Brands Turn To Digital Activations To Bring The Holiday Magic

November 18, 2019 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_533985694 Santa Claus opens gift box, holding a gift in his hands over wooden background with blinking garland and Christmas tree. Xmas scene with magic gift, wishes.

The holidays are hugely important for brands and retailers. Shoppers are out and about, either literally or virtually, and capturing that consumer attention is critical for brands who want to end the year on a positive note. The massive growth of “shopping holidays” Black Friday and Cyber Monday has brands everywhere in overdrive to get noticed. In 2018, Cyber Monday hit more than $6.2 billion in sales, and retail isn’t the only segment booming during the holidays — consumer packaged goods (CPG) are also hot ticket items.

This year, holiday spending per household is expected to come in at more than $1,496. And with parties and entertaining at their peak, surveyed consumers cite food and beverages among their top planned purchases. Digital activations, which can lead to mobile sales either through convenience or brand engagement, are becoming increasingly popular for retail and CPG brands due to buyer demand for seamless, mobile shopping opportunities.

Coke Brings Their Polar Bears Back With AR Campaign

Shutterstock_1174594804 Santa Claus is holding a bottle of coke.

The Coke polar bears are a beloved mascot in the Coke marketing universe, and now the famous cola brand is launching its first major augmented reality (AR) campaign featuring the iconic bears. The specially marked Coke bottles and cans that feature AR can be unlocked with the Coca-Cola app to reveal several vignettes of the polar bears cavorting in the snow and playing Christmas songs.

While more focused on brand engagement than a specific sales initiative, the activation is sure to excite Coke fans who may be fond of Coke’s popular holiday icons. Coke’s famous Sundblom Santa Claus will also make a special appearance. Although the AR gimmick is holiday-focused for now, by requiring consumers to download the Coca-Cola app, Coke creates future opportunities for engagement with Coke drinkers and promotional opportunities for new products like the special edition Coca-Cola Cinnamon.

Pepsi Makes It More Fun To Give Cash For Christmas

“People who gift cash sometimes get a bad reputation,” said Todd Kaplan, VP of Marketing at Pepsi. “They say, oh, it lacks meaning. But the truth is that cash gives people the power to buy whatever they want.” And while some may disagree about the joys of getting cash, Pepsi has found a way to dole out moolah during the holidays via a gamified QR code available on cases of Pepsi and Pepsi brand sodas.

Throughout the holiday season, consumers can purchase a Pepsi or Pepsi brand 12 pack, mini-15 or mini-10 pack that features a QR code which will take them to a digital scratch-off game for their mobile devices. The twist? Winners have to gift the money (from $5 to $25,000) to friends or family or donate it to Pepsi partner, The United Way. “The reality of it is people go everywhere with their phones, so it's an easy way [to engage them],” said Kaplan about Pepsi's mobile-first approach. “This just simplifies so many layers from how sweepstakes or promotions used to be run.”

Red Cup Season Has Started At Starbucks With A Digital Push

This year, eMarketer predicts Starbucks mobile users will total more than 25 million for the coffee retailer and their latest “red cup” campaign is designed with that mobile mojo in mind. Early in November, Starbucks kicked off their holiday campaign with a giveaway of limited-edition reusable cups. “We came up with this idea of wrapping the stores in holiday joy and wrapping the cups like a gift to our partners and customers,” said Jen Quotson, Vice President of Starbucks Creative. “We wanted coming to Starbucks to be like uncovering a present.”

The fun and festive cups are also being used in a series of commercials and an Instagram activation users can share on their Instagram accounts. To promote mobile ordering, digital display banners are appearing on desktop and mobile platforms, according to Mobile Marketer, urging customers to place their order through mobile.


On Peppermint! On Toasted White Chocolate! On Caramel Brulée! Holiday favorites are back!

A post shared by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on

A New Heartwarming Campaign From Gap Will Air On Digital Only

Gap, which will undergo major changes in 2020 with the divestment of sister brand Old Navy, is launching a digital forward campaign, and for the first time in several years, not airing TV commercials. The new spots are a part of Gap’s holiday marketing campaign “Gift the Thought,” which is focused on why people give instead of what they give. Gap’s iconic hoodie is at the centerpiece of the first heartwarming “Gift the thought” spot, and is airing on Gap’s social channels, YouTube and through digital takeovers on Hulu, Vevo and Facebook Watch, according to an article in AdAge. By leaning on nostalgia, but buying heavily into digital, Gap is able to respect their brand image, while appealing to younger consumers who are more likely to see spots on digital channels.

“We’ve been there all along, we have this range of products that center around the thought,” said Alegra O’Hare, Chief Marketing Officer at Gap. “It’s a fresh way of approaching it that’s more meaningful to the people that need to choose gifts.”

Shoppers are never more on the go than during the holidays, so for brands it’s essential to find a way to tap into shopper excitement about the holidays while providing opportunities to drive sales and engagement. Digital activations and mobile strategies are the direction more and more brands are taking this holiday season.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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