The holidays are a special, and stressful, time for businesses. 

If you are like many companies, your business relies on this time of year for a good chunk of revenue and sales. We’ve given you a lot of great advice and inspiration over the years on how to make the most of the holidays. We have shared tips on how to leverage email, make changes to your website, and even what to do on social media, in order to launch your holiday campaigns. While you definitely should heed those words of wisdom, today I want to give you a little bit different kind of advice. Instead of telling you what you should do with holiday marketing, I want to tell you what you shouldn’t do.

As important as the holidays are for most businesses, they are indeed treacherous waters to pass. Avoidable mistakes are aplenty – and can cost you a successful holiday season. So, let’s make sure you sure up your holiday marketing.

DON’T change your branding

The holidays are a tempting time to go all out. You know, change up your logo colors to the classic green and red, switch up your font to be a little more festive. Where’s the harm, right? It’s the holidays!

This seems like a harmless, simple change. But, it’s one that you should avoid. Random changes to your logo, colors, font or any piece of your branding is a big marketing no-no. It muddles your identity and can be extremely confusing to your customers. You’d never catch big, successful companies doing that. They value their identity and brand too highly to sell out for the holidays. You should too.

Do you know what they will do instead that you should replicate? Make their brand work for them during the holidays. Find clever ways to incorporate your colors, your logo, your brand into your holiday marketing. Take a look at this clever ad from Coke. They use the red and white colors of their logo on the snowman, giving him bottle cap eyes. Forgive me if I frequently mention them in this post, but when I think about successful holiday marketing my mind automatically goes to Coca-Cola.

DON’T alienate your customers

Look, this is kind of a touchy subject, but we live in a very interesting time as far promoting religious holidays. Back in the day, calling something a “Christmas Sale” wasn’t a big deal. But we’ve seen a shift to market such events as “Holiday Sales.” Using “holiday” makes the season feel more inclusive to all people around this time of year.

No matter where you stand on the issue, alienating a customer base is a very real thing. As a marketer, you want to stay as far away from controversy as possible. Keeping your promotions simple, focusing on the overall holiday theme (snowflakes, snowmen, that kind of thing) is a good way to do that. It’s safe, doesn’t make a statement, and still gives people that warm feeling of the season.

Now, there are those that can get away with it. I don’t think we’ll ever see Coke completely get rid of their iconic Santa Claus promotions, for instance. Companies with well-established ties to the community or religious organizations or a strong grasp on their customer base are more likely to be able to get away with wishing you a Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah. In the end, use your discretion. Just be careful, OK?

DON’T go overboard with social media promotions

Special promotions are nothing new to holiday marketing. Whether it’s a big sale or incredibly discounted prices, a lot of companies roll out some kind of special to drive in customers. It’s a really great idea, and you should consider doing something similar. But what you shouldn’t do is push your promotion so hard over social media that you inundate your customer base with it. 

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great place to advertise – but only so much. Your chief duty on social media in most cases is to use it as a platform for entertainment and engagement. Let’s say roughly 70-30 engagement to advertising. And this rule goes for all seasons, mind you. Just because it’s a special time of year doesn’t give you the go ahead to completely shift to 30-70 just so you can push your holiday deal. Your audience will become annoyed, and your ads will likely have the opposite of their intended effect.

If you really want to push your promotion, put your time and effort elsewhere where it will actually pay off – Google AdWords. Instead, mix it in sparingly with more social media friendly content that can still help you advertise yourself in a sense. Photos from holiday parties and community involvement this time of year are real social media winners. 

DON’T wait to start planning

The worst thing you can do to sabotage your holiday marketing efforts? Waiting. It may initially seem like overkill to start planning for November and December in August and September. However, giving yourself ample time to prepare and lay out your strategy gives you a chance to focus on exactly what it is you need to accomplish. And trust me, you have your work cut out for you.

Start setting goals and deadlines now. Work with your designers on the required promotional material. Start writing the script for your holiday TV spot. Coordinate with your entire team to make sure everyone is on the same page and your plan is set. The more time you give yourself, the more time you have to deal with little fires and disasters that may occur along the way.

The holidays are getting closer every day, so let’s get a move on.