What do marketing and kindergarten have in common? While you may come up with funnier answers, I’m referring to the routine of many rituals repeating each year. After Summer comes the back to school season, and after that – sooner or later, depending on where you are in the world – a season full of holidays starts.
All too often, holiday marketing still addresses mostly Western holidays such as Christmas. But it’s 2022, and globalization has long become our reality. To focus on one or two dates when planning international holiday campaigns, assuming they were celebrated alike across different regions, means to miss out on localized marketing opportunities – and reveals a big disconnect with your customers and employee audiences alike.
Address diverse holidays as respectfully as diverse customers
In our global holiday marketing guide, we hit on the best approaches to associate your brand correctly with the different occasions of the holiday season – including channels and tactics, but also best practices for the related internal and external communications. And we also touch on how showing the importance of differentiated, localized messaging starts inside: knowing how to address your multicultural, worldwide teams and ensuring a happy holiday season for them.
In this article, we dive into a broader array of important holidays you may want to address in your international holiday campaigns – for truly inclusive holiday marketing:
The starting point in October: Diwali
Looking at the holiday prime time of the year, Diwali should be the first date marked in your calendar. This year, the main Diwali holiday will be celebrated in India on October, 24th, but depending on geographies, the five days of the festival can also start one to two days before or after.
Diwali, the “festival of lights”, is a time for celebration as joyful as Christmas, and it unites mainly Hindus, but also Sikhs, Jains, and even some Buddhists. In any case, the festival celebrates the victory of good over evil and light over dark.
The actual day of Diwali, also a national holiday in India, is the center of 5 days of celebrations, with 2 days before leading up to it, Dhanteras and Naraka Chaturdashi, and two days afterwards, first Govardhan Puja and finally Bhai Dooj.
Each of the five days has its own traditions, and knowing more about them allows you to stay credible and authentic in your holiday messages. You can also theme your communications around the individual focus of each day, depending on what resonates best with your business.
In the weeks leading up to the festivities, celebrating families around the world decorate their homes, but also shop for new clothes, accessories and gifts. Internet sales during this period are still a fraction of India’s $1 trillion retail market, but this main holiday season is more important than ever for ecommerce sales, as millions have integrated online browsing and shopping into their lives, given the changes of recent years.
November in China: Singles’ day
Be well prepared when November, 11th comes up: 11/11. Look at the numbers; don’t they look like “bare branches”? That’s why the date is not only referred to as double 11, but also as singles’ day, a Chinese unofficial holiday – and the world’s biggest online shopping event, with approximately 60 billion $ spent within 24 hours.
It’s a discount feast, but companies also use it to launch campaigns and go all out. Innovative cross-media events demonstrate what’s state of the art in social ecommerce and online-to-offline (O2O) business. It’s a showcase of what it takes to go big in China!
And after the festival is before the festival: Keep your eyes on Asia, as the Lunar New Year is practically already around the corner – with up to 15 festive days celebrated among family and friends. On which day the Lunar New Year exactly starts depends on the geographical region. In Hong Kong, for example, the year of the rabbit will start on January 22nd, 2023.
Learn more about how you can succeed in digital marketing in China.
The big Western November highlight: Thanksgiving
Especially in North America, Thanksgiving is one of the most popular holidays, famous for big family gatherings – and thus even more appreciated than Christmas by some. For a reason: Always being celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, which in 2022 will be the 24th, it just needs to be bridged with the next Friday for a long, four-day weekend … and for many, that bridge day is a paid holiday anyway. This makes the occasion an extraordinarily busy travel time – as long as no pandemic thwarts traditional gatherings.
This doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving is the main holiday for gift shopping – it’s not. But it’s leisure time, spent with family and friends … and online, where the shopping cart is always just a convenient click away. Brick-and-mortar shops see the biggest spike in demand for food and drinks. And the travel industry starts to sell tickets weeks and even months ahead, especially after two dire pandemic years.
