This year, parents have surrendered to their children. They’ve realized that capturing the perfect Christmas card photo is damn near impossible, so they’ve given up on prim and proper poses in festive sweaters and flannel.
Instead, parents are sending cards with pictures of their kids sitting on Santa’s lap, kicking and screaming — similar to this photo of my brother and me circa 1992.
Why These Cards are a Christmas Hit
Just when you thought you were in full-on Christmas vacation mode, I’m reminding you that marketing lessons are always around us. It turns out there’s even a takeaway from the Christmas cards adorning your refrigerator.
At the moment, I have several family Christmas cards on my fridge, and yes, they’re picture-perfect (thank you to those who sent them!).
But if I received a card that captured a Santa-induced temper tantrum as pictured above, it would certainly stand out among the rest.
To quote the prolific marketing author, Seth Godin (I call him the Beyonce of marketing), a picture like this is considered a “purple cow.”
What is a Purple Cow?
In his 2003 book, Purple Cow, Godin suggests that if brands want to cut through the competition and combat advertising avoidance, you have to introduce something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow.
Godin goes on to break down the word “remarkable” in its simplest terms: worth remarking about.
There’s nothing new, unique, or remarkable about your typical Christmas card. We basically see the same scenes and poses from year to year.
But a card with pictures of unruly kids on Santa’s lap is not only authentic and relatable, but it’s refreshingly original, hilarious, and a conversation starter.
I wish I was a fly on the wall the moment that first set of parents decided to send their Christmas card that way. Can you imagine that conversation? At first, the idea probably seemed a little crazy. A Christmas card with children screaming instead of smiling? Blasphemy! But ultimately, it won hearts, inspired a trend, and made national news.
This trend took off because those parents decided to take a risk — they were vulnerable enough to show their imperfect reality. They broke the tradition of Christmas cards as we know them and ended up creating something remarkable.
Purple Cow Examples
Good news — for your brand to be remarkable, you don’t need to have the biggest marketing budget or even the best products. You just have to be brave enough to take risks.
We see brands do this all the time. A notable example would be the Twitter account for Wendy’s. Rather than portraying their brand voice as polished and professional as most companies do, they chose to be sassy. As a result of their audacity, their tweets are remarkable.
Or how about the outdoor gear company REI? In 2015, they decided to close all of their retail stores on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. They instead encouraged their employees and customers to spend the day outside.
From the outside looking in (no pun intended), this may have seemed like a missed sales opportunity, but the risk was worth the reward. Not only did sales skyrocket, but REI received national media attention, increased engagement on social media, and immeasurable brand loyalty.
Purple Cows in Your Marketing
If you want your advertising to be effective, you need to define your purple cow. Before you spend a single marketing dollar, get clear on your big idea. Plan your creative strategy and determine how you will stand out. This starts with market research.
To research your market, look at what the competition is doing. What are the trends in your category? Consider stereotypes, cultural norms, and current perceptions.
It seems like I can’t go a Sunday morning without seeing a Boomerang of clinking mimosas on Instagram.
As much as I love mimosas, this bothers me.
Look, I’m not here to rain on the basic bitch parade — if you’re on social media to have fun and cheers to living your best life, I support that. But if you are a person or brand that actually wants to be compelling, Boomerangs aren’t doing you any favors.
If you’re not familiar with Boomerangs, they are soundless, mini videos that play forward and backward. The animation adds a little bit of visual interest, but we could do better.
Here are three reasons why Boomerangs are not serving you or your audience.
Boomerangs have no context.
If you want your followers to think your content is interesting, you have to go a little further and give them details. Clinking glasses is boring, but if you tell me you’re drinking wine that has been aged fifteen years, that you’re celebrating your best friend’s engagement, or that you’re having dinner at one of the city’s best restaurants that I should try, now you’ve provided context. There’s a small storyline to get behind.
This same logic applies to businesses. Let’s say you run a boutique clothing store and you have new arrivals. Don’t just hold them on a hanger and create a dancing Boomerang. Instead, give your audience the details.
How much are these new arrivals?
Are they part of a seasonal trend I should know about?
Do they come in other colors?
What can you mix and match them with?
Can I buy them online?
As fun as Boomerangs are, it’s unlikely that they are compelling enough to inspire your audience to take action and do their own research. Adding some details will not only make their lives easier but will help them convert faster.
Can you entertain, educate, or inspire them with a more dynamic piece of content? Can you help them solve a problem?
Here are some alternative content ideas that can facilitate more value:
Do a live Q&A
Ask a question with the questions feature and share responses
Conduct a poll
Tell a story in your Stories (so obvious, right?)
Narrate a behind-the-scenes peek
All of these content ideas could engage and help your audience, rather than simply create social media clutter.
