6 Advent Calendar Fails: How To Do It Right in 2024

6 Advent Calendar Fails: How To Do It Right in 2024

Cathy Carpetta

Cathy Carpetta

December 15, 2023

Brands are smartly using advent calendars, a classic holiday tradition, for marketing. Physical and digital calendars connect with customers daily, adding excitement for the festive season.

Getting it right is important, like when Chanel's 2021 advent calendar didn't go down well and faced a lot of criticism.

In the UK, advent calendars are popular. Nearly 38% of adults plan to buy them as presents, and about 19% for themselves.

So, what's advent calendar marketing, and how can you make the most of it this year?

Source: YouGov

Advent calendars: a rising trend in e-commerce marketing

Advent calendars, a tradition dating back to 19th-century Germany, have evolved significantly from their origins of offering daily religious pictures to children. Today, they are a dynamic and interactive element in e-commerce marketing.

Retailers and shoppers are showing a growing interest in advent calendars, with stores like Selfridges & Co in the UK doubling their range to 128 types in 2022.

Modern advent calendars are evolving into a crucial tool for both family fun and e-commerce marketing. They offer a mix of product sampling and digital engagement through interactive online activities like contests and stories. 

This not only enhances brand presence but also boosts excitement among existing and potential customers. Used creatively, they go beyond simple social media posts, adding a special touch to festive marketing strategies.

Chocolate advent calendars top the list in the UK for both personal use (79%) and gifting (82%). Beauty products follow, chosen less frequently (13% personal, 20% for gifting). The rest of the respondents selected calendars ranging from toys, alcohol, jewellery, tea, puzzles, cheese, candles, or perfume.

Many UK adults view advent calendars as either for children (43%) or too costly (27%). However, a third don't agree with these reasons, hinting at other factors. More affordable and age-inclusive calendars could shift purchasing trends.

Key benefits of Advent calendars

Advent calendars offer several advantages for brands:

  • Increase sales during the holiday season by offering daily deals or showcasing products in an advent calendar. This takes advantage of shoppers' excitement and boosts sales for brands.
  • Sharing advent calendar content on social media platforms boosts customer interaction and brand visibility. It keeps followers engaged with daily updates. Zagbijoux, for example, is using Instagram to post festive product photos daily.
  • Brands can use advent calendars for creative social media marketing during Christmas to engage potential customers.
  • Advent calendar can show gift ideas with a specific gift guide for each day, perfect for the holiday season.
  • Brands can attract potential customers by offering great deals like gifts, discounts, or popular gift cards. This is especially effective during this time of year.
  • Use advent calendars for holiday marketing campaigns to introduce new products or services festively.
  • Increase traffic to your landing page or blog post, enhancing online engagement and SEO.
  • Providing unique content or exclusive deals can create brand loyalty and differentiate a brand from competitors.
  • The advent calendar can help you plan different types of content for the holidays. It serves as a guide for what you want to share.
  • Educate audiences about products, as Swarovski did with their advent calendar, and gather valuable customer data and insights like their email addresses.

Crafting an irresistible advent calendar

The choice between physical and online

Your brand's first decision is whether to opt for a physical or an online advent calendar. Physical calendars provide a hands-on experience, with customers opening each day's window for a gift. Virtual calendars on social media reach more people and are cost-effective, offering daily surprises like deals or festive content.

Online calendars can significantly boost your brand’s reach and engagement. Platforms like Instagram or Twitter are perfect for daily reveals, fostering interaction and a community feel around your brand during the festive season.

Alternatively, you could blend both physical and virtual calendars. This dual approach can enhance exposure, brand awareness, and word-of-mouth.

10 top advent calendar ideas for brands

Perfect for brands aiming to stand out this festive season with creativity and engagement! 🌟🎄

  • Daily discount codes, gifts, or vouchers: New exclusive offers every day.
  • Wish list: Fun competition with winners getting their most wanted item(s).
  • Product teasers and reveals: Exciting daily product reveals, with special offers.
  • Social media challenges: Fun, festive-themed social challenges with prizes.
  • Customer stories spotlight: Daily heart-warming stories or testimonials.
  • Interactive quizzes and polls: Daily brand-related quizzes or festive trivia with rewards.
  • Festive tips and tricks: Daily holiday tips, like gift-wrapping or festive recipes.
  • Behind-the-Scenes glimpses: Insights into your brand's holiday preparations.
  • Charity initiatives: Different charity features each day to promote community goodwill.
  • User Generated Content (UGC) showcases: Have followers share festive photos for daily prizes.

