I was fortunate enough to run off to New York City last week and take in some of the holiday sights and sounds from the city that never sleeps — and never stops marketing. NYC during the holidays is a great place to track the effectiveness of online branding, social media marketing and digital engagement. This mecca of consumerism and flashing lights long has relied upon good, old-fashioned marketing techniques for hundreds of years… and still does. From holiday windows to parades and old-timey outdoor holiday markets, the Big Apple has its feet firmly planted in Christmas Past. But, as I found, the holiday season in New York City in 2011 is also the most digital time of the year.
The windows of the world, according to Burt Bacharach, are covered in rain. But according to Bergdorf Goodman, the windows of the world are covered in sparkling, over-the-top decorations. As retailers die across the country, the concept of snazzy holiday windows seems out of touch. Yet in New York, the windows are a must-see tradition. Bergdorf’s is the premiere stop on the holiday window tour and this year’s display is no exception. With a nod to animal themes, the display designers used unusual materials to create an eye-popping winter fantasy.
But what does this have to do with digital marketing, you ask? Relax, I’m getting there. The store invited bloggers and fashion writers down to get a peek in late November, and by the time we arrived in NYC, buzz around the windows was at a fever pitch. Clearly, the 112-year-old retailer knows that if you want people to talk, alert the bloggers. And according to early numbers, the windows are paying off. Bergdorf’s has also been teasing Twitter followers with exclusive pictures of the stunning creations since they were unveiled.
Less successful were the Lady Gaga windows for Barney’s. The pop diva partnered with her visual collaborator Nicola Formichetti to create “Gaga’s Workshop,” a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory type of store within the department store. Turns out the $95 dollar chocolate shoes, Gaga magnet sets and saggy, sad, unfestive window creations didn’t inspire, but the use of Twitter certainly has. #GagaWish is the hashtag used in the final window where shoppers and Gaga fans alike are asked to tweet their holiday wishes. The wishes then appear on a huge space-age type of screen for all of NYC to see. It’s the fun “name in lights” kind of experience that fame-hungry Gaga lovers and tourists are eating up with a glitter-covered spoon.
Finally, the future of big brand holiday marketing can be seen at Saks Fifth Avenue. Last year, the company unveiled a one-of-a-kind digital mapping projection window that made headlines around the world. And this year, the giant snowflakes and bubbles are back and bigger than ever. It’s impossible not to feel the childlike magic of the holidays as you watch snowflakes fall from the side of Saks Fifth Avenue with the tree at Rockefeller Center in the background. Over the top and totally New York, the display uses technology that others across the globe are starting to copy.
All of these blasting and beautiful displays are proof that New York is still the center of creativity when it comes to marketing the holidays. And although most no one can spend millions on holiday displays, nearly everybody can take a bite out of the Big Apple’s digital marketing techniques.