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Bringing it all back home

Never mind the big festive UK TV campaigns, let’s think about how we can maximise Christmas cheer for local companies says Ashgrove Marketing’s Terry van Rhyn

At this time of the year, it’s traditional for me to compile a round-up article on the good, the bad and the ugly of UK national Christmas commercials.

This year, given the craziness that we’ve all experienced, I thought it would be more appropriate to stay closer to home and focus on the opportunities for local brand, marketing and advertising activities instead.

Perhaps never before has “buy local” been so important and by supporting our local businesses we will be giving our economy the boost it needs this Christmas.

As well as dealing with coronavirus, our retailers, restaurants and bars did not enjoy the TT windfall this summer so a Christmas bonus will be very welcome to both them and their suppliers.

It’s been great to see the growing enthusiasm for staycations and we should all try to explore more of the Island and support those pubs, restaurants and shops in areas we do not typically visit.

I, for one, am a “Southerner” and very seldom venture further north past Douglas and Peel but recently I have “discovered” places I have not visited since I’ve arrived on these shores in 2006 – which is a very poor show from me!

The hospitality industry should now start working together and explore partnerships or co-branding/promotions with complementary products and services.

We see this partnership model happening all over the world, for example John Lewis getting together with Pernod Ricard for events, Debenhams partnering with Givenchy and Bare Minerals for virtual consultations, Starbucks and Spotify, etc. There is no reason why local businesses can’t explore a similar route.

How about restaurants and pubs running promotions in conjunction with Isle of Man Meats or Isle of Man Creameries, promoting local produce to enhance their menu? What about self-catering staycation places partnering with local suppliers like Robinson’s to create a gift basket with local produce as a welcome gift?

Some hospitality outlets may already be doing this in an informal way but it’s worth exploring such partnerships in depth to ensure both parties get the most out of it.

Similarly, there are so many fine bread and cake bakers on our Island. What if they partner with distillers, brewers or coffee makers and create a co-promotion that will allow customers to taste and experience all these products in one place? I think our local chocolatiers should also get in the mix and partner with banks or automotive companies to offer hot chocolate or sweet nibbles to their customers.

By combining products and services that may not naturally be thought of together, there’s an opportunity to expand reach and engage with a new audience while enhancing your customers’ shopping experience.

Picture a beautifully crafted ad with a coffee retailer offering hot chocolate infused with their brand of coffee with a slice of Christmas cake supplied by a local baker and some chocolate truffles made by a local chocolatier with an offer of discounted tickets to the cinema. Can you smell Christmas yet?

How about a luxury brand jeweller displaying (securely!) a few special pieces at a high-end restaurant? The restaurant will attract the desired audience and the jewellery retailer will have access to their target audience outside the normal environment. Look at how Louis Vuitton luggage and the BMW motor company co-brand successfully based on the premise of superior craftsmanship and a “have luggage, will travel” connection.

It comes down to thinking about what else your target audience would be interested in and approaching those businesses or brands to join forces. In times like these it is always better and smarter to find partnerships that will help tell your collective story. And the bottom-line is that you will be able to stretch your marketing and advertising budget much further when you partner with other brands in a single coordinated campaign.

Perhaps the real message in this “season of giving” is to find extraordinary ways to work together for the greater good. There are times – and a pandemic is one of them – when we should all work together as one, and not selfishly guard against the “competition”.

We are all in the same boat and we need each other now more than ever. Who would have ever thought Burger King would suggest its customers eat at McDonalds and other fast food outlets? Yet that’s exactly what they are doing in the US to support the wider fast food industry and its employees right now.

Which leads me nicely to third-sector engagement. In all our marketing efforts we should try to find a way to support a local charity or good cause. There are some many creative and clever ways to incorporate a fundraising component to any promotion or campaign and this sector needs our help.

Just like businesses, charities have generally had a lean year for income with lots of fundraising events cancelled and, in many cases, more demand on their services.

The final piece in the jigsaw is for us as consumers and that is to ensure we consume with care. It is up to each one of us to try something new and local, and to visit a place you’ve either never or seldom visited. There are so many gems on this rock we tend to take for granted.

So go find that freshly baked bread made with local flour. Visit the Manx distilleries and enjoy their fine spirits. Go to a museum or taste some local produce at the many Christmas markets. Buy gifts from local jewellers and artists. Drop a few pennies in a local charity bucket or tap to donate.

Keep the money on Island where you can and celebrate the fact that we are not in lockdown.

Merry Christmas.