22 Epic Marketing Lessons from Holiday Movies

This year, we worked around the clock to bring you marketing tips from experts, top brands, thought leaders and robots.

Finally, with the holidays upon us, the Vocus Blog team relaxed with some movies.

Not completely though – because we needed to create this seasonal (yet applicable year-round) list of pertinent marketing lessons from our favorite holiday flicks.

Some would say it’s a tough job. But we say It’s a Wonderful Life.

Elf: Laura Spaventa


Details matter: don’t be a sloppy marketer.

1. Details matter. When Walter Hobbs finds that the last couple of pages are missing from the “Puppy and the Pigeon” books, he decides to ship the incomplete books in the hope that kids won’t notice. Later in the movie, Hobbs is called on it by his boss, whose granddaughter wants to know what happened to the puppy and the pigeon. Details DO matter and your customers will call you out on inefficiencies.

2. Back up your promises. A coffee shop’s “World’s best cup of coffee” sign causes Buddy the elf to dash in and congratulate them on their accomplishment. Later in the movie, Buddy brings his crush to the café to experience this extraordinary cup of coffee only for her to dub it “another crappy cup of coffee.” If you are going to market your product as the best, make sure it’s indeed the best.

3. Your customers are your most valuable asset. At the end of Elf, Buddy ends up “selling” Christmas back to Santa after the big man becomes discouraged from the lack of Christmas cheer. As a marketer, strive to make sure your customers believe so strongly in your product that they are willing and able to “sell” it to others.

Bad Santa: Geoff Livingston

Bad Santa

No one likes a Bad Santa. Be kind and giving.

1. Rest up. If you are a PR or social media pro who deals with the public, make sure to rest and come to work with a clean head. No one wants to see a sloppy Santa who falls asleep, angers the clients, or worse, wets him/herself in public. Just saying.

2. Don’t curse on the job. It’s generally not a great idea to curse, but definitely not on your first day.  Definitely don’t drop the F-bomb with your boss on the first job. Especially if you’re Santa. It sets a bad precedence for public figures.

3. When in costume… If you’re playing the role, people assume you’re the spokesman and represent the image or the brand.  People project the brand on you, and those associations are inescapable. Accept that, play the part, and understand those Santa comments aren’t personal.

4. Don’t treat die-hard fans like crap.  When you treat your fans poorly, they turn on you.  Reward loyalty with kindness and giving. Otherwise, Santa may end up with the police (e.g. bloggers and wonks) looking for him/her.

5. Your friends make or break you. There’s an old saying: you are who you hang out with, so choose your friends wisely. If you spend time with well intended people, you become friendlier and warmer, but if you hang out with folks that have questionable ethics, well, you become a Bad Santa.  Make sure you surround yourself with strong advisors who will lead you to a higher standard of communications.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Dee Wong

It's a Wonderful Life

For wonderful results, go above and beyond.

1. Be a better listener. A young George Bailey prevents Mr. Gower, the pharmacist, from accidentally prescribing poison to a patient by paying attention and trusting his gut instincts. Don’t just talk at your customers. Listen to what they’re saying and you’ll be better able to provide what they’re looking for, as well as avoid costly mistakes later.

Want to be a better listener next year? It’s never too late to ask for the Vocus Marketing Suite!

2. Go above and beyond for your customers. When the Building and Loan customers panic and try to withdraw their money, George lends them his own money that he had earmarked for his honeymoon and saves the institution his father built from collapsing. Going the extra mile for your customers will keep them happy and coming back for more.

3. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Clarence the Angel is nearly unable to convince George that his life is worth living until he shows him what the world would be like without George in it. Taking a step back and looking at your marketing strategy from another point of view may help you develop new strategies and insights – and gain new customers.

