How should a company say Merry Christmas to its customers?

20 Dec

Yesterday I received this e-card from Bell Mobility.

The card was fine, but it got me thinking: What does a corporate Christmas wish mean to a customer?

Bell Mobility Christmas e-card with TV snowman

This one stopped at wishing me the best (never a bad thing, just a missed opportunity from a marketing point of view).

It also told me I am in a database, which I know of course. There may be an illusion of a relationship here, but when viewed through cynical customer eyes, it’s just an impersonal, one-way marketing piece meant to connect me further to the brand. It isn’t about me, the customer, at all.

What might Bell have done differently?

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Bell missed an opportunity here to create some loyalty and communicate where their heart is as a business. They could have:

  • Told me they are doing something philanthropic in the spirit of the season, using the money they made from me.
  • Offered me relevant personalization. “Hey Doug, thanks for joining us this year!”
  • Offered me a gift (something this much smaller company does so well). Telus Mobility gave me their calendar every year.

An empty corporate Christmas greeting may satisfy some, who are caught up in the rush of the season and don’t think too much on it.

But customers want more from a business these days.

No one is likely to feel bad about Bell for sending this greeting. But “don’t feel bad about them” is not the ringing endorsement a company wants to achieve through its marketing.

Did any corporate Christmas greeting catch your eye?




20 Responses to “How should a company say Merry Christmas to its customers?”

  1. Stef December 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    Great article Doug! Excellent points. Unbounce, although not technically “corporate” and definitely a lot smaller than Bell or Telus sent a postagram ( – an instagram photo of our small team turned into a postcard with a personalized message to our top customers. We are a startup and love supporting other startup services whenever possible. We thought as an internet, SaaS company this showed our companies values & was personalized at the same time.

    • Doug Brown December 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      Nice, Stef. The personalization in the message is the key. Lots of companies like to show you they have the technology to put your name in the communications, without real relevancy. Being a small business yourself means you’re closer to your customers, and they no doubt feel that too. Thanks for the comment!

  2. hill copywriting December 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    No, but I will take this opp to wish you and your family a merry, merry Christmas, Douglas … and if you count me a company, I hope that scores high 🙂 Off to the Via train to mum’s place for me! tata!

    • Doug Brown December 20, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      This feels highly personal Baz, although I have to knock you down a point for lack of chocolate. Have fun at mum’s and thanks for the Christmas wishes. Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.

  3. Stef December 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Also, I was looking up some great marketing quotes the other day and found this one:

    “The most successful marketer becomes part of the lives of their followers. They follow back. They wish happy birthday. They handle problems their customers have with products or service. They grow their businesses and brands by involving themselves in their own communities.” – Marsha Collier

    Seems to fit the theme of your post!

    • Doug Brown December 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

      Indeed it does Stef. These are businesses that understand they grow and succeed because of their customers. Today, we just expect more from the brands we help grow. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

  4. Teresa December 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Hey Doug, you absolutely hit the nail right on the head with this post. At the new company that I am currently am working for, we wanted to create a more personalized holiday card for our friends and clients but without simply using an auto-fill field to add the person’s name to the email. So we went back to basics and had each person ‘say thanks’ to someone that they really appreciated working with over the course of this past year. The results? A somewhat standard branded e-card with a link to a Pinterest board where we got up close and personal. So far the external feedback has been great and it truly engaged our staff internally (we had lots of fun during the photo and video shoots). It was such a hit around the office that we are hoping to continue the ‘thanks’ in 2013 by posting more photos/videos throughout the year. Check out our Winter Greeting here:

    Thanks again for the great post and happy holidays to you!

    • Doug Brown December 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

      Fantastic Teresa. Creative, of the moment and unlike any other online card I’ve seen. That Pinterest board is just a smart idea. The big knock against corporate Christmas greetings is the absolute lack of effort by anyone remotely connected to you. We know some digital team – possibly even a contracted one – is responsible. So we are left feeling nothing. The Kasian example shows what a company with heart and the will to do something memorable can achieve. Thank you so much for sharing that – and happy holidays right back atcha.

  5. Doug Brown December 21, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    I’ve received so many e-cards from businesses I have no authentic relationship with. There were 3 more waiting for me this morning, including this one:

    It’s all just Christmas wallpaper.

  6. Lauren Barnard December 21, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    I just opened YouSendIt’s E-card this morning and read the whole thing! Phenomenal!

    • Doug Brown December 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      It was entertaining Lauren, if a tad business-centric… 🙂

  7. hill copywriting December 22, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Hey Doug, and everyone, would love to get your ‘honest’ opinions on this agency Christmas initiative (great jazzy yule music a given 🙂 Thanks! Barr

    • Doug Brown December 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

      Totally love this Baz. Even the loading bar is entertaining! This is probably the best Christmas card I’ve seen this year, even if playing the thing is a bit inaccessible. Thanks for sharing it!

      • hill copywriting December 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

        Glad to get your approval Doug. And to boot, it’s a Singaporean agency, a place near and dear to your and my heart. The founder is a copy-based ‘BBC’ creative friend/colleague from HK — another place we both did some time (good time). ttyl!

  8. Doug Brown December 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Which agency Baz? I probably know someone there!

    • hill copywriting December 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      His own agency is, SG, but I worked with him (Ray Chan) at Bates HK from 01 – 04 … he moved around and up in several agencies after, inlc ddb HK … he’s now RCD for DDB I think. Great chap. Several of the senior Chinese creatives from ten-Bates took a similar career track — happy for them. Still in touch with many of them from those brutal days, which I know you experienced too Doug!

  9. hill copywriting December 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    PS – others you might know are John So, Sylvester Song, James Li, Barbara Fu, Simon Hanford, Iris Lo … at least those are top-of-mind

    • Doug Brown December 24, 2012 at 5:31 am #

      Unfortunately not a one Barry. I am still in touch with a bunch of my Hongsingindolankan mates from the period 86-95. Facebook makes it all possible!

  10. Hans March 6, 2015 at 3:32 am #

    Depends on the customer type obviously.. I once received a hand written x-mas greeting which was remarkable.
    I dont have the time for that, having a lot of customers.. I tend to incorporate it into the newsletter and add it in their language to spice it up.. 🙂

    This way i add some personal interest while bringing value from the newsletter..
    I normally use these translated Merry Christmas phrases:


  1. Christmas card wars: Bell versus Dominos | Brand Intervention - December 12, 2013

    […] Christmas Bell sent me an e-card to say Seasons Greetings. This year they put one in the post instead. (That’s a strange reversal […]

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