Advent calendars used to be the hallmark of confectionary companies like Cadbury and Nestle. Nowadays, brands from a whole manner of industries are muscling in on the trend, releasing calendars filled with everything from gin to cheese.

Brands within the cosmetics and skincare industries are chiefly reaping the rewards, turning the once humble ritual of the advent calendar into a ‘must-have’ for modern-day beauty consumers.

Is it yet another example of the commercialisation of Christmas? Almost certainly. However, it could also be described as an undeniably clever marketing strategy. Here’s a few reason why brands are getting involved.

1. Hype and conversation

Beauty advent calendars have been around for a while now, however they’ve continued to gain even more popularity in the past few years. 

For most beauty brands, the basic premise remains the same as the traditional one – i.e. to build excitement in the run-up to Christmas with a countdown (and a small gift each day). They often include mini or travel-sized products behind each window, allowing people to enjoy a selection of items from a specific brand, a particular category, or a mixture of the two.

For consumers, the main appeal is the fact that the combined value of the products inside is usually far greater than the price of the calendar itself. Conversely, one of the main benefits for the brands is the amount of hype and anticipation that can be generated around the product’s release. 

Marks and Spencer is one example of a brand that generates massive hype around its now cult beauty calendar, which is well-known for being very generous in terms of the size and value of the gifts inside. M&S’s clever pricing strategy – whereby customers have to spend £35 in store on top of the cost of the £35 calendar – helps boost profits, while still offering great value for consumers. This year, the contents are reported to be worth more than £250.

2. Social media engagement

Like most marketing campaigns within the beauty industry, social media is key to furthering customer engagement. This can be generated with content created by the brand itself, as well as by consumers caught in the hype and anticipation.

Last year, the luxury perfume and candle brand Diptyque created a social media campaign to coincide with customers opening their calendars throughout the month. Working with graphic designer and illustrator Pierre Marie, the brand created 25 original videos which it released on Instagram Stories each day in December. 

Clarins is another brand that ramps up social media activity at this time of year, specifically using Instagram to promote its advent calendars and other festive products. It does this by using the hashtag #christmaswithclarins, which automatically encourages consumers to post photos of their own purchases and festive gift ideas.

YouTube is another platform where advent calendar hype is ripe – particularly heightened by beauty bloggers and vloggers who post ‘best advent calendar’ videos. Some are geared around specific brands, with creators opening up calendars and reviewing the products inside, while others are a general countdown of the best of the bunch.

Regardless, with these videos generating hundreds of thousands of views each, the exposure and promotion for the brands featured is priceless.

3. Gifting opportunities

Another reason consumers can’t wait to get their hands on beauty calendars is that they are also a good option for Christmas presents - which is the main marketing message from retailers at this time of year. If you’re not certain what specific products someone might like or be suited to, for example, the amount of different products inside means that they can be a fail-safe gift idea. 

Another benefit is that advent calendars are not limited to high-end or luxury brands either. Primark is one budget retailer to recognise the potential, launching its first beauty calendar this year costing just £10. Sure, the product itself might be cheap and cheerful, but the price reflects this.

While gifting requires you to give away calendars at the beginning of December, savvier consumers are also cottoning on to the fact that products inside the calendars can be divided up for multiple recipients, furthering value for shoppers in the run up to Christmas. 

Lastly, I also think they’re a good alternative to the rather stale ‘three for two’ bath and body gifts peddled by some retailers, which tend to be much more about the unnecessary packaging rather than products inside.

4. Customer loyalty

Thanks to the success of previous examples, advent calendars have become a big focus for beauty brands, with continual improvements being made to differentiate products and provide greater value for consumers.

In turn, this means that brands have managed to build a loyal customer-base – one that returns each year to buy the same product. 

Liberty is one example of a brand that takes customer feedback into consideration, using it to inform the content of its calendar each year. The strategy certainly works – this November, it reportedly sold 33 calendars per minute on the Liberty website, meaning that over half of the stock had been sold online before it debuted in-store. 

Does it always work?

While beauty advent calendars are proving to be a great way for brands to boost sales and increase engagement at Christmas, that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to result in success.

Recently, YouTuber Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) has received backlash over the release of her own advent calendar, which is apparently very disappointing considering its £50 price tag. With critics attacking her for jumping on a trend solely for monetary gain – it's clear that customer value should remain the biggest priority for brands getting involved, as well as the retail stores that sell them.

Related reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 16 November, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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