How to Make Your Holiday Marketing Campaign More Inclusive

In 2018, we often hear that everyone is offended by everything. Marketers can take a lot from this.

Many groups are forgotten about during the holidays, as Christmas is the most celebrated holiday tradition in the US by both Christians and non-Christians. 92% of the US claim to celebrate the holiday for religious, cultural, or other reasons. But what about everyone else? It’s a definite stretch to say everyone is celebrating for the same reason.

From a business standpoint, acknowledging and representing differences builds trust and respect for your business. Representation means potential business.

Everyone is different and it shows especially during the holidays. There is at least one similarity regardless of culture or beliefs: the holidays, whether that means Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other, are a time for coming together. And to some, it might just mean a whole lotta snow. At such a special time, wouldn’t you want to be represented? After all, it’s not necessarily the gifts that matter, but the simple fact of being thought of.

It’s important to know your audience and to understand their values. Seasonality is important to marketers. It helps with projections and it allows you to connect with a large population of consumers. Keep in mind, there are other populations, and they could be connected with too.

In terms of applying to a broader spectrum of ideologies, do some research. Give consumers the gift of inclusion this season.

Stay Neutral or Be Completely Inclusive

Remember Starbucks’ famous red cup controversy in 2015? Blank, red. I loved it. This was an ingenious way to engage customers. Not only were customers involved in designing the following years’ holiday cups, but it got people to post pictures on social media of their Starbucks purchase with hand-drawn designs.


Starbucks opened the doors to inclusivity by being neutral for an entire season – the biggest holiday marketing season, mind you.

However, many people were offended that Christmas wasn’t directly named. In a 2016 statement with the release of the selected customer designed holiday cups, Sharon Rothstein, Starbucks’ global chief marketing officer, said “We hope that this year’s red holiday cup designs express the shared spirit of the holidays as told by our customers.”

The shared spirit of the holidays. Starbucks did a very simple thing that allowed for the celebration of various traditions. And the world certainly heard about it.

The US’ capitalist holiday season may be based on a Christian holiday, but there are several worldly religious celebrations at the end of the year. The cultures involved in these celebrations need representation and attention in holiday marketing campaigns, for their sake and yours.

You ever hear someone important say “I need your undivided attention”? Marketing tends to maintain societal divisions by relating to a majority group. That is plain and simple. Being direct to a target audience is known to be effective. But you don’t necessarily need to divide consumers. Instead, you can appeal to all for a longer and greater attention span.

From a business standpoint, acknowledging and representing differences builds trust and respect for your business. Representation means potential business.

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Neutral Representation

Staying neutral is a safe and easy path. “Happy holidays” is a very common expression in place of Merry Christmas/Xmas/Happy Hanukkah. In many places around the world, winter coincides with the holiday season, so winter-themed images and ideas can work in your marketing campaign. But obviously this isn’t the case everywhere. It’s important to understand who you’re targeting based on geography as well as ideology. It goes beyond the necessity of your product or service. It’s a mindset.

I wonder if Santa packs a different change of clothes for warmer regions. Or maybe the Western ideologies behind Christmas were limited to their own geographical and theological understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing Christmas. Everyone loves their traditions. I love Christmas too, but Santa would be sweating profusely. C’mon.

The reindeer with the lightbulb nose though? That I can believe.jeremy-bishop-171267-unsplash

Staying neutral is one route, but it seems a bit bland. If you’re neutral, your message is open to anyone who celebrates something, or who merely needs to make a purchase; however, your message isn’t really directed at anyone particular. Your product or service already has a specific target audience, but you can’t ignore the holiday selling season altogether.

Inclusive Representation

A better way to draw consumers into your holiday marketing campaign is to apply directly to them. Get at the heart of what different groups see the holidays to represent.

This does not mean include tokenized members of a group in your ad. Rather, understand and invest in different groups. Send a message that all groups can relate to. This could go along with being neutral, or you could make specific references to individual groups. You don’t have to name drop Father Christmas or JC, but get at the values and make people feel welcomed.

Bring communities together with your marketing campaign by acknowledging similarities and differences. Just remember to avoid stereotyping, appropriating, and tokenizing. This becomes easier to do with a diverse staff and a better understanding of different values. Marketing has a lot of power in the world. It’s responsible for multiple things: drawing people into your business (through agreeance, necessity, curiosity, or familiarity), and reflecting and transforming current society.

Aside from religious holiday traditions, you should be mindful of the people your ads include. If your marketing applies to only white, able-bodied, upper-middle class nuclear families, not only are you limited in your target audience, you’re also making a statement about your priorities. Your product or service should reach as far as possible within your target audience.

Some companies promote their products through a series, each ad inclusive of a specific group.

Do some research into the demographics of your market. Marketers already do this. It helps predict success and avoids hardships. But use your research wisely. Promoting a product using social media to a large Amish community is probably not going to be very effective.


Hopefully the next time I hear the term “snowflake,” it’s screamed from a panicked acquaintance who is heroically diving in slow motion to protect me from physical contact. Why do I live here?

Remember, there is nothing wrong with well-wishes. No one is saying “don’t you dare ever wish me a ‘Merry Christmas!’” If you’re unsure of a person’s preference, just ask.

Whatever the holidays mean to you, I hope they’re stress-free, joyful, and highly respected.

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