4. Establish brand loyalty. George has dedicated his entire life to improving the lives of those less fortunate in the small town of Bedford Falls. When George falls on hard times, the entire community bands together to rescue him out of financial and professional ruin. Likewise, building meaningful relationships with customers – by listening and going above and beyond – will help keep those customers loyal to your brand, product, or service.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Stacey Acevero

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dare to be different. The results will surprise you.

1. Re-imagine your brand for different audiences. Instead of featuring jolly characters and Santa Claus, Tim Burton’s masterpiece takes place in a dark town with creepy Halloween-loving characters. When they discover Christmas, they attempt to recreate it. The Nightmare Before Christmas was made especially for people who don’t care for the “usual” Christmas movie and it’s become a staple for the holidays.

2. Tell your story in different ways. This dark and ghoulish fairytale is also told in an interesting way throughout the movie: much of the character introductions, interactions and plot twists take place in musical numbers. The music and lyrics are moody and evoke romance, excitement and fear. How many different ways can you tell your story that resonate with your prospects?

3. Find your brand heroes. The main story centers around Jack Skellington, the face of Halloween and organizer of all things terrible and frightful for the town’s favorite holiday. The town looks up to him for what will take place at the yearly event and for him to make it bigger and better every year. In the world of marketing, Skellington would be thought of a brand ambassador. Find your company’s brand champions and utilize them.

4. Don’t do the same thing over and over! Jack’s main gripe in the movie is that he’s tired of doing the Halloween events every year. Planning the Christmas holiday for the first time ignites his passion for what he’s good at and he creates something new and dazzling that surprises everyone.

Love Actually: Brian Conlin

Love Actually

Find where your prospects hang out and join them.

1. Create a special offer. Aging rock star Billy Mack knows his holiday rock song has little chance to top an album by a boy band, so he provides an incentive. He promises that if his song tops the charts, he will perform it live… and naked. Billy shows marketers that customers often need more incentive than what a product provides. A special offer can inspire customers to buy your product.

2. Learn the language of your customers. Jamie, a heart-broken author, falls in love with a Portuguese woman, but they don’t speak the same language. Jamie learns Portuguese, proposes to her, and gets the “yes” he desperately wants. Like Jamie, marketers need to communicate in the language their target audience understands. Drop the jargon and talk like a human.

3. Find your target audience. Colin Frissell can’t find love in England, so he travels to Milwaukee where he thinks American girls will find him and his accent attractive. His gamble pays off as he meets several girls who find him irresistible. Colin is an example for marketers pouring their effort into social media platforms that don’t produce results. Learn where your target audience spends its time and go there.

A Christmas Vacation: Jason Konopinski

Christmas Vacation

Getting seen is important, but it’s not everything.

1. Pay attention to details.  The opening scene of “Christmas Vacation” finds the Griswold family on a quest for the perfect Christmas tree. Clark, the family patriarch, sees it as a heroic quest, hunting for a tree of ideal height, proportion and construction to kick the holiday season into motion. Trudging far into the wilderness, they find the tree – only to discover that Clark has forgotten the saw. When you’re building that new campaign or launching that new product, don’t forget to look around.

2. Capture attention, but be measured. Oh the lights! A light display for the record books that gets everyone in the neighborhood looking (assuming they’re not completely dazzled) is the feather that Clark is trying to stick in his cap.  25,000 lights covering nearly every square inch of the home. He overloads every circuit, causes a massive drain on the power grid and nearly blinds his next door neighbors with the brightness of the light display.  Everyone wants attention these days, but consider the cost of those 15 minutes of fame.

3. Expect the unexpected. When Uncle Eddie pulls up in his RV with his wife and kids in tow, you just know things are going to get, um, interesting. For all his country quirks, Uncle Eddie is loyal to his family, especially Clark. When Clark loses his cool after getting a less-than-stellar Christmas bonus from his boss and mutters something about wanting to tell him to his face exactly how he feels, Eddie takes him literally, kidnapping Mr. Shirley and delivering him to the Griswold home. Sometimes you have to just laugh.

What tips did we miss? Let us know in the comments!



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