A holiday-themed food commercial showcases how their product “saves” the day and brings a family closer together.
A national retail store portrays the holiday season as defined by the overwhelming number of presents (encased in branded wrapping paper) under an over-sized and professionally decorated tree.
A Christmas commercial implies children’s Christmas will not be “real” without the insanely expensive interactive unicorn that syncs with their phone (what happened to stuffed teddy bears?).
Are today’s marketers simply seeking to communicate their product offerings in the most effective way to consumers who are currently experiencing such needs or are they taking advantage of consumers’ emotions during vulnerable – insert marketing speak: “optimal” - times of the year?
I think it’s a valid question to pose, as we are all currently the targets of a seemingly never-ending supply of holiday-themed, consumerism messaging.
Discussing the upcoming Christmas holidays with my colleagues’ young children, I asked if they were excited about the holidays.
The children replied, “YES – but only if we get a LOT of presents!”
So much for the “reason for the season” – or whatever holiday tagline shaped my traditional perceptions…
“Bring Back the Holidays” Campaign
Consider the “Bring Back the Holidays “campaign that was recently launched by T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods (TJX Companies) — an effort to celebrate “values that make the season truly special.”
In addition to closing on holidays so employees may spend the day with their families, TJX Companies has pledged over $2 million to American food banks. TJX Companies’ representative described the corporate goal as ensuring, “…the four-letter word that defines the season is L-O-V-E and not S-A-L-E.” (Blaze).
Instead of building their holiday campaign around product sales and discounts, TJX Companies promotions strategy focus on the “true meaning” of the season – family. TMJ Companies spokesperson stated, “Our stores offer thoughtful gifts at amazing prices every day so that you can cherish that precious time with your family and friends and shop on your time, instead of rushing out for the short-lived holiday deal” (Blaze).
Here’s a few commercial clips from TMJ Companies’ "Bring Back the Holidays" campaign:
Did you catch the tagline?
Family time comes first. Let’s put more value on what really matters.
Almost a mini- commercialized It’s a Wonderful Life.
Do these commercials put you in the holiday spirit?
Do you smell Nana’s sweet potato pie, feel the urge to hum Christmas carols, and reminisce to simpler times when making snow angels in the backyard was the highlight of your day?
Have I been manipulated or marketed to?
Is there a difference?
Where Do We Draw the Line?
In business school, we were instructed how to optimize the 4 P’s (pricing, promotion, placement, and product) to reach organizational goals. As I ventured out into the business world beyond academic theories and case studies, I recognized the immense influence marketing strategies designed to increase sales and market share had on our society at large.
If a persuasive advertisement effectively communicated how a consumer’s happiness or success depended upon the purchase of a select product or service, consumers would purchase select product, even if the investment was to their own financial detriment.
The ethical relativism created by such “half-truths” or one-sided messaging presents a unique dilemma to marketing professionals.
Do we optimize the holiday season to promote our select product or service?
What if our persuasive strategies communicate excess materialism or skewed cultural perceptions to impressionable consumers?
What about children?
A Holiday Ethical Dilemma
Wrapping up the discussion on marketing’s holiday-related ethics, does marketing drive our culture's holiday norms?
Are current holiday promotions deceptively influencing vulnerable consumers?
Is it ethical for marketers to springboard promotions off national and religious holidays?
And what about TMJ Companies' attempt to "de-commercialize" their holiday messaging?
Is “Bring Back the Holidays” a display or corporate ethics or simply a super savvy promotional tactic to increase holiday sales?
I’ll let you be the judge of that.
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