Seasonal swings in business are attributable to a number of factors depending on your business model, and the business environment at the time. Retail, Direct Response and Restaurant are all dramatically different in their impacts.
In trying to help define the causes, or triggers, we have put together a top level recap of what some of the key holiday impact are, what some of the key life stage change issues are, and what some of the Direct Response patterns are.
We have also attempted to put together some planning guidelines for both retail and direct response placement timing to help guide you in “when” you need to execute to take advantage of these key seasonal swings. We have broken the year out into the traditional 4 quarters and named them as follows:
- Winter Q1 – Jan-March
- Spring Q2 – April-June
- Summer Q3 – July-September
- Fall Q4 – October-December
First Quarter / Winter Advertising
Winter begins each year on the Solstice. Generally the 21st or 22nd of December, the start of winter is also the shortest day of the year. While winter begins in December, it tends to be overwhelmed by a larger number of holidays concentrated close to the end of the year.
Most advertising decisions for the last weeks of December have already been made and budgets exhausted well in advance, so “Winter” advertising effectively begins in January.
The New Year means new budgets. It also means clean slates, and resolutions. Advertising opportunities are strong in early January for “life changing” products. Diet, nutrition, health-consciousness, and quitting smoking are all significantly impacted by the New Year, and represent a boon to Winter advertising. This tapers off by the second week in February, where good intentions have been mostly forgotten.
January generally delivers strong response for Direct response – people have executed their holiday product purchases, and can turn their attention to daily life once more. Services, and non-gift products tend to have strong response.
Winter also sees the settling in of Q4 spend and leads to Holiday Spending Remorse so one key factor to review prior to executing spend is the level of impact that Q4 purchases or “Holiday Spend” has on someone’s ability to buy. In general, holiday bills on credit cards come in, and spending overall in January is curbed.
Another core value to Winter Advertising (Q1) is the elimination of a significant volume of “Noise” in most channels.
Other key winter items are the beginning of Tax planning in February, which conveniently coincides with Valentine’s Day! Mid-March is great if you sell green food coloring. For more strategic ideas on how to use these dates to drive sales, click on the unique holiday links.
Key Advertising Events
- New Years Eve
- W2 and Early Tax Returns
- Valentine's Holiday
- St. Patrick's Holiday
- NCAA Basketball March Madness
Second Quarter / Spring Advertising
Spring starts with the Vernal Equinox, one of two dates out of the year which have equal parts day and night. This occurs on or around March 20th.
Spring tends to soften results for Direct Response, although for certain categories it is a boon.
Travel spikes during spring break and destination advertising in advance is strong. Home improvement, especially landscaping becomes a core focus.
Any time period that has a heavy focus on vacations is a great opportunity for several categories: Travel, Security, Home-Improvement and Entertainment.
Key holidays for retailers in his period are Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. Both holidays support major spikes in product sales with tremendous online gift giving volumes. Memorial Day also falls into this period, an excellent time for outdoor product sales, as well as anything red white and blue!
Key Advertising Events
- Spring Cleaning
- Kickoff to Lawn Care
- Major League Baseball
- Tax Deadline
- Cinco de Mayo
- Mother's Day
- Memorial Day
- Father's Day
Third Quarter / Summer Advertising
Summer starts with the solstice on or around June 21st each year. This date represents the longest day of the year. The summer season sadly seems short.
Young families are out of school, and children need to be entertained. Activity related spend increases, travel increases, and “summer” product sales go through the roof. Depending on your business category, you may be in your sweet spot from June to August. Travel, Activities and Entertainment, family oriented restaurants, movies and summer sports are all strong categories.
Direct Response tends to dip strongly in the summer months, whereas home improvement holds very strong. These patterns start to change again around Back to School, where Direct Response picks back up in late August and early September.
Back to school is not only a time for parents to rejoice, it is a time for retailers to cash in. In a discreet period of time, retail spend increases to address the buying needs of families across the nation. From technology to clothing, for grocery products designed for lunches to pencils and erasers, BTS is a frenzied time of buying, and a crowded space for advertisers trying to communicate a message, and influence a sale.
Nationally in the US, BTS is not consistent. Click on our Back to School link to see the regional map of how those dates roll out.
Key Advertising Events
- 4th of July
- Labor Day
- Back To School
- College and Pro Football
Fourth Quarter / Fall Advertising
The Autumnal Equinox represents the beginning of Autumn or Fall. In general, this event occurs on or around September 23rd, and represents one of two dates in the year that are equal pars day and night.
The beginning of Fall in late September also forecasts the start of the Q4 holiday Spending season. Before that gears up, there are several weeks of “normalcy” where children are back in school, routines are falling into place, and parents have time to focus on their to do lists. This equates to strong direct response numbers in the month of September that generally carry through November.
Holiday spending is in full swing mid- October through the third week in December are the core retail a nd DR product purchase timeframes for Christmas or Holiday spending.
For direct Response, depending on the deliverability of product purchased, media spend is normally truncated by 12/10.
While there is a tremendous amount of “Nosie” in many media channels during the holiday period (particularly the last week of November though 12/20), that noise also increases readership.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and many more holidays focus on family and heavy retail spend. Themed products, travel and home services getting people “ready” all have strong resonance.
Key Advertising Events
- MLB World Series
- Election Day
- Veteran's Day
- Black Friday / Cyber Monday