A side note to remember is that in Canada, you should be prepared one month before: Canada's Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October.
Still, the universal benefit of Thanksgiving is … to take it literally. To say thank you, show gratitude in a (customer-) friendly way and (re-)connect. With family and friends, when it comes to our personal lives. And with our teams, customers, partners and prospects, when it comes to business.
The aftermath: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday
The day after Thanksgiving being a holiday is sure to retail’s delight, as it has successfully established the re-interpretation of Black Friday being THE shopping day of the year, with discounts attracting clients around the globe. While attraction has dropped a bit over recent years, it’s still more than relevant, especially in conjunction with the following Monday, which has been established as Cyber Monday for years – including the weekend in between.
For 2021, the US National Retail Federation (NRF) revealed that just in the US, 260 million shoppers purchased goods online between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, counting 86.8 million shoppers in-store. And while it started as a US shopping holiday, Black Friday, and over the more recent years even Cyber Monday, have long become a worldwide phenomenon.
The Small Business Saturday, being in the middle of it all, currently still remains more relevant for the US, as a day to celebrate and support small and local businesses – but it’s still a great opportunity to get traction on your local markets through social initiatives or localized SEO! As customers look for more personalized approaches, don’t forget to take a look at your local, smaller competitors to see how they’re succeeding.
The end of this mega sales weekend is marked by Giving Tuesday, which this year will be on November, 29th: A day to give back and get involved in your community, by helping others through the dedication of time, donations, goods, or the power of your voice. A good way to incorporate the day as part of your holiday marketing strategy is to simply ask your customers to support your charitable initiatives, e.g. by making a purchase that day – with a defined percentage to be donated to the charity you support.
'Shopping season" is starting earlier and earlier
In any case, you should prepare your communication, your campaigns, and your offer for this most special long weekend in time! Lately, many large retailers have launched early bird sales as early as the day after Halloween. The true discount frenzy still doesn't arrive in full force until the week of Thanksgiving – but there’s a clear tendency in retail to go all-in earlier.
This is in line with the result of NRF’s 2021 November Holiday Consumer Survey, in which 46% of the interviewees answered that they started their holiday shopping earlier that year. To stay on top of consumers’ demands and competition, get your campaigns ready ahead of time and in more than one channel! Make sure website speed is up to par and everything is optimized for mobile devices.
The prevailing December theme: Christmas
About 45% of the world population are said to celebrate Christmas one way or the other.
In Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Northern France, for example, December, 6th marks a first holiday of the Christmas season, celebrating “St. Nicholas Day”. St. Nicholas is said to arrive in the middle of the night, placing small gifts and sweets into the shoes of "well-behaved" children – who sometimes may be children at heart.
More and more countries even follow the German tradition of an Advent calendar, filled with small gifts for every day from December, 1st to Christmas eve. Especially for luxury brands, this is a great marketing opportunity, for example with collectible giveaways.
The biggest gift exchange and family gathering can happen on Christmas eve, December, 24th, or on Christmas day itself, celebrated on the 25th in most cultures. Some countries, like Germany and the UK, even extend Christmas celebrations to a second national holiday on December, 26th.
Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January, 7th, though – based on the Julian Calendar. Until 2099, at least. From 2100 on, it would be January, 8th … but maybe you don’t want to plan ahead THAT far. 😉 Anyhow, many Orthodox families don’t wait that long to exchange gifts, and already do it on New Year’s day, thus heading off for a great start.
Even in most Western countries, it’s the Christmas tradition to keep up your decorations until the “Twelfth Night”, which is January, 6th, Epiphany. If you remove your décor before that, then bad luck is sure to follow, according to popular belief, especially in Great Britain. In some regions, January, 6th is even national holiday.
The extended time frame for Christmas celebrations across many cultures alone already underlines the significance of this holiday. This goes to say it deserves a lot of your attention and planning – but also that you’ll have to be extra careful to cut through all the Christmas holiday clutter to reach your audiences, especially with well-targeted email marketing or social advertising.
