‘Tis the Season—to Not Be Marketed To

When timing campaigns, don't forget to factor in seasonality.

In my game we call it “seasonality,” the term is meant to describe user behavior that can differ wildly during certain periods of the year. This should not be a surprise to seasoned digital marketers, but what’s interesting is that it can have an effect on products and services that one would not normally suspect.

I conducted a test for a loyalty product where the value proposition to the user was the ability to accumulate loyalty points for both airline flights and hotel stays. If you link your hotel loyalty account with your airline loyalty account, you can double your rewards. The test was launched 10 days before Christmas and allowed to run for an additional 10 days after Christmas. The test content was a series of banner images – very straightforward. Which image would have the most impact on getting users to link their two loyalty programs?

  • 10 days before Christmas : 0% lift in linked accounts. Some of the challengers had a slight positive or negative lift but none had any statistical significance.
  • 10 days after Christmas: 15% lift in linked accounts with 97% statistical confidence for the best performing banner image.

This is an interesting result, but more than just a test result we can infer some best practices for this particular line of business. Since the number of actions – linking the two accounts – was roughly the same in the 10 days before and after Christmas it wasn’t that people were too busy in the run up to the holiday to take action, they linked accounts with an equal frequency before and after Christmas. So what changed was the users’ willingness to be marketed to. Of course some of this could be because of the busy-ness of the season, users just want to get the task done and don’t linger on subconscious messaging.

Business lesson: take a look at other campaigns and channels for these two time periods. You might just find that marketing spend is far less effective in the two weeks before Christmas and thus budgets should be aligned accordingly, either curtail the spend before Christmas or shift it to the period after Christmas when users are more open to what you have to offer.