Related Categories
Related Courses
Free Resources

Christmas in July: A Marketer’s Guide to Escapism Campaigns

Everyone knows—or should know— that the role of good marketing is to sell you a state of mind or a transformation, rather than a product or service itself.

And what is one of the most desirable states of mind for many people right now?


But the drive-through piña coladas have run out and we’ve all been caught in the rain for a really really long time. And all the ads about tropical vacations just hit a little differently when we aren’t supposed to be traveling.

So some marketers are taking a different approach to building an escape this summer by looking ahead to the holiday season.

Christmas in July ran rampant over the last month, and if we are being honest, it’s left a lot of us wishing we had jumped on board as well. Because unlike years past, using Christmas in July for a marketing play in 2020 reads less like an overplayed cliché and more like a nostalgic look back to when things felt “normal.”

Take Hallmark for example.

The Hallmark channel knows their market intimately, and they know how passionate their fans get about Hallmark Christmas movies. These movies are a comfort zone—an emotional weighted blanket for their audience. They are predictable and warm and fuzzy: all things that have been sorely lacking this year.

A post from the Hallmark Channel Instagram account about Christmas in July, when they will be playing romantic holiday movies all month long

So, it makes complete sense for the channel to have a Christmas in July campaign to boost views and foster positive engagement with their customers.

But what about the other brands?

What does a 2 for $5 sale from Burger King have to do with escapism and fuzzy feelings?

A Burger King Instagram Post about their christmas themed 2 for $5 mix n' match sale


Look at the comments in that post.

comments on the Burger King post about how people wish it was December and how this post has cheered them up.

Burger king is hitting on a pain point: it just so happens that the pain point is simply existing in the present.

That’s the trick with escapism campaigns. You need to identify what it is about the current state that is so painful to be in, and then find a good “escape” to frame your sale or content around. When it’s done right, it works unbelievably well. But you have to find the right escape.

What works so well about the Christmas in July campaigns we are seeing is that they’ve found the perfect alternative to the present.

Christmas is all about togetherness: gatherings of friends and family to celebrate the season. And in today’s climate, gathering together is not safe, and so many people are isolated or separated from their loved ones.

So even just thinking about Christmas can create an escape for many. It’s a comforting respite from the chaos of this year.

But remember, escapism campaigns aren’t about solutions. Your goal is to take your customers to a different emotional state rather than solve their actual problem.

It’s the difference between putting Christmas baked goods on sale and selling a video chat software.

Two instagram posts from the Easy Tiger bakery in austin Texas with pictures of christmas themed baked goods and drinks, and other christmas decorations, offering Christmas treats in July. Next to these posts is an ad for the Facebook Portal video chat device with copy that says "stay close even when you're far apart."

The latter solves the physical problem of isolation, while the former sends the customer back to the “good times” and simply makes them feel better.

There is a place for both types of campaigns, absolutely. But it’s important to understand their differences, so you know when to use one or the other.

That choice really comes down to what you are actually selling. Providing a solution worked well for the Portal ad, because it could actually do something about the problem. Whereas the Easy Tiger ad never stood a chance to “solve the problem,” so they leaned into the escape angle.

The world’s problems feel insurmountable right now. And trying to frame your messaging around these issues is often just too broad to make an impact.

It’s why every insurance company’s ad copy about “standing together in the face of these hard times” falls flat. They aren’t solving anything, and they aren’t taking a real stand, and they aren’t giving their audience an escape. They are just reminding them about the bad things happening.

And that just doesn’t cut it.

Escapism campaigns can also be a solution to cut through the noise on the feed. Escapism inherently breaks expectations and will often look and feel different from all the other ads and posts (or they should… if your escape looks like every other post on Instagram, it’s not really much of an escape…).

For example, this regular ad for a bidet just doesn’t have the weight to carry impact when so much else is competing for attention, time, and money.

A plain, mostly white Tushy Facebook ad that is advertising the Bidet from the angle of turning your rest room into your best room.

But when you put an escapism twist on it and advertise “Christmas Bundles” with the messaging of “get into the spirit,” you’ve changed your audience’s emotional state.

A colorful Tushy Facebook ad with a Christmas in July theme, two people holding items from the company, advertising Tushy Holiday Bundles.

This ad is not only a break from everything else in their feed, i.e. stopping the scroll, it also scoops up the viewer and plops them squarely into the Christmas spirit.

All of these Christmas in July campaigns are about an emotional state change. The ads themselves—creative, copy, and all—are an escape from the bad news that surrounds them by leaning into a perfectly curated alternative.

So, when you get to creating your own escapism campaigns, remember to pick an escape that is a perfect juxtaposition to the current emotional state of your audience.

Oh, and while we are on the subject of Christmas ads, I’m here to remind you that you should probably be starting your holiday campaigns right now. You’ve got less than 6 months to come up with the perfect sale, so don’t leave it to the last minute.

Mark de Grasse

Mark de Grasse

Mark de Grasse is the President and General Manager of DigitalMarketer and has worked with thousands of business owners to create brands, companies, and marketing campaigns.

Subscribe to the DM Insider Newsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter that delivers the most actionable, tactical, and timely marketing tips you actually need in 7 minutes or less. Get an edge over the competition, for free.