Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 22 , 2021

As much as 2021 has felt like “2020: The Reboot,” this holiday season is poised to be unique.

Here you’ll find:

  • Tips for creating optimized holiday ads
  • Expert insights into making your ads stand out
  • What makes up an effective holiday email campaign
  • How to tap into the mobile-shopping demographic

Do you smell that? Ah yes, pumpkin spice is in the air once again. 

And marketers know what that means: It’s time to talk holidays.

Simply recycling last year’s plan would be a disservice to your customers. However, going back to your pre-pandemic tactics because things are “going back to normal” would also be a mistake.

There’s a lot of nuance being overlooked between these two positions. COVID variants have many people still wary of shopping in stores. 

Making the online shopping experience as joyful, seamless, and stress-free as possible will be a top priority for many brands again this year. Conveying that message will largely be up to marketers. And with hybrid reality becoming a more prevalent way to shop safely, consumers expect options.

So, how can you leverage the latest tips and tools to ensure the holiday ads for your products or services stand out? We’re glad you asked.

1. Take advantage of all the latest resources

Many of the companies you already trust for business-related products and services also have helpful guides on getting the most out of them. As a bonus, they often provide them for free, so there’s no reason not to use them.

Here are a few to get you started.

Facebook & Instagram

If you’re not advertising on Facebook, now’s a great time to explore this option. Not only do they have a huge platform teeming with potential customers to show your ads to, but their data and advertising advice is top-notch. 

Facebook already released its annual holiday advertising guide with concrete steps for creating an effective holiday marketing plan. The Facebook-owned app Instagram also just released its own guide with the latest best practices to make your “holiday szn” a success.


In 2020, Google launched a hub of holiday marketing resources to help brands reach customers across their various platforms. The mini-site features personalized recommendations to help businesses reach more online shoppers across the Google suite. 

This resource includes useful elements like the Local Opportunity Finder and Grow My Store tool. The latter can analyze your website’s customer experience to tell you how your performance stacks up against others in your industry or retail category.

Google also published a 2021 guide to driving sales for retailers and brands.  

holiday ads

Add a customized touch by personalizing recommendations to drive more sales. (Image via Unsplash)

Search Engine Journal

Speaking of Search Engine Journal, they have some helpful resources of their own. In fact, they compile an annual marketing resource listing wiith every holiday, celebration, and event imaginable.

They also include free templates for Google Calendar and Google Spreadsheets to make using the info as easy as possible.


When it comes to free resources, HubSpot has no shortage of materials. They recently released their State of Marketing Report for 2021.

It’s got 50 data points, information on marketing trends, important insights, and strategies to help make the most of your 2021 holiday marketing.    

Pro tip: Just in time for the holidays, Search Engine Land reports that “Google is launching new sections in its search results to showcase deals, rolling out tools to highlight promotions and expanding reporting capabilities in Google Merchant Center.”

2. Personalize your campaigns

Email marketing company Mailchimp suggests adding a customized touch by personalizing recommendations to drive more sales. This way, you can leverage sales data to offer relevant product recs, showcase best-selling products, and highlight new arrivals. (This can also help address the dreaded issue of cart abandonment.)

Nurturing relationships is, of course, always a key marketing component. Just like last year, personalizing your holiday ads is one of the most effective ways to do just that.

Simply adding each recipient’s name to an email campaign via a token can bring you significant engagement (more on email best practices below). 

3. Embrace authentic messaging

It’s easy to play into emotions with holiday ads. It’s a sentimental season that, for many, symbolizes things like family, reflection, and the year’s end. 

Injecting emotion into your digital marketing is an acceptable, and even encouraged, tactic — when done correctly.

HubSpot has examples of how emotion works effectively in holiday marketing ads. Frequently, these have a message focused on themes such as giving, nostalgia, and gratitude.

However, you don’t want your campaigns to come off saccharine or like you’re using emotion to manipulate your audience. You can avoid that by keeping authenticity at the forefront when building your campaigns.

As Adweek explains, video content is one way brands can appeal to emotion and help foster connection, particularly when you leverage creators.

Forbes agrees — they suggest partnering with micro or “nano” influencers. These smaller social media figures often have 10,000-100,000 followers max and a more engaged audience than bigger influencers.

This is especially effective if you find people that would likely use your product or service. Rather than scripting the message, you can simply give them some bullet points to cover. They’ll seem like the regular target demographic because they are

Need help with your digital marketing strategy for the holidays and beyond? Let’s talk.

holiday m-commerce

Social media apps have made m-commerce more convenient than ever. (Image via Unsplash)

4. Leverage email marketing

We’ve talked before about how email campaigns remain one of the most effective tools marketers have at their disposal. And the holidays are a great time to get creative with your marketing emails. 

Shopify reports that email marketing consistently converts better than other channels, and it’s the method 80% of businesses count on to bring in new leads and keep existing customers coming back. Take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in your email campaigns to provide deals and a little extra purchase incentive.

No matter the season, emails that get the best open rates often include elements like:

  • An eye-catching subject line
  • A hierarchy of content (with the most important info at the top)
  • A mobile-friendly design
  • A strong call-to-action (CTA)
  • An interactive element

For example, an interactive email featuring a countdown clock, noting something like a limited-time-only sale, can boost your conversion rate

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with appealing visuals. Data shows more than half of marketers have used GIFs in email campaigns. 

5. Get social

The trend of mobile commerce (or m-commerce) continues to rise. Shopping via smartphone is projected to grow in popularity from 5.5% of total retail sales in 2020 to 8% by the end of 2023, according to Statista.

Social media apps have made m-commerce more convenient than ever. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a strong social media strategy focused on the holiday season. 

People are looking for fun, kindness, and compassion in their paid social ads, according to Search Engine Journal, so keep that in mind when crafting your campaigns.

These days, it’s not enough to just share your values on social media. Consumers want to know the brands they support are making a positive impact and that they truly embody and live out the values they claim to stand for.  

The takeaway

Unprecedented times call for swift pivoting and flexibility. Luckily, these are skills many marketers know well. As you put your brand’s holiday ads into play, it’ll be helpful to keep the above tactics in mind.

Brushing up on the latest resources, getting creative with ad platforms and messaging, personalizing where possible, and staying on top of social media trends are all ways to keep your efforts in good standing through the 2021 holidays and beyond.

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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