PSFK's research shows that occasions that center around personal identity, not commerce, have the most potential for lasting impact and long-term sales

Traditionally, occasion-based marketing has centered on promotions around major holidays and occasions, such as Valentine’s Day. However, as consumers start to feel holiday season fatigue, these advertising strategies are becoming less engaging—shoppers are growing tired of being told to buy something just because it’s Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

Today’s consumers have a new set of events and occasions that they celebrate—in both small and personal and big and social ways. Social media has enabled consumers to form niche communities around their passions and identities, allowing them establish their own meanings and create their own traditions. There are still universal human needs and behaviors, but the manifestations of these needs has become more specific and individualized.

Marketers who don’t understand this new paradigm run the risk of disconnecting with consumers. Even though occasion-based marketing has evolved, it remains crucial. By connecting a brand to these new experiences and times of heightened emotion, marketers can create a powerful personal connection with consumers, one that has an impact 365 days a year, not just on holidays.

Although new retailer-driven occasions, such as shopping holidays, have sprung up and are driving record sales, we believe that occasions that center around personal identity, not commerce, have the most potential for lasting impact. People want brands to connect with them as complex individuals, not just consumers.

In order to connect with consumers and foster memorable experiences, it’s crucial to understand your brand, its values and your audience. Mismatched campaigns can lead to a swift backlash, thanks to social media. It’s better not to do anything than to jump on the bandwagon or pay lip service to an occasion that is a questionable brand fit.

The most effective occasion-based initiatives are authentic extensions of the brand’s core values that connect with the events and occasions in people’s lives. They are invitations for consumers to take part in a meaningful experience with the brand, not directives to purchase something from them. They show consumers that a brand truly understands them and what is important to them.  

In our new Occasion-Based Marketing Debrief report, PSFK researchers outline a new framework for occasion-based marketing, highlighting new opportunities for not only generating excitement and sales but also creating positive brand associations that last well beyond the occasion itself.