Last year, Christopher Skinner of Ad Age lamented that holiday marketing seemed to have lost its flair for storytelling. According to Skinner, “Retailing is too focused on direct response to get its message heard amid all the clutter of the holiday season” [emphasis added]. Instead of telling stories and connecting with customers on an emotional level, brands are focusing on making the quick sell through price cuts and clunky SEO strategies.
For the most part, Skinner’s right on the money. However, not all retail brands are writing off their blogs in favor of good ol’ direct marketing. Check out some of the best Christmas retail blog posts of 2012 below…
Mr. Porter: The Journal
Blogging for business isn’t all about the written word. Some of the best blog posts on this list feature strong visual components – like this one from Mr. Porter: A Christmas Special: The Way I Dress. The blog post features a two-minute spot-on mock interview with an implied Santa Claus, ending with some shots of a suit by Paul Smith, which Mr. Porter is selling. Below the video is a clever little 240-word blurb about Mr. Porter’s sartorially minded Santa. (If you view just one example on this list, check out this one!)
Williams-Sonoma: The Blender
Williams-Sonoma’s Holiday Wine & Cheese Party blog post is a great example of how retailers are connecting with customers on a level that goes deeper than products. This post is cleanly written, hyper-organized, and makes great use of white space and images. Also, it looks like The Blender’s budget can afford to do a photo shoot for each blog post (check out the images in the link). That might not be in your company’s budget, but custom images that are clearly created to fit in with the written content add a lot of credibility to any blog. (For another great example from W.S., reference this one on gift wrap.)
Lululemon Athletica: Blog
Lululemon is known for high quality yoga and workout gear (primarily for women), but their content strategy reaches far beyond. This month, the brand has been pushing a blog series called “Holiday Stuff(ing),” which is a general round-up of everything Lululemon brand advocates might like: vegan recipes, holiday shopping, diet tips, holiday cards, and more. Posts are short and sweet, but they’re jam-packed with resources and links. See the post from week four as an example.
Urban Outfitters: Blog
Say what you want about the product, the marketing people behind the Urban Outfitters blog know exactly whom they’re talking to. It’s statistically proven that 97% of ironic-tee-wearing, mustachioed hipsters are big fans of Home Alone. The UO blog ran with this common knowledge, and posted a screenshot from the film that breaks down protagonist Kevin McCallister’s “style” into 7 Urban Outfitters products. Each item has a short, funny caption and link to the product. This strategy is a great example of how content marketing can effectively disguise a direct sales approach.
Whole Foods: Whole Story Blog
I’ve written about Whole Foods’ Pinterest board in the past, but today’s content marketing lesson is within its blog. An educational and informative piece like this one on champagne is exactly what more retail/consumer blogs should be doing this Christmas season. Though it doesn’t necessarily tell a story in the way that Christopher Skinner called for in his Ad Age op-ed, I’m including this post because there’s not a single mention of a product! Whole Foods is about as far away as they can get from direct sales-y copy, which makes this blog post all about value – just like it should be!
Have an Example of Your Own?
If so, I’d love to see it. Leave your own favorite 2012 retail blog post link in the comments section below, along with a few words explaining what makes it great.