Boomerangs are a bad content shortcut.
Everyone knows that to win the content game, you have to post frequently. In fact, I encourage people and brands to post every single day.
Posting just to post actually works against you.
Boomerangs are bad content in disguise. They’re animated, fun, and relieve the pressure of what the heck to post for the day. But without context or value, they are a waste of your followers’ time and attention. Not to mention, they require hardly any effort on your part, and it shows.
You have to post GREAT, VALUABLE content, otherwise your audience will eventually tune you out.
Don’t lean on Boomerangs as a quick way to fill up your content calendar when you’re out of ideas. Instead, take your role as a content creator seriously and plan awesome content ahead of time. Be a person or brand that you’d want to follow.
If you need help planning out your content strategy, check out my course, Crush Your Content Calendar. I’ll teach you how to fill your social media channels with compelling content that serves your audiences, drives new followers, and builds your brand.
FREEBIE! To add value for your audience, you first have to know who they are and what they need! Download my free empathy map template to help jumpstart your audience research.
J.Lo had a series of hysterical sketches, but one that stood out was her spoof of the boutique fitness gym, Barry’s Bootcamp. The sketch mocks Barry’s over-the-top trainers and their lofty motivational speeches. Of course, my favorite part is at 3:38 when J.Lo quotes Britney Spe— oops, I mean, Mother Teresa.
But this isn’t the only time the gang at SNL have parodied a fitness brand. Back in October, they satirized SoulCycle’s intense instructor auditions.
My favorite parodies, however, are the ones that draw laughter in the midst of controversy. In an incredibly swift move, Ryan Reynolds poked fun at the Peloton ad backlash by recruiting “Peloton Wife” in a commercial for his company, Aviation Gin. She clearly needed to throw back a glass or two after an exhausting week of ridicule.
I had the chance to chat with Sean Hunter, the infamous “Peloton Husband”. Even he understands how important it is to to laugh things off:
I’ve been making light of it by cracking a few jokes (see my Instagram post about waiting up for Peloton wife!) and I’ve been receiving a lot of support and love. The parodies have been funny but with that people are still saying a few hurtful things! The most important thing is to stay confident in who you are and know what’s right! Just brush that negativity off your shoulder when people are trying to get a rise out of you for no reason!
Why Mockery is the Best Kind of Marketing
More often than not, if your brand is being mocked or parodied, you’re doing something right. In fact, I consider it to be a key indicator of brand marketing success.
Here is the upside to to your brand being the butt of the joke:
It boosts your brand awareness. Free media? Yes, please! A viral parody or branded meme is one of the best forms of earned media (and flattery!). From social media mentions to press coverage, brands should count their lucky stars for any impressions that don’t have to come out of your marketing budget.
It demonstrates strong brand equity. Your brand equity speaks to how your product is perceived by your audience. If you present a consistent brand over time, your audience will choose you over your competitors because they know what to expect. When your brand is parodied, you’ve established so much consistency that even outsiders can articulate (and sensationalize) what makes you, you. The humor aligns with the customer perceptions all over the world.
It unites your audience. If a parody really hits the mark, your audience will relate to it, and relatable content gets shared. Isn’t it way more fun to have a laugh over a piece of content that someone else understands than to cackle alone on your couch? A little friendly roasting spotlights your company culture while bringing your audience even closer to the brand.
So the next time SNL or Twitter trolls are throwing sticks and stones at your brand, take it in stride. Unless you have a serious scandal on your hands, it’s usually in good fun. Your sales numbers will prove it.
Are you struggling to build a relationship with your customers? Sign up for my free empathy map template below so to help understand what messages will resonate most!
Christmas came early! Or should I say, “Swiftmas” came early.
Last night at midnight, Taylor Swift released her first Christmas song entitled “Christmas Tree Farm.” (Fun fact, Taylor grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Pennsylvania.) I can just imagine the mayhem at Spotify as employees scrambled to add this new single to all of their curated holiday playlists. Look out, Mariah!
But it turns out, Swifties almost had to wait until next Christmas for this new holiday jam.
Yesterday, Taylor posted a video on Instagram explaining her predicament: she wrote a Christmas song, but was questioning if it was too late to release it. I mean, apparently the Christmas season begins the day after Halloween these days, so what was the point? The holiday season is already in full swing.
Well, Taylor did what any logical person would do. She asked for her cat’s opinions.
Despite their apathy, Taylor must be feeling extra jolly because she ultimately decided to put out “Christmas Tree Farm.”
Christmas Tree Farm’s Instant Success
The song’s release may not seem that remarkable or out of the ordinary. I mean, come on, she’s Taylor Swift — a mega superstar who puts out new music pretty regularly. But I can’t help but marvel at the impromptu nature of how this all seemingly unfolded. Taylor’s Instagram video implies that the song’s release was not super calculated.
