are also curated.) As with OpenTable, Resy makes it easy to make reservations for you and your loved ones.
We love that this simple email puts the focus on what we can do to celebrate New Years Eve. And what better way to do that than with delicious, local food that we don’t have to cook ourselves?
14. Erste Group Bank: #EdgarsChristmas #believeinlove #believeinchristmas
You may not recognize this company, but you definitely recognize their 2018 vacation ad. Remember that cute porcupine who couldn’t make friends because its spines were prickly? The short film has more than fifty million views on YouTube and has touched the hearts of millions of people on other social media platforms.
Erste Group Bank did it again during its 2020 holiday campaign. This time around, they’ve just made it a little bit clearer what they’re offering: loans that can help you buy something that may feel out of your reach, but that can help bring your family together.
The ad begins with a granddaughter giving her grandfather his hearing aids. Grandfather seems unhappy throughout the video. We later find out that it is because he wanted to play music but has no way of doing it because he doesn’t own a piano.
The granddaughter buys him a piano. In the end, the grandfather is allowed to play a song that he wrote for his mother. The whole family joins in and plays the song together.
15. Sonos + Spotify: #PlaylistPotluck
A great way to celebrate the holiday season is with an event. And with events usually comes music. Spotify is aware of this tradition, which is why it created #PlaylistPotluck.
It started with a partnership with Sonos. The brands have teamed up to turn playlists into something of a potluck, where everyone contributes to bring the event together (the campaign slogan is “One home. One host. Everyone brings a dish.”). Instead of just drinking food or contributing, everyone contributes a tune to a collaborative playlist.
Oh look This feature is available with Spotify!
The idea is wonderfully interactive. Instead of using traditional invitations, guests log into the potluck by adding songs to the collaborative playlist. And the cherry on top? Both brands have also partnered with the stationery series “Mind of a Chef” for a televised vacation offering that has various celebrity chefs using the feature for their own meals.
What we love about this campaign is the fact that it has different elements and media formats to make it cohesive – a speaker system, a music streaming app, and a TV special. Plus, if you attend, you have the chance to win your own dinner party hosted by a world famous chef. Bon appetit – and keep rocking.
16. Google: Santa Tracker
While Google’s Santa Tracker has been around for a few years – and we recommend reading the backstory here – its features have evolved over time. Now there are interactive mini-games like “Santa Selfie”, “Wrap Battle” and “Build & Bolt”. You can also watch delightful short films such as “A Day at the Museum” to see what Santa’s everyday life is like.
It’s hard to narrow down what makes the Santa Tracker so appealing, but if we had to sum it up, we’d say this – it combines the vacation miracle of believing in Santa Claus with real world technology. What a wonderful way to teach kids the internet while also enabling them to be kids. (Though we adults will certainly appreciate it too.)
Google even introduced a B2B element of the Santa Tracker by sharing the code with developers and making other elements of the tool open source. Why publish all this information? To inspire developers to “create their own magical experiences based on all of the interesting and exciting components that have come together to make Santa Tracker,” writes Sam Thorogood, developer programs engineer at Google.
Until Christmas Eve of each year, visitors can take a look at the “North Pole” to see what Santa’s elves are up to before the holiday.
17. Disney: From our family to yours
Culture, history and the joy of vacation come together in this Christmas advertisement from Disney. The media giant uses its long-standing name to take us back to 1940, when a young girl got her first Mickey Mouse plush toy.
As the video progresses, we see the little girl getting older until she becomes grandma. She passes the plush toy on to her granddaughter, who does not appreciate it as much as she becomes a young adult.
The granddaughter realizes how much it means to her grandma and brings the toy back to its former glory. We definitely didn’t cry when grandma opened her Christmas present and saw her old toys being repaired and restored.
We expected something very touching from Disney, and this did not disappoint. We especially love the way Filipino culture was presented and counted to three million viewers.
18. Black Owned Everything: Jingles and Things (with “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”)
Black Owned Everything, an Instagram curator for black-owned businesses and brands, creates the perfect gift guide for Jingles and Things.
In collaboration with Netflix and the musical “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”, Jingles and Things curates the very best gifts for the Christmas season, including items ranging from fragrances to dishes and dolls. There really is something for everyone here – and the best part is that we can help black companies carry out our vacation shopping.
Zerina Akers, the owner and chief curator of Black Owned Everything, introduces us to the shop and explains that it is not just a marketplace, but an integrative platform. There’s nothing that embodies the vacation spirit but inclusivity, community, and belonging, and we love that Jingles and Things add to this theme.
19. Heathrow Airport: The Heathrow Bears return
This delightful commercial from Heathrow Airport shows the journey of two teddy bears grandparents who decide to pack, leave their sunny home and visit their teddy bear grandchildren for Christmas. In the end, you’ll see the bears reunited with their family at London’s Heathrow Airport.
For many, these bears are both nostalgic and relatable. They remind you of the bears you might have played with as a kid and the average grandparent. In the end, when you see the teddy bears join their family, you may also remember the happiness you felt when your grandparents came and brought you gifts or hugs over the holidays.
This commercial is a continuation of a similar commercial that Heathrow released a year earlier called “Coming Home for Christmas”. This ad follows the bears riding and off the plane to meet their family at a Heathrow Airport gate:
This series of promotions offers all the important aspects of an ad campaign as it is relatable, nostalgic and incredibly heartwarming.
Go on and be happy
Of all the things we appreciate about these campaigns, we may like one thing best – the fact that they bring the fun back to the vacation. Don’t let the stress surprise you this season. Laugh or cry with these examples and be happy please.
From our family to you, happy holidays.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and was updated for freshness, accuracy and completeness in January 2021.