Bring Your Brand into The New Year

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[Cross-posted from Beneath the Brand.]

Every holiday season, many companies choose to liven up their image with a mixture of timeless cheer and traditional advertising appeal: Whether it’s the instantly-recognizable red-suited Santa laughing as he partakes of some cookies and milk, or the image of a family together in their living room, seated next to the hearth and a Christmas tree, consumers recognize immediately what the message is. And the truth is, studies show that people still look forward to the comfortable, predictable advertising messages that we see in end-of-the-year holiday campaigns. We feel a rekindling of our youth, and in the joy of giving and receiving gifts. Brands entice us to purchase products so that we can participate in the tradition of exchanging holiday gifts, and they tell us that we’ll feel glad that we did so — lest we be Scrooges.

But the holidays do come on strong, even if we know what to expect, and they can be exhausting, both financially and emotionally. So what about when it’s all over? What does the New Year mean for consumers?

Well, to state the obvious, the New Year brings us new beginnings: A fresh start, promises to change for the better, and a virtual clean slate where we can visualize our goals and plan our route for achieving them. It represents a renewed outlook on life. Or at least, we feel like it does. In reality, we changed the way we wrote a series of four symbols, from 2-0-1-2 to 2-0-1-3. The sun came up in the morning, and then it set again as it always does (well, to be fair, I’m writing this before 12/21 — maybe the sun didn’t come up again!), and January 1 is a new day, just the same as any other day is. It’s just another day in your life.

But the idea of a new year and what it represents is appealing to many people, even if it’s only symbolic. And it’s something that brands should focus on to hit the ground running after consumers begin to suffer from holiday exhaustion. So how do brands usually appeal to consumers in the New Year?

An easy and obvious way is by catering to New Year’s resolutions, such as campaigns for healthy eating to reach your weight goals, or purchasing a financial planner to help with the goal of saving up for a vacation. When consumers feel like a product really will help them with their new goals, they’ll buy it.

Another way of doing this is a little bit bolder, but it definitely works: patting consumers on the back for making it through another holiday season. You’ve made it through another year. Why not take some time out for yourself, and recharge at a spa or ski resort? Consumers can relate to the stresses that come with the season and many will feel like indulging in some relaxing activities.

Or, tell them to get the most use out of the gifts they’ve been given. You just got a new flat-screen HDTV for Christmas. So why not buy yourself a new speaker system to create a home theater experience that the whole family will enjoy for years to come?

By utilizing the powerful idea of new beginnings in the New Year, companies convince us that their products are the key to realizing our New Year’s goals, as well as a way of experiencing happiness even after the novelty of our holiday gifts has long worn off. When brands keep their image fresh and relevant year-round, they enjoy more success!

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Why Kay Jewelers Warms Our Hearts Every Christmas Season

[Cross-posted from Beyond Madison Ave.]

Every Christmas season, Kay Jewelers releases a commercial that is supposed to represent a moment of pure, unaltered bliss for women: After a year of hard work and playing the diligent wife, the go-getter at work, the dinner maker, the errand runner, and the all-around problem solver, she is rewarded with a beautiful piece of jewelry — what a prize! The woman smiles, thanks her loving family, and everyone is happy. Most importantly, she knows she is loved. In the next clip, she is wearing the jewelry, gives her husband or boyfriend a kiss, and the musical jingle plays as their lips touch: Every kiss begins with Kay.

Kay Jewelers has been making commercials for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas for years — and every one follows a variation of this formula. Each commercial ends with the beaming, grateful woman wearing the jewelry, and leaning in for the big kiss with her husband or boyfriend while the jingle begins to play. This is one of the most important parts of their brand’s image. The tune is simple, memorable, and short. While very few commercials use musical jingles anymore, Kay’s still works — which is precisely why they haven’t changed it for so many years. It has become such an integral part of the brand that people recognize the company from the moment they hear the first few notes.

Aside from the effective jingle, Kay Jewelers uses another method of appealing to their customers. By showing a husband or boyfriend engaging in a simple, loving gesture like giving his partner a heartfelt gift on Christmas, a tradition is born. Kay Jewelers takes care to show that beautiful gifts like gem-encrusted necklaces, diamond rings, and gold bracelets are affordable, even for families. It also shows that a woman will appreciate something selected from Kay. So of course, with everyone so pleased, it makes sense that it could also be a wonderful tradition for years to come.

Kay Jewelers also uses mini-stories to evoke our tender emotions. They carefully align the customers that use their products as protagonists. When a boyfriend or husband presents his personal gift from Kay, he believes he has given a priceless, timeless gift to the woman. And when she inevitably accepts it, she accepts not only the gorgeous jewelry, but also the gesture that comes with it. She accepts his love, and both parties feel good about the transaction. This makes us, as consumers, want to recreate that feeling for ourselves.

So by combining mini-narratives, holiday traditions, good feelings, and jingles, Kay Jewelers has created an unmistakable image for themselves that has transcended other competitors’ marketing techniques. Everyone knows what a Kay commercial is like, and hundreds of thousands of women receive gifts from their stores every Christmas. All of the time-tested advertising techniques I touched upon have made Kay the number one retailer of jewelry worldwide. The simplicity of their brand resonates with millions of normal folks who are looking to give or receive something special. Of course, there’s a whole other camp of people who avoid Kay Jewelers precisely because of these advertising elements, too — but that certainly won’t stop Kay Jewelers from releasing another commercial, or from changing their formula. Just wait until Valentine’s Day.