Lessons from failed advent calendars campaign:

  • Tony's Chocolonely: Apologized for leaving an empty calendar window to protest slave labour in the chocolate industry, upsetting children.

➡️ The need for sensitivity in marketing, especially when involving children. Social awareness campaigns should not compromise the customer experience.

  • Kmart: Accidentally omitted Christmas Eve from their calendar.

➡️ The necessity of consistent quality control in manufacturing and thorough quality checks in product design, especially for date-specific items.

  • John Lewis: A mathematically incorrect message claiming Christmas was 16 days away on 2nd December.

➡️ The significance of accuracy in educational or informative products, underlining the need for brands to verify all information.

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk: Featured a message “Give hugs at Christmas” which was inappropriately timed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

➡️ The need for context-aware and timely messaging, especially during sensitive periods or global crises.

  • Zoella: Released an overpriced (£50) Advent calendar with low-value items (estimated to be around £20) and only 12 windows. It led to backlash and a subsequent price reduction.

➡️ The importance of aligning product value with price, particularly for influencer-endorsed products, and responding swiftly to customer feedback.

@eliseharmon I’ll lay everything out and show you all of the contents and you can tell me if you think it’s worth it #chaneladventcalendar ♬ Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Rerecorded Version) - Brenda Lee

  • Chanel: Sold a pricey (£610) Advent calendar with underwhelming contents like a keychain and a sticker book, criticised heavily by TikTok unboxers.

➡️ Chanel’s advent calendar, while aesthetically pleasing, failed to meet customer expectations regarding content quality and value. Luxury pricing must be backed by luxury experiences, especially as customers are increasingly vocal on social media.

The Dos and Don'ts of Advent Calendars

The Do's

  • Align with brand identity: Ensure that the calendar reflects your brand’s values, aesthetics, and quality.
  • Curate thoughtful gifts: For physical calendars, select desirable items that resonate with your audience.
  • Embrace digital creativity: For virtual calendars, use engaging graphics, interactive elements, and exclusive content to keep users excited.
  • Promote sustainability: If opting for a physical calendar, consider eco-friendly materials and reusable designs.

The Don'ts

  • Avoid overpricing: Make sure that the calendar’s price is justified by the value of its contents.
  • Don't neglect quality: Poorly made items or lacklustre digital content can damage your brand’s reputation.
  • Beware of unrealistic expectations: Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Honesty in marketing fosters trust.

In summary, online and physical advent calendars are a creative holiday marketing strategy and an effective tool for businesses.

They're not just about celebrating Christmas, they're about connecting with audiences in meaningful ways. Advent calendars offer brands a unique opportunity to engage with customers and to spruce up their Christmas marketing.

Brands can create a great customer experience and build loyalty. They can do this by looking at past examples, aligning with their brand, and using digital platforms creatively.

Frequently asked questions
Everything you need to know.
What are some innovative ideas for virtual advent calendars?

Interactive games, personalisation, behind-the-scenes content, and exclusive previews or product releases can be effective.

When should I start planning my e-commerce advent calendar?

Ideally, start planning 3–4 months in advance to ensure adequate time for product selection, design, and marketing strategies.

How can I make my physical advent calendar stand out?

Focus on unique design elements, high-quality materials, and branded, meaningful gifts to differentiate your calendar.

How can I measure the success of my advent calendar?

Key metrics include engagement rates, sales during the calendar period, and social media mentions and shares.

Is a theme essential for an advent calendar?

A cohesive theme can enhance the calendar’s appeal and create a more memorable customer experience.

Can virtual advent calendars effectively drive sales?

Yes, they can be a potent tool for driving sales, especially when combined with exclusive offers and engaging content.