If this were 20 years ago, the logistics would be quite different, and a heck of a lot more challenging. Sure, “Christmas Tree Farm” could be distributed to radio stations for some airplay, but its success would largely rely on brick-and-mortar CD sales. Taylor’s record company would need to produce a physical single, or better yet, an entire Christmas album to cash in. This would require more time, more money, and lots of strategic planning.
Thankfully, streaming services like Spotify expedited “Christmas Tree Farm” and delivered it right in the palm of our hands. And thanks to something called the album-equivalent unit, Taylor doesn’t need traditional album sales to cash in.
According to Wikipedia, “The album-equivalent unit is a measurement unit in music industry to define the consumption of music that equals the purchase of one album copy. This consumption includes streaming and song downloads in addition to traditional album sales. The album-equivalent unit was introduced in the mid-2010s as an answer to the drop of album sales in the 21st century.”
What This All Means For You
Christmas Tree Farm’s quick turnaround time represents something amazing about the world that we live in.
YOU could release a Christmas song. You could do this right now, tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, on Christmas day, or even in the middle of the summer if you’re dreaming of Christmas in July.
From the comfort of your own room, clad in Santa Claus PJs, you could instantly share a Christmas song, or anything you want, because you are empowered with countless channels. From YouTube, to Instagram, SoundCloud, or even your own website, you have tremendous opportunities to put your work out there.
Today, this is how many successful artists, such as Shawn Mendes, are discovered. They fearlessly write, they sing, they produce — but most importantly, they share.
What good is an amazing song if no one gets to hear it? What good is the book idea you have if you never publish it? What good are the videos you make if you never post them?
It’s easier than ever to leave your mark on the world in your own way. So if you’re feeling jolly, write that Christmas song. Host a podcast. Start a YouTube channel. Make all the things!
I promise it will fulfill you in ways no gifts under the tree ever could.
Every time I see another small business in my community shut its doors, I think about the 1998 modern classic, You’ve Got Mail.
I’ve never owned a brick-and-mortar business of my own, but Meg Ryan’s character helps me empathize with small business owners. I mean, it hit me hard when Kathleen Kelly was forced to close The Shop Around the Corner.
Instagram and Your Ideal Customer
You’ve Got Mail’s digitally-inspired storyline was ahead of its time, but it still came out before social media. Unlike The Shop Around the Corner, small businesses today can market with Instagram.
I follow many local businesses on Instagram — businesses that I love and want to stick around. But after seeing one common mistake repeated on so many posts, I feel it is my civic duty to offer this somewhat counterintuitive advice:
Small businesses need to think small.
I know, our whole lives we are told to think big, so what gives?
Well, your business needs to reach your target market to succeed — the smallest viable market. You can best accomplish this on Instagram via smaller, less competitive hashtags.
Why Your Hashtags Aren’t Working
If you’re a local business, your ideal customer is local, too. Your most qualified audience likely lives within a five to fifteen mile radius of your storefront. With this in mind, small businesses need to shift their hashtag strategy from a mass marketing approach to a hyperlocal one.
Here’s a statistic for you: an estimated 95 million images are added to Instagram every day.
Although hashtags help distribute your images to the right people, the sheer volume of posts makes this a challenge. And don’t even get me started on the algorithm…
This is why small businesses need to stop competing for super broad hashtags in their business category. If you already have a low following, the likelihood that your post gets seen is even slimmer.
Localized Hashtags in Action
Let’s use a local bridal boutique in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as an example.
When posting a picture of a gorgeous dress on Instagram, you may feel compelled to include the hashtag, #wedding to get it in front of brides browsing for wedding inspiration. If you search this hashtag within Instagram, you’ll see it has 169 million posts.
Competition aside, the main problem is that this hashtag has no local modifiers. This means you’re not putting your content in front of people in your area. Your post would get lost in the shuffle on Instagram feeds all over the world. Remember, your most qualified customers are right there in your community.
A better approach would be to revise this hashtag to #fortlauderdalewedding. In comparison, this hashtag has only 5,000 posts and is likely being searched by your next potential client.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. This same bridal boutique could apply this hyperlocal logic with the remaining 29. Simply adding an “s” with #fortlauderdaleweddings is a start, as well as #southfloridaweddings, #fortlauderdalebride, etc.
Developing Hyperlocal Hashtags
If you want your small business to have big success on Instagram, include hashtags with your city and nearby cities on every post and build from there. Your ideal audience will now have a higher chance of finding you.
But don’t forget, engaging on Instagram is also crucial. Like, comment, and be social!