For many retail brands, the festive season is the most important of the year. With so many shops and public spaces adorned with lights and colors, adopting your own striking visual presence is essential for making sure your business isn't overshadowed.
From your window arrangements to the design of your in-store product displays and point-of-sale graphics, creating a visually compelling shopping environment for Christmas is imperative for getting the most from the holiday season.
Customizing your brand colors for Christmas
Amending your visual branding for Christmas can be a powerful strategy for getting the attention of consumers in December, but it's important to ensure that seasonal materials don't weaken or clash with your established brand identity. A great example of effective seasonal branding is Starbucks' takeaway coffee cups.
Every year, the coffee giant releases a new festive cup design that cleverly features the traditional Christmas colors of red, green and white—allowing the use of an unaltered Starbucks logo.
This strategy can be adopted by any brand that happens to predominantly feature any of the Christmas colors (for example, the red-and-white branding of Coca-Cola has been a perfect fit for its Christmas marketing activities since the 1930s, when the company decided to reposition the drink as less of a summer beverage and more of a year-round favorite).
For companies with branding that is less obviously festive in terms of color, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate logos and other key branding collateral without compromising your well-established color identity. A business using a lot of blue might work with beautiful wintery scenes; another company with yellow or orange branding might incorporate imagery such as a warm fireplace, or a shining star on a Christmas tree.
Inspired Christmas window displays
An arresting Christmas window is a great way to gain the attention of consumers, with many shops and department stores (such as Harrods, pictured above) carefully cultivating reputations for their extravagant and creative displays.
A store that becomes known for always presenting a knockout festive window display can become elevated in the public consciousness as an event to be anticipated. In the same way that the appearance of the iconic Coca-Cola truck is eagerly awaited by many as a key part of pre-Christmas preparations, your brand can cultivate a local (or national) reputation for always being an integral part of the seasonal excitement.
A truly engaging Christmas window arrangement is less about presenting the in-store products and more about creating an inspiring story that appeals to shoppers and resonates emotionally with how they'd like to feel about Christmas shopping.
Interior store branding for Christmas
Christmas retail branding shouldn't stop at the front windows—you can keep the story going inside the store. Through product displays, large-format retail graphics and in-store music choices, you can keep the magic going and weave a tale of seasonal wonder that guides your customers from the front door all the way through completing a purchase. Another idea is to invest in a large installation to grab shoppers' visual attention—a big statue, display or robotic character, for example.
Recent years have seen brand professionals exploring the growing phenomenon of experiential marketing. By all accounts, millennials and younger consumers increasingly prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than products to physically own—and Christmas is the perfect opportunity to leverage this impulse.
There are many things your retail business can do to offer an interesting experience to consumers this holiday season. Traditional approaches have involved hiring an actor to play an in-store Santa or building a grotto in the shop to attract new visitors to the premises. Other ideas might include offering hot drinks to customers, installing augmented reality interactive displays, or hosting workshops and live events in the store.
The way you use visuals in your store plays a role in how the experience is perceived. With the use of colors or background imagery, it's possible to promote the illusion of a cozy cottage fireplace with warm colors or tinted lights. On the other hand, a store that sells outdoor wear might prefer customers to think about invigorating winter walks and promote that with cool colors and large format images of snowy trees and beautiful landscapes.
It's always a great idea to think of shopping experiences that are visually interesting—if your idea won't make a good Instagram post, you might be missing an opportunity. Truly remarkable encounters will naturally invite social media activity from your visitors, resulting in the best type of digital media exposure: free, organic and authentic. The more original and memorable an experience, the more likely it is that word will spread, and consumers will flock to your store to investigate for themselves.
Multi-channel Christmas branding strategies
Of course, most modern brick-and-mortar retail businesses will have their own websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and Instagram feeds. If you're planning to tell Christmas stories and offer amazing experiential shopping to your customers, it definitely pays to get your visual messaging consistent across all of these disparate channels. For example, if your shop window makes distinctive use of penguins, could those penguins be in your Twitter header?
You can expand your visual branding to other media in a bid to get customers more involved with your brand identity. For example, the theme of a TV commercial about an adorable arctic hare could be continued in a series of web shorts designed for social media sharing, or an interactive smartphone app or game that consumers can download.
An old marketing maxim, sometimes known as the "rule of seven," holds that an individual may need to hear your brand name at least seven times before it sticks. The same can be said for visual branding, in that your customers will need to see your Christmas collateral repeatedly before they start to subconsciously associate those festive feelings with your brand. Therefore, reiterating your visual message on multiple platforms at every opportunity should be a no-brainer.
Developing great visual branding is an intelligent move for any retail brand during the festive season. Leveraging imagery and color association could be the key to standing out from your competitors this Christmas and setting your brand up for a powerful new year.