Hustled by the Holidays: How Companies Compel Consumers

It is officially holiday season! For many people this means tacky sweaters, eating home baked goods, and watching favorite holiday specials.



Although holidays can bring about feelings of excitement, it is important to ask:

What do holidays mean to us as consumers?

If you have been to the grocery store lately, you may have noticed yourself surrounded by a plethora of pumpkin spice products, colorful bags of candy, and advent calendars. Yes, advent calendars. Halloween is not even over yet and companies are already stocking their shelves with Thanksgiving and Christmas goods. Vendors are highly aware that this is the prime time of year when people spend more money than any other season.


Today is Halloween and Target already has Christmas trees on display! This is a testament of consumer culture in America. Companies do not want to miss one opportunity to make money during this holiday season.

The goal of each company is obviously to make money. To make money, it is about more than selling a product, but selling a concept. In Integrated Marketing Communication, this phenomenon is known as Brand Identity. Companies know that this time of year can bring about feelings of warmth, nostalgia, and family. These are the concepts they want to sell. Listed below is an example:


The unfortunate part here is that products do not deliver their promises. Buying a plate that says “family” does not guarantee that your family will get along and be together over the holidays. That being said, when people see a product that matches the brand identity they are looking for, they are more compelled to buy it. Consumer culture has gotten so caught up in the marketing ploys, that it has taken away from the true meaning of the holidays.

Let’s look at some popular holidays and compare marketing strategies with the actual meaning of each.

  1. Thanksgiving

While there may be controversy over this Holiday when discussing the harmony (or lack thereof) between the pilgrims and indigenous people, the hope of Thanksgiving has remained the same. This is a holiday meant for families to come together, open up their homes to people who may not have a family, and share a delicious meal. It is a time for people to reflect on what they are thankful for and perhaps bring up a controversial topic at the table! Maybe your Thanksgiving meals are extravagant, or maybe they look a little more like that dinner scene from A Christmas Story.


What is interesting is that the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday; a day of shopping and sales. We have all seen the mayhem of Black Friday at some point in our lives. (Queue people fighting at Walmart over a blender on sale that they probably do not even need).


Within the past few years, stores have opened earlier and earlier. It used to be that stores would open at 4am on Black Friday morning, but now some open as early as 6pm on Thanksgiving day. It is as if Thanksgiving dinner is being rushed and stores are coaxing people to get a jumpstart on shopping. In 2016, 35 million people went shopping on Thanksgiving day. In 2014, there were 25.6 million shoppers on Thanksgiving day. We are seeing an increase of people going out on Thanksgiving rather than spending more time with their families at home!

  1. Christmas

Ah yes, the most wonderful time of the year. It is no secret that December tends to be a month of financial struggle for many people. The true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate Jesus Christ coming to earth and dying for everyone’s sins. As God’s gift to the world, Christ embodies the reason for the season. Christmas is a time for people to be with family and give gifts to each other as a sign of love and generosity. Yet somewhere along the way, this message has been distorted. The focus has shifted from the coming of Christ to greedy consumerism.

People get more caught up in what they should buy rather than why they are celebrating in the first place. In 2016, Americans spent more than $465 billion on Christmas! 

This holiday season, pay attention to the marketing strategies that surround you. Holidays call for celebration and sometimes spending money, so consumer awareness is particularly important right now! What are your thoughts on Black Friday craziness and the consumerism in Christmas? Let me know in the comments below!

-Morgan Adams-