The holiday season is an extremely active and competitive season for businesses of every industry. If you want to stand out during this unique time, you have to respond accordingly to the conditions of the holiday season.

To gain a point of reference for whether you’re approaching your holiday season digital marketing efforts well, let’s take a look at an analysis of a brand who has been in my inbox frequently this time of year – Panera Bread.

Frequency of Digital Marketing Messaging During the Holiday Season

More than any other time of the year, it’s hard to send out too much communication during the holiday season. Some companies worry about flooding inboxes and annoying their contacts. But during the holiday season, people are busy and likely won’t see as many of your promotions, so don’t be afraid to send out a few extra emails or social posts.

If you take a look at the picture above, you’ll notice on December 6th that Panera Bread sent me 3 emails. A big reason this article and this holiday season digital marketing analysis exists is because I remember getting so many emails from the company. I didn’t feel positively or negatively about the frequency of communication I was receiving, but it certainly made Panera stand out to me.

Free Offers (Gifts)

If you are going to promote something to your users multiple times per day, we recommend offering something of high value so users don’t get frustrated if they do happen to see all of your communication. For Panera, this was a free ornament for all members of their subscription service.

Offering a small, holiday-themed knick-knack to both new and existing members of your services is a great way to get your business back in the minds of customers.

During this competitive time, just getting customers in the door can be enough because this is the time of year when people are much more likely to make big purchases. With global online holiday spending expected to reach $910 billion this year, you want your website to be the one users are coming to.

Gift Cards

Have you ever forgotten about a Secret Santa gift exchange or been invited to a holiday party at the last minute? Gifts cards are the perfect last minute present in situations like these.  

So to seize on these shoppers, the first email Panera sent after the ornament offer was a promotion to get a free $10 bonus gift card with the purchase of a $50 gift card. This is a wise promotion to run during the holiday season because gift cards are an extremely popular gift. On top of that, many customers are happy purchasing these kinds of gift card promotions for themselves if they are a frequent shopper with you. 

And this isn’t just anecdotal evidence. 46% of US consumers bought a gift card on social media in 2020. With this in mind, you should consider running these promotions organically on your social media channels or through ads on your social accounts. Running them through email marketing campaigns like Panera did here is also a good choice. It’s hard to go wrong with this style of gift card promotion.

Last Chance Offers

One weak point in Panera’s holiday strategy was on December 13th when they sent a last chance offer email. When I saw a subject line that said “Last Chance,” I honestly didn’t believe it. It was only December 13th and they were telling me this was my last chance to get a gift card? I opened it out of curiosity and saw that the offer wasn’t ending until the 20th. While “last chance” offers are a great way to instill some urgency into potential customers, this one personally felt a bit too early. I think Panera could have adjusted the language to be more specific. “Only 1 week left to get your gift card!”

Cheaper Yearly Subscription

Another great tactic that Panera ran during this period was to offer their annual subscription service at a discounted rate. This can turn price points that often seem intimidating into a great gift for others.

This is also the time of year when people are budgeting and looking forward to the year ahead. If you offer your subscriptions at a discounted rate this time of year, more people will be able to fit your services into their annual budgets.


Panera also ran a sweepstakes for existing members during the holiday season. This is a classic in the marketing world but the classics become that way for a reason.

Sweepstakes are a great excuse to get your business in people’s inboxes every day during the season where they are spending a lot of money. The more messaging you can send out during the holiday season, the better.

Start planning your 2023 with MINDSCAPE

While it might be a little late for us to help you scope out your digital marketing efforts over the holidays, we’re happy to assist you moving forward into 2023. Our seasoned experts have tactics for every season.

Yeah, we do that.