Advent calendars present a premium gifting and powerful brand building opportunity at the busiest shopping period of the year. With soaring competition, how do you ensure your brand benefits?
Christmas shopping has continued its shift to online* and in some regions, particularly the UK and US, its peak has been moving from December further forward to November** (in large part driven by Black Friday). A sector that has benefited from this seasonal shift, taking advantage of the number of shoppers in market in November and emerging as a 4th quarter growth area, is advent calendars. From a limited and chocolate-focused offering, they have exploded in variety; from tea to pork crackling, craft beers to spirits, pet treats to toys, beauty and fragrances, jewellery, stationery…so whether you or your loved ones’ passion is crisps (seriously) or protein snacks (really!), there’s a one to satisfy. Their status as a staple of festive cheer is reflected in Amazon’s dedicated advent calendar store, bringing together everything from Lego to fizz (but thankfully not yet spare cables or DIY equipment). Yet advent calendars haven’t just become ubiquitous. They’ve also gone upmarket.
Premium opportunity in the gifting market
This emergence of premium calendars into the mainstream is often cited as the launch of Selfridges’ luxury advent in 2010 (also the year of Porsche’s $1m alternative!). The price of the Selfridges product has more than doubled since then from £60 to £130 in 2018 and is now just one of many options – from £12 to over £300 – available from the department store. The Liberty calendar, which launched in 2012, has become another “must own” – and despite doubling stock sold out again in 2018 and is now being traded on eBay! Their popularity is continuing to grow across physical and online retail.
The consumer appeal is clear – a month of daily indulgence, trial of a range of products that would likely be prohibitively expensive to buy individually, a great pre-Christmas “bonus gift”. For brands, the advent calendar presents an opportunity to extend the otherwise saturated and competitive Christmas gifting season and maximise their share of that early spend. But they offer another perk too; helping to position brands top of mind with consumers across their Christmas gifting mission. This brand primacy is of significant value at an otherwise an expensive time for media buying and PR noise. For example, Harper’s Bazaar presented “an exclusive first look” at one calendar as they would a preview of an A-list designer’s spring collection. It was featured by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Heart, Yahoo, Daily Mail, Metro, Elle, an extensive list of bloggers, vloggers and influencers. Meanwhile ESPA’s Comfort and Joy calendar made it to the home screen of the Apple News App via the Evening Standard – PR gold dust.
But as brands increasingly jostle for space and share of voice in the category, how can you cut through, not just in competition with others in your sector, but also across industries?
Achieving seasonal cut-through
Enhancing the on-site and on-shelf appeal of these collections through standout packaging is key to maximising consumer appeal and to their premium positioning. In physical stores that may be through a uniquely engineered structure or carefully and intricately crafted detailing and finishing. In e-commerce, it’s then also about precision product visualisation that effectively represents the intricacy of design and structure, and effectively promotes the products within. The challenges inherent in the design, production, fulfilment and promotion to bring these specialised products to market are complex. With the sector maturing, and as consumers’ expectations around finishing and personalisation increase, so too does the requirement to ensure that your approach to creating this seasonal showpiece is optimised logistically and financially.
Our heritage is in the creation and production of show-stopping special edition and gift packaging – engaging and delighting consumers and collectors with “must own” pieces. Our unique breadth of expertise delivers a truly end-to-end, low-to-no touch solution for clients; encompassing graphic and structural design through to packaging manufacturing, co-packing and logistics management, and extending also to 3D product visualisation for e-commerce and marketing promotion. For European clients, our own print facilities based in Poland deliver on quality, speed and flexibility of production. Yet we also have extensive experience in working with third parties on behalf of our global clients, as well as those in Europe who prefer to do so. We’re skilled at managing individual product suppliers, or provide sourcing and procurement support. Our custom approach to gifting solutions benefits from experience, honed and perfected over the course of partnership with the likes of L’Occitane, Clarins and Boots.
* In 2017, 16.3% of UK purchases were made online, vs 4.9% in 2008 (source: ONS). In the USA, 13% of 2017 sales were made online (source: IR Research).
** In 2017, UK October sales volumes grew by 0.5% year-on-year, and November grew by 1% – with December declining an average of 1.5% (source: ONS).