Thought Leadership

Seasonal | 4 MIN READ

Charm your audience this holiday season with these 6 lesser-known themes

By Gurjit Sandhu
Marketing Manager

For many brands, Q4 marketing means pooling their best resources together to produce elaborate campaigns for major revenue-drivers such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas. While this practice makes sense for many marketers, it can sometimes eclipse many ‘low-hanging fruit’ opportunities - minor campaign tweaks or additions with high potential to lift holiday sales. In our first post from the ‘lesser-known’ series, we discussed how marketers could capitalize on existing practices to complement their holiday campaigns.

In our 2nd installment, we’ll explore non-traditional holidays you can take advantage of to stand out in Q4. Findings from our recent holiday benchmark report show that unconventional themes can drive higher email engagement than business-as-usual emails. In Q1 2018, for example, Groundhog Day emails drove the highest conversion rate (about five times higher than the average1). This is an excellent excuse to show off your brand personality and delight your audience. Don’t forget though - it is imperative to carefully select the events and holidays your brand uses based on how they fit your brand voice, products and services, and audience.

Here are a few lesser-known holidays to consider for your Q4 marketing program:

National Pasta Day

The Pasta Day email from casual dining chain Olive Garden is a great illustration of how a brand can capitalize on an energy moment such as Pasta Day to demonstrate their passion for the product and highlight the brand’s personality. With this message, Olive Garden stays true to their Italian-American roots with the beautiful food imagery, playful copy and ‘fun fact’ sticky content that subtly communicates the importance of pasta not just for the brand but for all of the US.

While National Pasta Day may seem a little too niche for some, with a little bit of creativity, brands outside of the food industry can also capitalize on the holiday to engage their audience. As illustrated by the Twitter examples below, even publishing and luxury brands can create whimsical marketing content using pasta elements.

Day of the dead - Día de Muertos

Despite taking place over the same day as Halloween, this holiday should not be regarded as the Mexican Halloween. While Halloween comes with fun traditions like dressing up in costumes, mischief-making, and eating excessive amounts of candy, the Day of the Dead focuses on expressing love and respect for departed family members. But that doesn’t mean it’s about sadness and darkness. Day of the Dead celebrations often involve festive food and decorations as well as people dressing up in costumes and painting colorful skulls on their faces.

In their campaign World Market honors both Halloween and the Day of the Dead, in line with the brand’s focus on international goods and products.

Daylight Savings

As the clock “falls back” in November, the end of Daylight Savings Time (DST) is another fun opportunity for marketers to use the “extra” hour motif to engage subscribers. From a simple reminder to wind back the clock to suggestions on what to do with their extra hour, a DST campaign could be a great way to offer both relevant and helpful content to subscribers.

Skincare brand, Ole Henriksen sent a fun DST email to promote their eye care line – pointing out that using their eye products can help subscribers appear as if they’ve gotten that extra hour of sleep (even if they’re far from it)

Veterans Day

Although Veteran’s Day is not typically associated with shopping, sales, or discounts, honoring and celebrating the nation’s veterans is a meaningful way for brands to show their support for their communities and the causes that are close to their customers and employees.

California Pizza Kitchen shows their gratitude to veterans by inviting them to visit any location for a free meal from their special commemorative menu – no strings attached.


Friendsgiving started out as an unofficial alternative to Thanksgiving for those who could not be around family for the holiday. Over the last few years, Friendsgiving has evolved into a mainstream holiday celebrated by a group of friends or co-workers that has its own set of traditions – like board games, pot luck meals, gift exchanges and much more.

As a non-traditional holiday get-together, Friendsgiving participants are usually not bound by traditional rules and customs associated with Thanksgiving. Quality meats purveyor, Porter Road takes full advantage of this creative freedom by promoting special holiday cuts as exciting alternatives to the traditional turkey Thanksgiving meal.   

Ugly Sweater Day

The ways to celebrate Ugly Sweater Day are endless – be it a chance to flaunt your favorite ugly sweater with pride, a choice theme to spice up any office holiday party, or a compelling reason to lighten up and enjoy a day of reprieve from the holiday rush.

Many brands have tapped into this fun event to show off their quirky and playful side. However, one brand stole the spotlight last year with their Ugly Sweater campaign.

By featuring their beloved Doughboy as the central design, Pillsbury released a limited line of ugly Christmas sweaters for the holidays - which then sold out a mere two hours after going on sale.2 The clever campaign was promoted on their web, social, and email channels, and was also widely covered by the press with much fanfare.  

The energy moments and events above are just a few examples of the many lesser-known, non-traditional holidays happening during the final 3 months of the year. With the right approach, these unique themes offer great opportunities to make your holiday campaigns work harder, drive better engagement, and earn higher revenue potential.

Find a theme that fits your brand and is relevant to your products and services. Think beyond promotional offers when you use the theme in your marketing program and aim to make a connection with your audience through unique and playful execution of your campaign.

Be bold! In case of any missteps your audience might be more forgiving – it’s the holiday season after all. 





Marketing Manager

Gurjit Sandhu

Gurjit Sandhu has been in digital and direct marketing for over 6 years, delivering marketing and event management solutions in both fast-paced corporate and entrepreneurial environments. Energized by strategic thinking and the power of marketing technology, she collaborates closely with cross functional teams at Yes Marketing to spearhead multi-channel communications that highlight product innovations.