Not an easy task, but certainly worth it: For 2023, Statista projects the global email marketing revenue to reach 11 billion USD.
The biggest December marketing misunderstanding: Hanukkah
If you don’t have any more bandwidth than swapping a Christmas tree ornament in your email to one of a menorah, then rather don’t bother at all, as the messaging will sound inappropriate and drive people away. If you want to realize any Hanukkah holiday sales, make sure to understand what the Maccabees stood for and how the miracle of the little tin can be appreciated – this will allow you more authentic messaging!
You can’t expect Hanukkah, which in 2022 will be celebrated from the 18th to the 26th of December, to be as much of a present feast as Christmas. Except for small gifts for children and a lot of kosher food for family gatherings.
it’s a holiday that gives you an extra opportunity to strengthen relationships, rather than another sales peak that would come alongside Christmas. Other Jewish holidays that are actually more important to their calendar are Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, albeit not associated to gift spending. Smaller peaks in sales can rather be expected for Pesach (especially flowers), Purim or Shavuot – but again, the focus is on a lot of good – kosher – food.
Fast forward to March 2023: Ramadan
For Muslim audiences (altogether, almost 2 billion people around the world), Ramadan is a holiday season as important as Christmas is for many Western societies. Understanding the true spirit of the season is essential to not come across as shallow and unauthentic, which could severely hurt your business.
Ramadan is not only a month of daytime fasting. it’s a time of concentration on the good and on the community. The celebration ends with Eid al-Fitr, also named Eid ul-Fitr, an enormous three-day festivity that marks the break of the daylight fasting period. A whole lot of family and friends come together, exchange generous gifts, have a feast, and share their yearly holiday highlights.
Maybe the most popular marketing message is, rather than a simple “Happy Ramadan”, Ramadan Kareem: “Ramadan is generous”. Don’t abuse the message by converting it to a blunt CTA! Instead, connect to your audiences by showing your own generosity first, combining your Ramadan Marketing campaigns with donations to good causes they’ll want to support and see supported.
Ramadan holiday marketing planning is more complex
Perfect Ramadan holiday marketing requires more complex planning and more resource allocation than many other holidays: you need to take into account a complete change of lifestyle for a whole month, among the respective audiences. And the preparations for this change start weeks before the first day of Ramadan. When that exactly will be, depends on the geographic location. For North America, in 2023, Ramadan will start on March 23rd and end with Eid al-Fitr on April 21st.
Remember: It’s a time to socialize with family and friends at night, and that reflects media consumption. Google consumer insights reveal that during Ramadan, across the countries of the MENA region, the average daily screen time is 50 minutes on tablets, 108 minutes on desktops, 113 minutes on TV and 147 minutes on mobile phones! So discover your opportunities on mobile & app marketing, also with culturally well adapted video content, always reflecting the social character of the Ramadan season. Be caring and giving, and share positive, emotional and relatable stories!
Do you have employees who celebrate Ramadan? They can be excellent, authentic and relatable voices for your respective audiences. And they are natural Subject Matter Experts for Ramadan-related content! Humor is a very welcome ingredient, too – this entertaining video from Vodafone Egypt is still a brilliant example that brings it all together; also note the use of music here:
Altogether, it’s a time to show generosity in any way: food, cosmetics, clothes and even traveling. Many like to make this a month for self-care, as well. Noteworthy: A 2022 survey conducted for Snapchat reveals that in 2021, 47% of Ramadan shopping was related to personal care products, cosmetics and grooming. The most valuable gifts, however, including luxury jewelry and electronic devices, are usually reserved for Eid al-Fitr. But to be successful and authentic, make sure to understand the spiritual aspect and connect with the right messages.
Make the most of diverse holiday seasons
Having the awareness of the different holiday traditions celebrated around the world can help you better attract and engage your audience – with culturally adjusted content that meets their needs and expectations. If you need support to make the upcoming holiday season your most successful one yet, drop us a line!